I often get asked about my preparation for competition and how I mentally prepare for fights in particular. If I’m to be honest my best performances and wins have come when I actually bothered to follow my own plan and tips for success but unfortunately many athletes (me included) often forget to do these steps before a major competition. One of the things I’ve learned from both studying sport psychology and competing is that it is almost a given that every athlete is physically fit, technically good and tactically aware…the difference between winning and losing is what’s going on upstairs in our minds. It’s taken me almost two decades to learn these tricks and I often wish I had known these when I was starting off as a beginner/junior athlete in kickboxing. So now I’m passing them on and hopefully you might spot something that helps you!
Desire to compete.
This sounds fairly straightforward and it is pretty much a given that any athlete who is competing at the highest level in their sport has passion but in certain situations this is not always the case. There can often be times where you just don’t feel like competing but you end up doing so out of obligation or pressure from others. For me I have never performed at an even half decent level when I was pushed or convinced to compete in a competition that I really didn’t have the interest in doing. Athletes need to have an internal desire to perform and win in order to challenge the best in the world and I know at times I have been guilty of just not being bothered and getting beaten by a fighter that isn’t really as good. My rule now is if I don’t feel compelled to compete than you won’t see me there!
Train as you compete.
You might find that you are not as competitive in training as you are in competition and I’m often guilty of that too. I’ve found that when I do take that approach to training two things happen; I perform badly throughout the training session (and end up in the horrors) and I also find it very hard to then change that performance for competition. My advice is to train like you compete and take that approach into your warm up, strength and conditioning sessions, sparring or whatever it is you are focusing on in that moment. Sure, you will get people pissed off that you maybe hit them too hard or were overly competitive but who cares? As long as they are within your age category and weight class they need to get over it…it’s fighting after all!!
This is a mega one for me and I would recommend that every athlete from peewee kickboxers, to novice, right up to senior elite has this fine tuned. Everyone will have their own slant on their routine but the important thing is to make sure it focuses on yourself rather than your opposition. Mine fundamentally includes a specific meal plan and schedule in the week leading up to the competition, motivational video of past performances on my phone the night before and morning of, actual warm up routine, positive self- talk and then fight!!
Lose the ego….a little!
Mistakes I’ve made in the past approaching a fight is that I was so bloody convinced that I’m a lot better than my opponent and have placed myself nicely on the top of the podium before I even showed up that I forgot to actually go out and fight! Yep, complacency is a death trap and you see it all the time in sport where weaker athletes or teams beat much better opposition….really wish I had known that one throughout the years.
Be irritatingly confident!
The goal here is to get that insane confidence in yourself where people think you’re a little mad and being ok with them thinking that. Sounds fairly easy but how do you build confidence in yourself if you haven’t won anything before? Well the good news is there are a lot of ways. The biggest one for me is taking confidence in my training leading up to a fight. When you know you have trained as hard as you can with the best quality you can get, you can use that to feel a sense of real belief in yourself. As well as that, take confidence from all areas of your preparation such as how well you made weight, getting early nights etc etc. Another way I build confidence is by doing some visualisation of myself competing and winning.…I always see myself winning the night before I fight well. And finally don’t listen to anyone who says you’re not good enough; what they think is absolutely none of your business!