Mental Preparation and Returning to Competition

Mental Preparation

Coming Back Strong After a Layoff

Layoffs due to injury, sickness, suspension, being benched or even taking a mental break from playing is a difficult task for most athletes.

But returning to action after a layoff can be even more daunting…

When you return to competition, your mind is cluttered with fear and doubts:

  • “Will I return to the starting lineup?”
  • “What if I get injured again?”
  • “Do I have the stamina to compete?”
  • “What if my technique falls apart?”
  • “What if I stink?”
  • “What will my coach think?”
  • “What will my parents say?”
  • “How will my teammates react?”

Think back to your mindset after a layoff…

Did you feel any anxiety? Did you worry about the level of your performance after you return to practice?

How can you return to play with some degree of confidence so that you don’t have doubts and worries during your first few competitions?

Returning to competition takes a positive and patient mindset.

How can you foster a confident and patient mindset after a layoff?

First, set reasonable small goals for your first few competitions. Instead of expecting an MVP performance, a more reasonable approach is, “I will give it all I got and see what happens.”

This approach keeps you grounded in the present moment instead of solely focusing on the possible results or how you might play.

  1. Talk to your coach about his expectations to determine a timeline for your return.
  2. Next, prepare yourself physically, the best you can, to meet the demands of your return. You need to temper your training to reduce the risk of injury.
  3. Focus on building your stamina and building your technique so you have some assurance that you can do well in those early competitions.
  4. Prepare yourself mentally. Learn relaxation strategies to reduce the anxiety you might experience as that first competition draws near.
  5. Focus on what you can control. You won’t be able to control playing time, how good your opponents will be or the reactions of your parents and teammates.
  6. Finally, use that first competition as a measuring stick for where you currently are and what you need to do to get your game back to a high level.

No need to fret that you are not 100% there yet but know that, if you do the work, you can once again compete a high level.

Tennis player Maria Sharapova recently returned to competition after serving a lengthy suspension.

Sharapova’s mindset as she returned to competitive tennis was to be in the moment and not worry about the results of her first tournament back. Despite a loss in the semifinals, Sharapova’s tone was one of patience and positivity.

SHARAPOVA: “The way I played, I was really happy with that. You are never sure what level you are going to come onto the court with, but I feel this is a great base with which I started here.”

Choose a patient approach to returning to competition. Set small goals for your return.

Tips to Mentally Prepare For Your Return to Competition:

Talk to your coach and identify three small goals for your first competition after your layoff.

These goals could be:

  • Getting back in the flow of competition
  • Starting to regain your stamina
  • Having composure after mistakes
  • Gaining a baseline for where you currently are, etc.

After your competition, talk to your coach and evaluate your performance against those three objectives.

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10 ‘Costly’ Mental Game Mistakes Athletes Make Before Competition: What Every Athlete And Coach Must Know To Improve Mental Preparation

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