In today’s ever increasing level of sports’ competition, the overwhelming stress and pressure can have a negative impact on an athletes’ performance in games such as netball, basketball, soccer, cricket and all non-team sports. They can find it difficult to focus on the competition as they become tense, the heart races and they break out into a cold sweat.
This has lead to more and more coaches taking an interest in sport psychology, and in particular, competitive anxiety. It focuses on techniques that the athlete can apply to maintain control and optimise their performance. Once learned, these techniques can allow the athlete to relax and give their full attention to preparing for and participating in the competition. Psychology is becoming another weapon for athletes to gain the winning edge!
Getting the “4Cs”
The 4C’s are generally considered the main mental qualities for athletes to use in sports such as netball, basketball, soccer and cricket.
This is the keystone to an athlete performing at their best; when they’re confident, the mind and body is relaxed, allowing for peak performance. A few tips to maintaining your confidence are:
- believe in your own abilities,
- approach competition so that you’re doing things that you’ve already successfully done in the past,
- stick to your game plan, don’t make last minute changes,
- try to avoid seeing your competition prior to the game,
- stick to a good training plan and keep records,
- positive support from team mates, family and friends should be gratefully accepted,
- visualise previous good performances.
This is the mental ability to focus on the task at hand; if the athlete lacks concentration, their physical abilities will not be effectively applied, either. Some common distractions are: anxiety, a fear of making mistakes, fatigue, the weather, overly loud public announcements, coach, manager, opponent, negative thoughts about one’s own performance etc. The levels of concentration required varies with the sport:
- Sustained concentration – long distance running, cycling, tennis, squash
- Short bursts of concentration – netball, basketball, soccer, cricket
- Intense concentration – sprinting events, skiing
The strategies to improve concentration are individual, one way to maintain focus is to set process goals for each session or competition. Another strategy is to stick to a routine for competition, that may even include the night before, the morning, pre-competition, competition and post competition routines.
Control is the ability to maintain emotional control; identifying a particular emotion and understanding the reason for the feelings is important in helping an athlete gain emotional control. Two emotions are often associated with poor performance: anxiety and anger.
Anxiety comes in two forms, the physical; a feeling of butterflies, sweating, nausea, needing to go to the toilet, and the mental; worry, negative thoughts, confusion, lack of concentration. Learning relaxation techniques and how to apply them can be used to reduce anxiety.
When an athlete becomes angry, the cause of the anger often becomes the focus of attention; this can then lead to a lack of concentration on the game, performance is affected and confidence in one’s ability is lost, which fuels the anger.
The ability to continue working on set goals. When an athlete sets goals, it can help raise their feelings of value, give ownership to the goals and make them feel more committed. Usually, this commitment will have to be maintained for many years to come and can be adversely affected by work, studies, family/partner, friends, social life and other hobbies/sports. Added to these daily influences, the athletes’ commitment levels can be undermined by:
- a perceived lack of progress or improvement
- not being sufficiently involved in developing the training program
- not understanding the objectives of the training program
- an injury
- lack of enjoyment in the sport
- anxiety of one’s performance
- becoming bored with training
- coach and athlete not working as a team
- lack of commitment by other athletes
Support given, by the coach, medical support team, manager, friends, family etc can greatly contribute to an athlete’s level of commitment, especially during times of injury, illness and poor performance.
Another way to feel great when playing your chosen sport is to look great. Game Clothing have helped many teams reach the top of the score board by fitting them out in comfortable, colourful team uniforms.