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Competition Preparation

All athletes are nervous before a competition, this is natural, but often it results in a lack of confidence in the athlete. The aim is to refocus the athlete to be positive and confident in their ability ("You only achieve what you believe"). The following competition stages focus on track and field athletes, but they can be applied to any event or sport in general.

Day before Competition

  • Keep the training light and easy - work on technique
  • Agree with your coach the objectives of the competition - outcome goal (what you would like to achieve, e.g. win) and process goal (what you will technically have to focus on to achieve the outcome goal - e.g. drive the elbows)
  • Check and pack all the equipment you will need for the competition. Use an equipment checklist to ensure nothing is forgotten
  • Organise food and drink required for the competition
  • Check directions to the venue and plan to leave early to allow for any delay en route
  • Have a high carbohydrate dinner
  • Watch a video of good performers in your sport/event
  • Get 7 or 8 hours sleep

Morning of Competition

  • Allow plenty of time between waking and leaving for the competition venue
  • Carry out some light stretching before breakfast
  • Conduct a mental rehearsal of your warm-up and competition
  • Have a good healthy breakfast. Do not eat or drink anything that will upset your stomach
  • Pack all the required equipment, food and drink
  • Leave with plenty of time to reach the venue


  • Once you arrive at the venue, register and collect numbers
  • Check event times and decide on when to commence your event preparation
  • Fix numbers to club vest
  • Avoid your competitors (speak to them after the event)
  • Have a pre-competition sports massage
  • At the appropriate time, conduct relaxation and mental rehearsal program
  • Carry out your practised pre-competition warm-up program
  • Gather together any equipment you require for the competition
  • Report at the appropriate time to the collection point for your event
  • Keep warm, relaxed and focus on your objectives for the competition

Post Competition Evaluation

  • Congratulate your competitors
  • Thank Officials
  • Conduct your rehearsed cool down program
  • Get together with your coach to evaluate your performance. An evaluation form is useful to help the athlete and coach conduct this review.

If you have more heats or events to compete in, then refer back to the pre-competition stage. After the final event:

  • Have a post-competition sports massage
  • Gather equipment together and go home to celebrate

"What if"

On the day of competition and at the competition venue, situations can arise that may cause the athlete to panic and lose confidence. Some problems can be created by the athlete (misplaced kit). Others are outside their control (weather conditions). Prepare the athlete by going through a series of "what if" situations so should they arise, they have a solution. The following are possible situations that may occur on the day of competition for a track and field athlete:

  • You are stuck in traffic on the way to the venue
  • The event time is brought forward
  • The event is delayed
  • You have entered the 200m & Long Jump, and they are at the same time
  • There are additional rounds in the competition (heats, semi and final)
  • Not allowed to use your starting blocks
  • Starting blocks are not allowed in the heats
  • It starts raining
  • It gets very sunny and hot
  • The kit is forgotten, damaged or lost
  • Lace has broken on your racing shoes
  • You are not allowed to warm-up on the track
  • No safety pins were provided to attach your number
  • Lack of facilities to warm-up

Talk it through with your athletes and find out what it is that worries them about competitions. Consider what can be done to reduce the chances of the situation arising or possible solutions should they occur.

How many of your athletes have an equipment checklist, and as the athlete's coach, what spare "bits and pieces" do you carry, coach?

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2001) Competition Preparation [WWW] Available from: [Accessed