For many people, there is a lot of anxiety around their personal and team’s performance in competition. Many teams have trained to a high level of performance, only to have their dreams broken by falling apart the day of the meet. There are specific reasons this happens and there is a way to avoid them.
With proper preparation you can avoid the pitfalls encountered by these unlucky teams. There is also a lot to be done the day of the meet, to ensure you perform your best. In this section we will describe the processes to be followed in training, as well as the basic strategies to be observed the day of the meet, which will help you perform your best.
It is important to understand that the meet is won in training. On the day of the meet everything must be automatic. You must understand your plan without thought. Your pace, engineering, how all the pictures look, must be second nature. To do this, you need to train in meet conditions for a long period of time prior to the actual meet. You must train at the same speed and intensity you will compete with. You must make no changes in technique even if it is obviously better. Change your game plan from pushing for more speed and better times to one that develops consistency in your performance. Keep detailed records so you will better understand what you are capable of. Remember: if you don’t know it, you aren’t going to learn it the day of the meet.
The hungrier you are to jump, the better you will perform. As the meet draw is near, the team needs to rest. Make less jumps, take a day off, two or three days prior to the first round. Jump half days for the reminder, just to stay warm. Trim down the intensity, or completely cease, your fitness routines, allowing your body to fully recover and be at its strongest. Take part in healthy distractions. Get off the drop zone and engage in different sports. This will allow your mind to relax, yet keep your mind and body sharp for the meet. It is preferable to do this with your team, keeping that energy consolidated. Do not party, as it is a distraction that will dull your senses and distance you from your connection with the sport.
The more energy we have, the better we will perform. Unfortunately, we have a finite supply of this precious commodity. There are many things we can do to gather and save energy. Come to the meet prepared. Have a place to stay that will be comfortable to you. Be sure you have or can easily get the food and water that you need. Plan to have all the equipment you may need: creepers, video gear and skydiving gear. Come to the meet early. We need a lot of time to acclimate to an area. We must get used to the aircraft, the drop zone systems, the food, the air and our own operating plan. We do not want any shocks to our system at the day of the meet. Have a specific game plan so that everyone is very clear about what is expected of him. Make it efficient and thorough, so that everything is done with the least possible expenditure of energy. It is best if the team can stick together as much as possible. People feel strong and safe when they are with their team. Know where everyone is at all the time and communicate with each other about where you are going. It will help if the team has a meeting area where everyone spends all his free time.
During the meet, there is a lot that can be done to conserve energy. It is important that you stay relaxed between rounds or during any weather holds. You can burn a tremendous amount of energy in these times, leading to exhaustion. As you relax, you must stay mentally alert. You must be prepared to make your next round at almost any time. Try reading or playing game-boy but do not sleep, as waking completely from sleep can take more time than you have. Find distractions that work for you. Take care of your diet and be sure to eat many small meals to avoid lethargy. Avoid socializing, as it will sap a lot of energy. There will be plenty of time for socializing at the banquet.
As the meet draw is near, people experience an unusually high level of stress. This will tend to shorten their tempers and create a general paranoia. Good communication becomes even more critical. Have very regular team meetings, preferably everyday, where one is free to speak their mind. This will alleviate fears and conflicts that could produce major problems later.
Know the rules. Not knowing the rules at a meet is like going to court without a lawyer. Meets have been won and lost by team’s manipulation of the rules. Remember: it’s not what you do that counts, but it’s what the judges see. You must skydive for them, so train for them.
Many competitors talk of feeling pressure or stress to such a level as to hinder their performance. This stress is something experienced when we enter into an unknown situation, one where there is a certain element of danger such as the risk of failure. When we sense danger, our body reacts in many ways to prepare itself for fight. A certain amount of this will enhance our performance; too much will negatively influence our best efforts. Much of the time, the stress is allowed to run away with itself. If you can put that energy to use for yourself, it will make you better. The first thing to do is to change what you call it. Instead of calling it pressure or stress, call it energy. Energy is something we think of as controllable. Channel that extra energy to improve your skydiving. Focus it into your anticipation or your awareness. Use it to make you stronger, giving you more endurance and a general feeling of invincibility.
Confidence is the keystone to performing at your best. When you are confident, your mind and body are relaxed allowing them to perform at their best. Your outlook is positive, keeping you visualizing the correct action. There are a few things that can be done to ensure you have the highest level of confidence possible. First of all, engineer your competition dives so that you are doing things that you have already successfully done in the past. Just knowing that you done this kind of move before, will give you confidence. Be sure you stick to your game plan. It is a common mistake of teams to see their competition doing something, which is obviously better but something they have never done, and change their plan at the last moment. Although the move may be faster, you will be unfamiliar with it and therefore uncomfortable. To do this correctly, you must be aware of what you can do. Train properly by sticking to a plan and keeping good records, and you will know it. With deciding how to do the meet dives, the bottom line is: go with what feels comfortable. Choose a couple of different options, run through them on the creepers, and pick the one that feels good even if it is not the absolute most efficient method.
Positive visualization is paramount for confidence. When you are reviewing the rounds in your head, see them working perfectly. If your fears intrude and start making you see mistakes, know them for what they are and put them away from your mind. Remember it is your mind, so you are in control of what you think.
Positive support from your teammates and those close to you, will also help to cover the long way towards building your confidence. A history of positive support will relieve you from the stress of worrying about what these people will think of you if you make a mistake. When mistakes happen, realize that the person is trying his best and support him with positive reinforcement. Remember: his performance on the next round is tied to his confidence, and your success in the meet is tied to his performance. If you make a mistake, realize that you are better than that and go up on the next round determined to do your best. Let the last jump go, so you can focus on the next.
Most people pile too much pressure on themselves. They are overly concerned with what people will think of them if they make a mistake. They will go into competition with the belief that they cannot make a single mistake. Expecting perfection from yourself, is unreasonable and unachievable. Be OK with making mistakes and be OK with your teammates making them.
We find it very helpful to look at the meet as a series of one round’s competitions. Whether we are ahead or behind, we go at top speed. We work to not pay attention to the scores and focus solely on personal best each round. The score comes from performing so all your attention should be there. There is no defence in this game and, therefore, nothing you can do beyond to achieve your competition’s performance best. Focus on your own stuff and let the judges decide who won.
Trust in yourself and your teammates, is a critical ingredient to success. Good trust in the team will save energy and build confidence. Not having to wonder about your teammates, gives you more energy and build confidence. Not having to wonder about your teammates, gives you more energy to spend on yourself. Knowing they will be where they say they will unloads the majority of variables and therefore the majority of worries. Trust is something that must be earned. It is important that during training, everyone practices what he preaches. Say what you mean and do what you say.
Train to Win. Compete to do your Best.
Airspeed 4-Way Training Work Book
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