A couple of posts ago, we talked about Matt Le Tissier and his prowess at kicking a stationary ball into a large rectangular from 12 yards (if you search the BBC Sport Website at the moment there’s a video of him talking about penalty taking being all in the mind… very timely!). Anyway, penalty taking forms a useful reference point to bring to life a simple concept that a lot of elite athletes use to help deliver great performances at crucial moments – the Pre-Performance Routine. This routine might be carried out seconds before the execution of a controlled skill, such as the penalty kick, or might be carried out prior to a whole performance beginning. The common factor in both of these situations is that the athletes choose to prepare their minds and their bodies in a systematic, well rehearsed and fully controlled manner. Whether using controlled breathing combined with a few well chosen words to remind the performer of a crucial technical point, or the long drawn out warm up rituals that take place prior to the start of big events, there are some simple rules to consider that may make a difference for your performance.
1. Work out how you want to feeling and thinking 5 minutes into the start of a key performance (this might be a meeting, a pitch, a brainstorming session – anything that requires you to use your talents and deliver a result). Having worked out how you need to be feeling and thinking identify what you need to do just before you actually begin the “performance” in order to start off in the desired vein.
2. Use some self-talk, or a body language check, or maybe some mental rehearsal to get you into the mode of thinking that you’d like to be in. Give yourself some time to actually feel like you’ve started the performance before you actually get in there for real. Practising this warm up will be important as the more familiar you are with it, the more impact it has for you prior to entering a key performance moment. Finding the right words, right ways of managing how you’re feeling physically or the best ways of using your imagination to warm up takes time. So, don’t expect to get the perfect recipe first time around, but make sure you’re working towards finding your winning recipe.
These simple ideas really tell us that a performance begins prior to a whistle blowing, a gun being fired or someone opening up a meeting. Much of the performance that is delivered after the official start can be strongly influenced by how you manage yourself and your pre-performance routine in the moments leading up to the start. It’s a simple idea, consistent preparation = consistent performance, but how effectively are you using the simplicity to maximise your chances of consistently fulfilling your potential?