Competing to Win- Part 4

In this Competing to Win series, we’ve been talking about strategies that are crucial to making it to the top of the podium. I’m going to give you a little recap since this is the fourth post in the series. It’s important to be able to implement these strategies in order because they build on each other. Click on the highlighted links if you missed a post or want to read it again.

1. Coping with a Bad Event

The first strategy isn’t usually a pleasant one, but once you can learn how to effectively cope with a bad event, it is a huge step in moving forward and improving. Everything else builds upon being able to move on from this. Even though it seems counter intuitive, failure is in fact necessary for success.

2. Taking Risks

Once you can move past a bad event, you are ready to look fear in the eye and keep going. But taking risks is challenging because so often we let fear stop us in our tracks and dictate where we go and where we don’t. When you learn how to make a commitment and jump in with both feet, you’ll discover so many positive side effects from it.

3. Routines

Next we learned about routines and how you can use them to free up your mind to focus on the competition in the heat of the moment. We talked about why they are important, the different types of routines and the difference between a routine and a ritual.

Flexibility

Beyond the routine

Routines are important and allow you to maintain focus during your performance or competition because it is ingrained, comfortable and frees you up to focus on the task at hand.

However, the routine is not the actual performance. So it’s also critical to recognize when your routine is helping and when you may need to modify it, change it completely or take a break from it.

If you’re getting stuck in the monotony of your routine (usually happens in the training routine), it’s okay to shake things up a a bit.

Routines give you structure and discipline to keep improving daily. But it’s okay to break from it every once in a while and stretch your wings. Often times once you do that then return to your routine, you’ll actually notice improvement. And by giving your body and mind a break, it makes coming back to your routine feel fresh and new again.

Sometimes a routine or even just trying to make a routine is stressful. If you find your routine is causing more stress than it’s helping you, let it go. Start again. Evaluate what part was too much, too hard or just too burdensome. Play with it, change it up and see what happens. Even if it fails, you’re going to learn a valuable lesson to make you better the next time.

Be willing to tweak or change things. You should not be trapped by a routine. A routine is a tool to help you, not bog you down or hinder you.

The routine itself will not get you to the top. No matter how many perfect routines you do in training, you will still have to stand up there and nail your actual performance in the heat of the moment when everything is on the line.

Be ready for anything

We’ve talked about how and why routines can help you and that you should be careful to not let your routine become a ritual. So I’d like to share a personal story as to why routines are better than rituals and why you have to be ready for anything.

I knew crazy things could and probably would happen at the Olympic Games. It’s a crazy place with overwhelming amounts of events going on and the entire world watching live. How could crazy things not happen?

It was my first Olympics in 2000, in the middle of the finals- the gold medal round. We were doing five dives and I was in fifth place after two rounds. I was still fairly far behind the top four divers. But the third round was next. That was my opportunity and I knew it.

I was doing a dive that I had received six perfect 10’s on at the Olympic Trials and five perfect 10’s at the National Championships just a few weeks before. I knew this was a dive I could do under pressure, but I had to have that delicate balance of confidence and calm in that perfect moment- the “zone.”

Listening to music has always helped me get into my perfect “zone.” But in this moment it was suddenly a little hard to keep my routine going and get into my “zone” for this dive because the battery to my headphones died. Yup. Right then and there.

Needless to say, I panicked.  I knew unexpected things would happen, I just figured I would be prepared for things I should be able to control, like packing an extra battery or charger. But I managed to overlook that important little detail for the biggest moment of my life!

This is me in the finals of the 2000 Olympic Games.

Fortunately I remembered quickly that up on the top of the platform, I never had my headphones on. I wasn’t listening to music when I did my perfect dives in those other competitions. I began to calm down and confidence soon replaced my anxiety.

I made my way up to the 10 meter platform and after they called my name and blew the whistle, I walked out to the end until I felt my toes curl over the hard edge.  I had been here before, on the edge, in many pressure-packed situations, needing desperately to hit this dive.  As I lifted my arms, I already knew what was about to happen.  I nailed it leaving hardly a drop of water.

That dive became a turning point in the entire competition, putting pressure on the rest of the field and catapulting me to the top of the leader board where I would stay.

I didn’t expect something that I could have control over, that should have been in my pre-competition routine, to throw off my in-competition routine. So even if you are the most prepared person on the planet, you could still miss something or some other factor could veer you off course.

Find confidence in the training routine that you have poured your blood, sweat and tears into. Rely on that, then in the competition you can be flexible to make adjustments and changes if need be without getting flustered.

Roll with the punches

So the moral of the story is to not be so attached to your routine that it becomes like a ritual. Because even the best routines can be messed up during competition and fluster the athlete or take them out mentally. Just be flexible. Be ready to roll with the punches, and remember, you are not here for a perfect routine, you are here for a phenomenal performance in the competition!

In the final post, we’ll talk about how to Trust Your Training.

Read the other posts in this series:

Post 1     Post 2     Post 3     Post 4     Post 5

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