This week was a relaxing week since I just fought. The interesting thing is I usually take the week after a tournament completely off. However, I found myself staying in the training pattern of visualizing every day. I was already focusing on the next goal of U-24 National Team Trials in early April. Then I got a surprise. I’ll be fighting next weekend. It came about since several of my teammates will be going to Colorado Springs for the National Qualifier for next weekend. For those of you that don’t know, there are 5 qualifiers leading up to nationals, which take place throughout the country. I just happened to go to American Airlines and saw that tickets right now are dirt cheap. At first I panicked. I began to question myself since I didn’t have time, I felt, to perform my usual check list leading up to competition. Thoughts that began to pop into my head weren’t anything I needed to be a part of. I decided to approach it the same way I would when I hit a speed bump in a match. So I took a step back from the situation and began to analyze it. I have just come off of a good training block, I’m feeling healthy, and I feel I am well prepared. In approaching the problem in the same way I approach my matches, it was clear there was nothing to worry about.
If I have learned anything after years and years of competition, it’s that emotions and the mind can determine the outcome well before the tournament even comes. This is why good habits are so important and yet potentially dangerous to an athlete. You see athletes with specific rituals that they always do before a competition, and for getting into the game it can be a huge advantage (if you get good at it.) My advice is, have good habits to avoid problems, but don’t let your good habits become a problem.
You can find these problems by asking one simple question: can I win without this? You’ll find this “crutch” in many different forms throughout the sports world. Some people have to have an energy drink, certain clothes/gear, a set amount of time for preparation, or even a position they like to hold in the race before their final push. When all things are perfect, and you get the opportunity to have these comforts, enjoy them for they don’t happen near as often as anyone would like. I guess my point is to be comfortable with adversity. I have planned all outcomes and situations in a tournament that I could possibly imagine, and I am still surprised on a regular basis.
You can’t have a long career and worry about the unexpected. I think this of this as one of the main reasons some many successful athletes are referred to as “laid back” when they are interviewed. They approach one problem at a time, and don’t hold much value in “sure things.” So in your training, be precise and calculated, but willing to roll with the punches. Have a set plan, but make it tentative. As an athlete, thrive on adversity and the unknown but keep your foundation in your training. If you figure this trick out for yourself, the possibilities are limitless!
Take whatever comes and make it work for YOUR best!