As a cross-country /track and field scholarship athlete in the NCAA, you are competing at a high level almost every weekend. Student-athletes must be highly organized and focused individuals in order to maintain a high level of competition worthy of maintaining their scholarships. The physical and mental tolls weekly competitions can have on the body can be hard to maintain. There are often unique circumstances and distractions can occur, causing roadblocks in race preparation and resulting in a poor performance. How is a student-athlete able to prepare themselves week in and week out to perform at a very high level of competition consistently? It is not as easy as it sounds. Below is a list of three of the most important strategies I used when preparing for a big competition.
Anticipate and plan for potential roadblocks leading up to a competition. Being prepared for a pre-race distraction will help the body focus and conserve valuable energy for the task at hand. Having a pre-planned solution to a possible distraction is a highly valuable strategy. In the NCAA, unexpected distractions are a regular occurrence. One distraction I encountered included cancelled or delayed flights the day before big competitions, causing an entire pre-race routine to be effected. Consider how you will work around such unexpected events and potential distractions.
Leading up to a competition, it is vitally important to prepare your body for the upcoming event. Many tough workouts are usually scheduled by your coach prior to a large competition to prepare you for the event. As a student-athlete, you may also have a busy week of study. You need to recover properly; otherwise, you cannot expect to maintain a high level of competition consistently. Don’t underestimate the amount of mental and physical stress put on your body from sport and school. Be self-aware, make sure to get enough sleep, and hydrate efficiently post-workout and pre-competition.
Maintain good relationships with your coaches and professors. Always communicate to your coach how you are feeling pre- and post-workout. Also, stay on top of your school work. The better communication there is, the easier the coach or professor can help you in times of distress. The last thing you want to worry about pre-competition is a bad mark on an exam that could have been avoided with better preparation. Whether rescheduling a workout due to an exam or academic conflict, or vice versa having confidence that your academic and athletic responsibilities are taken care, of will negate unnecessary pre-competition stress and allow for more focus on the event.
In my next blog post I will share about how to successfully transition from cross-country season to track and field season, as I continue my series – An Athletically Inspired Educational Journey.