Tournaments, the pinnacle of youth sports. They can be near, far, a qualifier, just for fun, or a national championship or event! Tournament play has many similar and familiar features, such as the field or court are the same dimensions and you put your uniform the same way as usual. Keeping calm and composed is critical to playing your best on a larger stage. Last week we talked about mentally preparing yourself, and we hope that you can use all of those tips from last week and apply it to today’s blog and throughout the season.
Focus on the “now” – Try not to jump ahead to the future (prepare your body for the tournament: exercise, practice, eat right. etc.), train yourself to focus the present. Simply, one play at a time, the next half or game is a waste of time for players.
Focus on your job and how you play. Allowing your mind to drift to anyone or anything else other than yourself (opponents, who is watching, what the coach is thinking, how well your teammates are playing) will bring unrest. Staying focused on you and your job will keep you calm and confident. Which also means that you won’t compare yourself with others! This can be exhausting and not something that will help your play, let the coaches worry about everyone else. Again, focus on your job. If at halftime your teammates aren’t performing how they are expected, huddle up and get them inspired to do better.
Don’t think about what you can’t control – A lot of things can happen in a sport that we can’t control. Anytime an athlete focuses on the uncontrollable, they can lose confidence and the game can be put in jeopardy. Try making a list of things that you can control during the competition along with things that you can’t control: example, officiating, the crowd, coaching decisions (playing time), outcome of the game, etc. Keep in mind that things you can’t control are mental traps. So, try to focus on the controllable.
Have fun! – If you want to perform well then embrace the challenge of the tournament and your opponents. Have fun with your teammates before, during, and after the game. Some of my (and Koa athletes) best memories from tournaments are the team building and hanging out in between the games.
While there are many things about your competition that will make your nervous, know that you are in control of it at all times! Take the tips above and apply them, along with the tips that we provided with you last week, so that you can perform at your best without question. Try not to stress, make sure you focus, and go all out! You got this!