Value of Pre-Performance Plans

Listen Up Athletes!

“Every day in the MLS, athletes are asked to compete. Every day I know I will encounter distractions, doubts, and issues outside of soccer.  Competing at my best is hard when I am distracted.  Pre-performance routines allow the best players to block out all the external factors and lock in on being mentally engaged to give 100% that day. My  mindset switches to ‘time to get to work’ when I use my pre-performance routine. The best athletes are consistent. Being consistent is the key to starting every practice the right way. I may not be perfect each day, but if I use my pre-practice plan at least I’ve given myself the best chance to play well.”
— Jonathan Campbell, Defender for the Chicago Fire

Jonathan Campbell, Chicago Fire
The most effective athletes have well established routines to get them ready – mentally, physically, technically, and tactically to compete. They use these routines every day to help them be ready for important moments in training AND competition. Hazell, Cotterill, & Hill (2014) found that a pre-performance routine (PPR) for semi-pro soccer players supports the suggestion that a PPR can enhance performance by reducing anxiety prior to performance.  Another study from Lautenback (2014) found that sing a Pre-Performance Routine may benefit athletes who experience a drop in performance in high-pressure situations.  Results from Mesagno & Mullane-Grant (2010) add support to existing literature that a PPR, with psychological and behavioral components, decreases the likelihood of choking. Additional research has shown that performers who use routines in other sports have enhanced performance in; basketball free throw shooting (Lonsdale & Tam, 2008), golf putting (Bell et al, 2010), diving (Bell et al, 2008), water polo penalty (Marlow et al 2001), rugby goal kicking (Jackson & Baker, 2001) and volleyball serving (Lidor & Mayan, 2005).  These studies, and more demonstrate the direct benefits to one’s performance when using a well thought out pre-performance plan.

Stop Undermining Your Own Success

I see too many talented athletes failing to deliver consistently effective performances under pressure. Why? Because they’ve got no consistent method or plan to prepare to practice and compete effectively. So they end up hoping they ‘feel it’ that day.  They assume showing up and ‘trying hard’ will do the job. Maybe they’ve got an idea of what helps them be ready and some of the time they do some of these things, but not always. They don’t consistently apply a readiness routine to be mentally, physically, technically and tactically ready to go so they don’t play and practice consistently. In effect, they are hoping they can just flip the on switch and play well. Without a pre-performance plan they are leaving their play up to chance.


Team Huddle, Thrive Excellence in Sport Performance through Applied Sport Psychology


Successful Athletes Make, and Follow a Plan

Successful athletes at all levels, like Jonathan, realize the importance of having a plan to help them be ready to practice and compete. They follow this plan every day because they understand that consistently controlling pre-practice or pre-competition variables helps them relax and dial in to enjoying their work and focusing their efforts on improvement.

Producing a good performance or practice session is more than just having great technical skill and tactical awareness – Pre-performance routines help athletes focus on mental, physical and emotional readiness to be their consistent best.

  • A pre-performance routine is a set of sequenced thoughts and actions that help you be ready to deliver your consistent best.
  • A daily routine to prepare for action is a good start, but routines are super necessary before critical training sessions and before big competitions when the stakes are high.
  • A pre-performance routine should include components that ensure you’re mentally and physically ready – not just focused on the technical and tactical elements of the game. Maybe you like to be social? Then make sure you have that option to be social then. Maybe you like to listen to music, then allow time for music.
  • Your pre-performance routine is specific to you. It needs to be tested and refined to make sure it’s effective and right for you in all types of circumstances: home and away practices, home and away games, day, night, good weather conditions, poor weather conditions, etc.
  • Use your pre-performance routine with discipline (every day!) and it will increase your sense of confidence and control. Using it every day also means you’re giving yourself the best possible chance to achieve your own consistent 10/10 performances.

4 Steps to Creating Your Pre-Performance PlanPre-Performance Plan and Prep with Thrive

  1. Develop a pre-performance routine that helps you be totally ready to perform. Make sure a big focus of this routine is on mental and physical readiness – not just technical and tactical stuff.
  2. Make sure your pre-performance plan includes some kind of controlled or diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing to focus one’s self is the #1 mental training skill of all effective athletes in all sports. When an athlete can control their breathing, they will have a much better shot at focusing on controllable variables.
  3. Use your pre-performance routine, refine it, use it more, and keep refining it until you know it works no matter where you are. Once you’ve developed your routine, spend 4 weeks working to improve it. Remember the end goal is a routine that you’re confident in when big competitions pop up.
  4. Use it with discipline! Consistency is key, so use your pre-performance plan every day. Once you’ve got a routine that works, use it every time you practice and compete. Remember to keep checking that it’s working for you. If it’s not… change it so it does work for you!

THRIVE Pre-Performance Plan

Use the plan below to create your Pre-Performance Plan:

1.  Music Play List

2. BRIEF ©

3. Review Script + Imagery sequences of Script skills

4. Goal for Practice Session/Performance

Derrek Falor
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