by Samantha Schell
When it comes to competition, people often talk about learning to ‘flip the switch’ between the training version of themselves and the aggressive competitor version of themselves. I have a slight issue with this sentiment, because a few years ago I developed the mindset that I always needed to keep that switch on in order to always perform to my best level.
When I say this, I don’t mean that every single roll in the gym needs to be a ‘balls to the wall, out for their throat, killer mentality.’ What I mean by this, is that my grips won’t ever be lackluster, I won’t ever leave space between myself and my opponent, everything I do will always be executed with intent, and I will perform my capabilities strongly. When we begin to grab things weakly and loosely, we set ourselves up for failure when the time matters.
I always want to make sure I train with purpose and intention; that the holes in my game are addressed and tightened, and that every time I step onto the mats I make sure to do so without laziness. Meaning, I don’t half-ass my movements or my grips. This shift in my focus and my mindset has helped to alleviate a lot of the nervousness associated when it comes to competition days. It took a lot of the added pressure of needing to make sure some sort of animalistic side came out of me to show up on the days on which I competed.
I always tell my students to train everything tight and thorough, but just do it slower in training to allow their training partners ample time to tap. I don’t want them grabbing things loosely, because how you practice is how you will compete, no matter how many times you try to convince yourself that it won’t be the case, it’s simply not true. Everything must be trained with purpose, but in practice, I will go slower as to prevent injury, and ramp up the speed on competition days as quickness is always much easier to fall in line.
This helps take off the pressure of needing to wake up on competition day and forcing yourself to adopt this personality of a killer on the mats. You shouldn’t have to feel like an impostor on competition day because you change your hairstyle to a that of a braided warrior or switched to your competition sports bra, because you always have that attacker mindset embedded deep within. It only gets a bit more amplified on the days when you’re not executing those moves on your teammates, but on strangers and random opponents on the mats instead.
Once I started viewing competition days as barely elevated normal days, my nerves pretty much dissipated. I changed nothing from my normal, daily routine and kept my schedule as acclimated to my usual day to day as possible. I ate what I normally ate, listened to my normal music and podcasts, warmed up in my usual way, and everything felt exactly the same way it usually does. My body has no idea that a competition day is any different than a regular training day, only my brain knows the difference, so best to stick to routines as closely as possible to keep up the façade.
There is no switch I need to flip to the “on” setting, because my mind and body are always active and ready to go at a moments notice. It’s not like I don’t always train for this, or that my training has been subpar and lackluster. I have consistently put in the work, done my best to work hard, been mindful with my intentions, and have clear and defined goals and a purpose. But going into every practice with these intents, I have been able to put forth the effort, get those tight grips, eliminate space, and use my pressure with smooth and controlled movements to help make competition feel like just another day.
It is my personal belief that most competitors will struggle with mindset more than any other facet of competition, and once we can learn to balance and conquer the emotions that go with the mentality behind competition, the greater a force to be reckoned with we become. Often times, the greater athlete doesn’t always win, but the one who wins is the one who learns how to shift their mindset on competition days.
So I’m not flipping any sort of switch when it comes to competition, and I eschew any type of thinking that falls into that ideology. My switch is always ‘on’ and I just learn when it needs to be on full throttle or not. It’s too exhausting to constantly teeter between ‘on’’ and ‘off’ and absorbs way too much battery power to do so, and I am not wasting all of my energy focusing on that. We stay on, always.
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