"PREP" - Pre-Performance Routines
In sport, conditions change constantly. Your opponent changes, the venues change, the weather, how you feel a particular day - it can all vary from contest to contest. In order to create consistency of behavior (i.e. how we play), it helps to create a consistent pre-performance routine that will stabilize the way you think and feel leading into a competition. A simple and memorable way to structure your pre-performance routine is the acronym "PREP."
"PREP" stands for Pick a quality, Release distractions, manage your Energy, and Preview situations.
Let's take a look at each.
Pick a quality. How do you want to show up for that particular game? The words we choose impact how we think and feel leading into our performance, so choose wisely! Perhaps you haven't been as communicative as you would like in recent games, so you choose to show up "Vocal." Maybe you have come out slow the last few times out, so you set an intention to "Start Strong." Whatever it is, make a point of picking a couple of words or phrases that set your mind in an intentional manner.
Release distractions. First, try to recognize what may be distracting you. What has happened that day that is on your mind, or what can you anticipate happening that will distract you? Remember that distractions are both internal and external diversions from the task at hand. Next, consider how you might release them. This takes practice and sometimes the help of a Mental Skills coach to implement. Whether it be a breathing technique, a physical cue, an affirmation or other mental skill, utilize this moment to shed your distractions and be locked in on the present moment.
Energy management. This is critical! Start by reflecting on times you've played to the best of your ability. How was your energy level that day, 1-10? Some players excel at a more docile pace, relaxed and allowing the game to come to them. Other athletes prefer to be like a wild rabid dog unleashed, a full 10 on the energy scale. Yet others like to split the difference and find that middle ground. The point is, find your own comfort when it comes to your best energy level. Next, recognize where you are, 1-10, when you arrive at your performance and utilize energizing or relaxation techniques to get yourself to your preferred level.
Preview situations. Have you visualized yourself succeeding out on the court? Have you taken time to practice imagery and deeply feel what responding positively to adversity will be like for you? Consider 6-8 situations that typically arise for you in your performance and take 45-60 seconds for each, using all of your senses, adopting a positive mindset and reacting appropriately in each. This is the work of mental practice!
Pre-performance routines take your game to the next level by unlocking your ability to adopt a stable mindset leading into your game. With all the moving parts surrounding your sport, creating a regular routine will allow you to create consistency and control in an often turbulent world. By picking a quality as to how you want to show up, releasing distractions, managing your energy, and previewing situations, you're setting yourself up for success on the court!
Good luck on your journey.