Wilbour Kelsick on Athlete Preparations


Athletes Pre-competition Preparation (APCP)

Athletes have several strategies which they utilize to be prepared for competition day. Such strategies are specialized according to the individual and also type of sport.  To the athlete though, competition day is the day to stick to familiar routine to achieve that sense of “readiness”.  This term (“readiness”) I should point out is hard to define and may have a different meaning to each athlete. It could be a feeling of blood rushing to the head or subjective feeling such as “this is my chance – do or die”.  No matter what this “readiness” feels like, the most crucial part of this APCP is to have the athlete focus on things they can change not the things or issues they have no control over.  This “readiness” however, has to be in the right balance.

For instance athletes with high activation will experience stress or anxiety which will lead to muscle tightness, poor attention or concentration (loss of mental focus), low efficiency of body movements hence losing the rhythm and smooth muscle responsive coordination. On the other hand, too low a level of activation would be classed as a state of low energy or “flatness” of performance, low motivation or self confidence and a wandering mind (as my mom would say). Either of these scenarios can lead to poor or performance errors.  Hence the main goal of the athlete should be to try and create that near to perfect balance which will highlight their “readiness”.

The APCP is a multifaceted operation. The concept is similar to the integrative approach use when managing an athlete’s injury. There is no one interjection which will get the athlete to the sense of “readiness”.  Here are some of the factors the athlete pay attention to just before competition.

The Athlete learns how to identify their stress levels. They should look for signs of tight muscles, stomach ache or sensitivity, dry throat, cold hands, sweaty palms, speech response during communication,, blanking of the mind, unable to focus, equipment problems and breathing pattern changes-short-faster breathing.  Basically they try and find out what or who is the cause of the stress.

Athletes have a plan for competition day. This usually starts the night prior to competition.

They try and get as much sleep as is necessary and try to get on competition schedule which means planning training sessions at the time of their competition.

They may use mental visualization techniques the night before.

The day of competition:  They would know the competition schedule (heat or group they are in) and plan activities such as eating and transportation to the venue so they are on time and not rushing. They would also plan so that there is enough time for the warm up. One of the issues which is now being taken into consideration more is the recovery period post competition. This would include Nutritional and physical (muscle) recovery.

Just before competition: Athletes would use psychological strategies like breathing exercises, visual motor behaviour rehearsal techniques.

In the end the performance results will be governed by the physical, psychological and environmental factors which present themselves on that day. As a sport practitioner my role is to facilitate and help create an environment which will assist the athletes to get into the state of “Readiness”.  Routine is the key here and practice can make almost perfect. My focus has to be on the athlete not me.  I am supposed to try and do all that’s necessary (within reason and within my scope of practice) to make them feel that they are ready.  In summary I am embracing their routine. Believe me Beijing needed the athletes to be in the state of “readiness”.

At least that the way I see it..!!

Wilbour Kelsick

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