During the derby season, sometimes you become bombarded (or obsessed) with learning what others think of your team. You could be constantly checking Flat Track Stats, reading bout prediction posts, or seeing comments posted on social media. Although these might all be positive news, they can also all lead to distraction, anxiety, and unneeded competitive pressure leading up to a bout.
While some people tend to thrive on this sort of information – they feel like negative comments “fuel the fire” and positive ones help boost their competitive motivation – not everyone responds like this. These sort of distractions tend to consume mental energy. This mental energy is important for both concentration and a positive mental attitude during a bout. (U.S. Sports Academy, 2008).
There are many professional athletes who will avoid reading anything about themselves in the days before competition. While although most of us don’t have a fan base of thousands of people and media following us around for interviews, even the smallest negative comments you come across can seep into your thoughts.
These types of outside influences, even though they may seem minor, can have a major impact on performance. Maybe your team has a bad jam but you know everyone has predicted that your team wins the game. Maybe you are up by 100 points at half time but you know Flat Track Stats has predicted that you win by 200 points. All of these types of scenarios cause extra stress and anxiety that use up mental energy and hinder your performance. To be playing your best, you should be putting all of your mental (and physical) energy into executing skills, recognizing plays, and staying focused on what is in front of you.
So what do you do if you’ve already succumbed to the pressures of media, stats, and outside perspectives on your upcoming bouts?
Here are a few tips:
(1) Write down any negative posts, comments, articles, etc. that you have read and how you feel about them. Sometimes just getting these things down on paper allows your mind to stop dwelling on them.
(2) Make sure you go through all of your pre-bout rituals. Keeping your focus on these rituals may help distract you from outside thoughts.
(3) Give yourself a mantra to repeat if you feel like your mind is wandering. This could be something simple like, “I’m awesome” or “We can do this” or “Stay focused”. Just repeat the mantra over and over again when you find outside anxieties or angers seeping in.
If being more informed is something that keeps you performing the best on the track, then there is no reason to change your habits. However, if you feel like you have a tendency to play distracted or not “in the moment” because of outside influences from social media, news, or websites, then it might be good to try blocking those out for awhile. Just as you prepare yourself physically for a bout by drinking water, avoiding alcohol, stretching, taking ice baths, etc., start preparing yourself mentally as well by staying off of derby news websites, avoiding Facebook, and keeping your focus on the bout ahead of you.