Meet Day Strategies

Hybrid Performance Method
October 18, 2019 (3 weeks ago)
Categories

Read time 5-6 minutes

Written by Rachel Cunningham

Key Points

  • Meet day is more than physical preparation
  • You can control many aspects of the day, despite potentially facing an unfamiliar situation/environment
  • An internal locus of control helps to reduce the overall perceived stress associated with competing
  • Staying task focused will lead to more adaptive strategies and increased resilience in the unfortunate event that something goes wrong

Meet day represents a moment in time in which all of the hours of training and hard work come together to allow you to perform and bring your A-game to the platform. But performance is a synthesis of many factors that go beyond physical preparation. There are believed to be five key factors that contribute to success in competitive sport: technique, physical condition, psychological state, nutrition and equipment (Cockerill, 2002). Not only that, but meet day can bring with it a whole host of confounding factors such as a new environment, weight cuts, flight schedule etc. The first five factors are inside of your control while the confounding factors, less so. Each attempt will also bring with it a variety of emotional changes that require their own adaptations and the ability to manage the following attempts. Ljdokova, Razzhivin, and Volkova (2014) sought to find out the most useful coping strategies employed by a  group of powerlifters to manage meet day and optimise their chances of success. Nine target areas emerged and were ordered in terms of which had the most perceived impact on meet day. These were: 

  • Coach’s assistance (analysis of approaches, offering strategies and tactics for behaviour development, encouragement)
  • Mental attitude (emotional state, emotional stress, excitement)
  • Instructional techniques (meditation, hypnosis, autogenic training, visualisation of a successful attempt, music)
  • Training partner selection (level of experience, success rate, similar goals and objectives)
  • Social isolation (reading a book, putting on your headphones, finding a quiet corner)
  • Changes to training methods (training according to the competition model, change in training time, changes to food)
  • Supplement Use
  • Selective communication (speaking with someone who’s nervous versus someone who’s composed, or experienced)
  • Home-like behaviour (normal diet, listening to music, training rituals, familiar people, familiar environment)

The respondents consisted of 80 men and 80 women whose experience ranged from 1 to 34 years. There were amateur lifters as well as international level athletes. Despite its small sample size, the results of this study offer some key areas to consider, for both the novice and seasoned lifter.. Research has shown that perceived control over an unknown situation leads to a reduction in the negative effects of stress (Skinner, 1995). Therefore, coming up with a meet day strategy that takes the above areas into consideration would provide some tools to tackle the unpredictable factors (such as environment and attempt performance) in advance. The majority of these are things that you can anticipate and prepare for. 

What might this look like?

Plan ahead. Everything from your music playlist to your inter-lift snacks, caffeine timing etc. Know your schedule and plan for it. This includes knowing your numbers for each lift, including attempts you’d like to hit, which would have been determined in training.  A skills and task-oriented focus will increase your sense of control over the situation. An outcome focus conditions success on too many uncontrolled variables, ie what if the judging is sub par or the meet planners made mistakes? That may reduce the chances of acheiving a certain outcome. It may be cliche to “focus on the process”, but goals that are task-oriented are more likely to facilitate adaptive motivation during the competition (Hatzigeorgiadis & Biddle, 2002). In essence, you will be more resilient and more capable when under pressure.  

Choose a coach you feel comfortable with (or go it alone!). This can be a very individual thing and will depend on your personality type, but if you choose to have a handler/coach on the day make sure they are fully debriefed on the day’s events. Keep it as close to how you normally train as possible. The key to perceived control is to shift the locus of control from external to internal, this also means that your coach should work for you, not against you. Athletes with a higher internal locus of control have shown to manage stressful situations better since they are more likely to take charge of the things they can control (Ntoumanis & Jones, 1998). Your coach can be a great source of advice and support but make sure you’ve had a conversation before comp day to discuss your strategy. It all may sound simple, but it’s powerful. No need to overcomplicate things.

Find what works for you on the day. It’s going to take a bit of trial and error but find out what works for you. Are you more of a loner? Do you prefer to stay in your own head to focus better? Do you need to talk through your thought process between lifts to reduce your anxiety? Techniques such as imagery and self-talk might come into play here. Smaller meets are great opportunities to treat as learning experiences, to experiment with new strategies. When finally get to that big competition, those well-practiced habits keep you focused under the bright lights of the competition platform.

Ultimately there is no one ‘right’ way to prepare for a meet but covering the key areas above will set you up to manage the day and start out with a success mind-set. Just remember, most of the physical prep is taken care of before you even arrive at the meet venue, so give yourself an advantage by preparing just as thoroughly on your overall strategy. Meet day strategy isn’t complicated, just prepare for it as diligently as you do the rest of your training.

References

Cockerill, I. M. (Ed.). (2002). Solutions in sport psychology. Cengage Learning EMEA.

Hatzigeorgiadis, A., & Biddle, S. J. (2002). Cognitive interference during competition among volleyball players with different goal orientation profiles. Journal of Sports Sciences, 20(9), 707-715.

Ljdokova, G. M., Razzhivin, O. A., & Volkova, K. R. (2014). Powerlifters’ ways to overcome confounding factors at competitions. Life Science Journal, 11(11s), 481.

Skinner, E. A. (1995). Perceived control, motivation, & coping. Sage.

Ntoumanis, N., & Jones, G. (1998). Interpretation of competitive trait anxiety symptoms as a function of locus of control beliefs. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 29, 99- 114.

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