Pre-performance routines help squash players to focus on what they can control as they prepare for the upcoming match. It is quite normal that players feel nervous just before a match. The wanting to win or the fear of losing, the perceived pressures that come from parents, or not wanting to disappoint people they care about may become sources of tension that are brought to the match even before the first point is played. The longer the wait, the higher the tension. Knowing whom they will play next can also become a source of stress. If the player beat the next opponent, then they feel the pressure of having to beat him/her again. If the player lost to the next opponent, then they feel the pressure of not wanting to lose to the same player, again.
There are many distracting sources regardless of their true reality. What it really matters is their perceived reality and, as such, the thinking and belief that follows as a consequence of holding on to such a “truth.” What is important to know is that the higher their level of stress prior to the match, the more likely they will become easily mentally distracted during the match, and as a result, underperform.
Pre-performance routines help bring focus to what really matters in order to minimize externally distracting sources. Some athletes bring their head-phones and play their favorite music. Others like to socialize with friends. Another common strategy is to talk to a coach or parent as they go over the match strategy.
Elite athletes are experts in using pre-performance routines. Their mental strategies include breathing relaxation, visualization, and repeating a cue positive word or phrase that helps to bring full attention to the present moment while feeling fully energized and ready to go.
What works for you as a pre-performance routine may not necessarily work for another player. What really matters is that whatever the chosen routine is, it MUST be adhered at every single match. Maybe you choose to listen to music and, as the match is close to start, then you practice breathing relaxation and repeat positive energy words. The more consistent you are with practicing a routine, the easier it is for the brain to memorize the sought after focused mind state. Consistency is the key component.
Set your pre-competition routine
1- Establish a set of preferred exercises or actions that promote focus and positive energy;
2. Practice the routine during practice help to embed a stronger mental pattern.