The “just another day in the office” mindset.
In this article we shall explore what I will call the “just another day in the office” mindset. By which I mean a competition mindset which removes anxiety and fear at competitions.
Competing in Judo is hard, scary, stressful, nerve wracking. Just before you as a Judo athlete step on the mat to fight, you will be nervous. You will have fear of failure, etc.
This is not all negative, but for many many up and coming judo athletes it can be performance destroying. We have all met players that are wonderful in Randori and bomb out in competitions. Often, they crash out because before they get on the mat they have lost the mental state to perform.
Your optimum mental state to compete is unique to you. Some people need to be “up” higher than others, on the whole though; most novice athletes in Judo (IMHO) are in an “arousal state” that is too high and destroys their performances.
Many of the top players in judo look remarkably calm before fighting. Riner, Iliadis, Sobirov, Zantarai or Tong Wen make good examples. Perhaps, it is superficial and only they know for sure, but superficial or not they are calmer than most novice judo athletes I see.
A good friend described the state you see on the face of the greats as being a product of it being “just another day in the office” for them. Meaning, that in their minds they had done this so many times it was nothing new, not something to fear, it was their normal activity.
Fostering this calm mindset is something we can all work on. Kayla Harrison the -78kg player from the USA is a good example. In the recent video by the IJF, she describes working with a sports psychologist on visualising fighting (and beating) the other female athletes in her category. She goes on to comment how by the time she actually meets them in competition she feels like she has already beaten them over and over. She has the “just another day in the office” mindset towards fighting these other judo players.
So you as a judo athlete can mimic Kayla and use visualisation to see yourself beating your opponents and foster a calmness in competition.
Another tip, which is useful for those who can’t perhaps picture all their opponents; is to simply compete more often.
Schedule more events into your calendar, perhaps lower level events where the result does not matter. These are opportunities for you to feel the fear, the excitement and the nerves and manage them. With more experience, most people find things easier to cope with.
Another effective technique, which fits well with competing more often, is to modify your competition warmup to calm you. To make it more like the important events.
For example, at elite level events you will warmup and then need to go through judogi control, them wait in a queue for your match to come up. In lower level events this is not the case, you may be matside the whole time.
You may want to try mimicking at the low level events the Judogi control queue. Maybe stand away from the mat and stand in a queue of one. Then when called, walk to the mat.
This method may help you in several ways. First standing away from the mat will likely give you a quieter space to occupy. Second, you are mimicking the high level event so when you reach the high level events you are used to that delay. Thirdly, walking to the mat is a physical act that can centre you on what comes next.
Please do leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts and experiences around mental preparation and this article.