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Erin Mirabella
Erin Mirabella
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Game Prep- Creating A Pre-Competition Routine.

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Try This At Home……………………….

Sit down with your child and write out his or her pre-performance routine.  See below for details.


Before I get into developing a pre-competition routine, I want to address one thing I forgot to mention in last weeks post.  Both your child’s expectations and the expectations they feel you have for them, can add to their nervousness.  Whether they finish first or last, their best is all you can ask of them, and all they can ask of themselves.  Focusing on doing my best versus winning always helped me stay calm.

Now, for today’s post.

When I moved to the Olympic Training Center I was immersed into USA Cycling’s endurance track program.  They stressed the importance of a pre-competition routine and helped me develop mine, step by step.  For me, developing a pre-competition routine was a defining moment in raising my game to the next level.  It helped me focus, prepare and keep my nerves under control.

A pre-competition routine is a step-by-step procedure that, if followed, ensures proper preparation allowing for an optimum performance.

Below is a general outline to develop your child’s pre-competition routine.  You may need to tweak it for your child’s specific needs. He or she can use this technique for sports, tests, and pretty much any other activity that requires peak performance.

 1. Start by working backward from the start time of the competition.

 2. The last five minutes before the competition should be used for collecting thoughts, taking a few deep breathes and putting on gear, if it isn’t already on.

 3. Approximately 35-50 minutes before the start of the competition your child should begin warming up.  Types of warm-ups are unique to each sport.  Warming up is a completely separate post, but in general a warm up should start out easy and progress in intensity.  Go a step further than just saying that this time is set aside for warm up; have your child write down, minute by minute, the type of activities he or she will do and the intensity at which each will be done.  Remember that every athlete is different.  Have your child experiment to see what combination of warm-ups works best for him or her. Once you child finds their perfect warm-up recipe, write it down and stick with it.  I know many teams warm up together.  If that is the case, have your child join the team in warm ups.  If needed, he or she can add on additional exercises before or after the team warm up, or your child can talk to the coach about incorporating these additional activities into the team warm-up.

4. Now that you know when your child’s warm-up will start, you can help him or her calculate how much earlier to arrive at the field of play.  Account for things like equipment prep, pinning numbers, team meetings, and extra trips to the bathroom.

5. If at all possible, have your child pack his or her sports bag the night before the competition.  If the sport requires a lot of equipment create a checklist so your child doesn’t forget anything important. Do as much prep work as possible before you get to the venue, (i.e. pin numbers, fill water bottles, prepare food, etc.)

6.  Lastly, create a music list on an iPod, MP3 player or CD that gets your child pumped up, focused and ready to compete. Have them listen to it while they are preparing to perform. (Where reasonable and safe.)   In addition to pumping them up, it will help them tune out unnecessary distractions and having ear phones in their ears will help keep people from interrupting their routine.

Here is an example of my pre-competition routine. The night before I tried, if at all possible, to get a least 8 hours of sleep.  I ate approximately two and a half to three hours before my race.  I arrived for my race an hour and a half before I was to compete.  I checked on my equipment and made sure that the appropriate gear was on my bike.  I laid out my helmet, shoe covers, gloves, cliff bar gel, etc.  I went to the bathroom and then climbed on my bike, with my music, to warm up.  I rode easy for 15 minutes.  Next, I got off my bike and stretched for 10-15 minutes.  Then I got back on the bike and did approximately a 10-minute wind up with the last 4 or 5 minutes at my threshold (Time trail pace.)  I ramped up my intensity by changing my gear to race gear and completing several 15-second sprints.  I then took one last trip to the bathroom, ate my gel, and finished with 5- 15 minutes of easy riding to stay warm.  During my warm-up I visualized myself doing my races perfectly.

Having a pre-competition routine will give your child security, confidence, and ensure that they do everything necessary to prepare for their event. 

Erin Mirabella is a mom, two time Olympic cyclist and children's book author.  Her books, Gracie Goat's Big Bike Race and Shawn Sheep The Soccer Star focus on sportsmanship, healthy lifestyles, and core values. For more information about Erin and her children’s books, please visit www.erinmirabella.com