While the title of this post may say it is for throwers, in reality this post could help anyone involved in a competitive sport.
We live in a time where the world of exercise science is growing at an astounding rate. That means that the understanding of how to train the human body physically is going to be better understood as time goes on. Because there are so many different ways out there to train your physical body, people often forget about one of the most important assets your body has, YOUR BRAIN!
So why is being mentally strong so important for competition anyway? Well anyone who is involved in sports has had a moment when he/she just could not perform in a game or meet. My favorite example of this has to come from throwing itself. How many times have you seen someone have one of the best throws of their life in warm ups, and then the actual competition comes along and they don’t even get a mark! What happened? They clearly showed they could perform at a high level just moments earlier. More than likely the reason they could not hit that throw again was due to nerves or putting some outside pressure on themselves when the competition started. Nothing at all changed in their physical ability. If you can relate to this example, then the following tips are going to take your performance to the next level:
1. Develop a routine
2. Practice like you want to compete.
Developing a routine for yourself can relieve a lot of the stress you experience on the day of competition. Our bodies absolutely love doing the same things over and over again. You get to a point where you literally don’t have to think at all and you can perform a task. Just think of the things you have been doing for years like brushing your teeth, tying your shoes, or driving a car. When you first start driving a car you are very very aware of what you are doing at every moment. Now ask someone who has been driving for over a decade if they even remember the ride into work. They don’t remember it because it is part of their daily routine.
As a thrower, you are perfectly suited for creating a routine at a meet. Officials actually help organize the routine you need to create. You can do something different after each call. They will call you “On hold.” “On deck.” And “Up.”. Here is an example of routine for a thrower getting ready to throw the shot put at a meet.
1. When the thrower hears their name, “On hold.” they take off their sweats and do 10 jumping jacks to get their blood flowing.
2. When the thrower hears their name, “On deck.” they find their shot put and make their way over to the throwing circle. As they are going to the circle they are thinking about one part of their throw they really want to execute well.
3. When they hear their name called for, “Up.” the thrower takes 2 big tuck jumps to get their legs firing. They walk into the circle and set themselves up at the back of the circle. Mentally they tell themselves, “Relax and Throw.” They take one big breath in and exhale.
4. Now comes the easy part, THROW!
This is just one example of creating a routine. When you create your own routine make sure it represents you. Be unique, try different things. The more you make it about yourself the more comfortable you will feel on every throw. Find your routine and you will be amazed how confident you will become in the circle.
Practicing like you want to compete is a great way to make sure you are as comfortable and confident as possible when you get to a meet. Most of the time practice is for focusing on one part of your technique you want to improve. This requires you to be mentally focused on almost every throw. While this is how most of your practices should go, it is not the way to spend all of your time. Once and awhile you need to mix it up and imagine yourself throwing at a meet. Setting up a mock meet at practice will take some of the anxiety away from an actual meet. Have your teammates cheer you on and have your coach call through an order of throws so you can also practice your new routine! Part of what makes a mock meet successful is your willingness to imagine that you are truly at a meet. You will know you are doing it right when you can actually get some butterflies in your stomach before taking your throw.
If you want the ultimate example of practicing like you compete click here to read about Olympic Gold Medalist Stephanie Brown-Trafton setting up a mural in her garage of what the stadium would look like from the discus circle at the Beijing Olympics.
Last and most important of the three tips is learning how to visualize. Visualization is being able to picture yourself performing a task in your head. Studies have shown that simply visualizing yourself performing a physical task can help you become better at actually doing that task. The best part of visualization is that it doesn’t require your physical body to do it, so you can take as many reps as you want because your body will never tire. You can even take reps when you are injured or taking a day off. This skill can be difficult to learn at first, but with a little practice it can become part of your daily throwing routine.
When first starting out it is important to try this either sitting or laying down. You should do it in a quiet place so you can really focus. There are a variety of ways to visualize yourself performing the task and there is no one correct way to do it. Some people visualize what they would see out of their own eyes. Some people imagine watching themselves from different part of the circle. Don’t be afraid to imagine that it is like an actual video, where you can slow down, speed up, rewind, and pause. Visualization is such an important tool in your throwing arsenal that we will expand on it further in another post.
Having a strong mental game can mean the difference between having just an ordinary performance and an extraordinary performance. So the next time you are at practice, start implementing these tips to find out how far you can truly throw!
May your shots & hammers feel light, and your discs & javs fly with ease,