Anyone who has played competitive sport for a reasonable length of time will probably have experienced, to varying degrees, a performance dip at some point. But what is it, and how do you get out of it?
Sometimes referred to as being out of form, a performance dip is a period of time during which an athlete plays below his or her normal competitive level. Some athletes experience short-lived dips, returning relatively quickly back to their usual playing standard, whilst others can have a more prolonged spell.
Athletes suffering a dip tend to try even harder than usual, practicing for longer and at a higher intensity, and often spend more time thinking about how they can pull themselves out of the slump. Frustratingly, this can result in a lower level of performance, which then has a significant impact on their confidence. An extended dip consequently develops, where effort and analysis go up, yet confidence and performance go down.
Returning to form
The key to getting out of a dip, and returning to good form, is to firstly understand the causes of it, and so it’s important to check that your fundamentals are sound.
These fundamentals can be split into two broad categories…
1. Somatic fundamentals
2. Cognitive fundamentals
Essentially being comprised of your technical and physical levels, this is the first area to investigate. To confirm that your somatic fundamentals are up to scratch, revisit the foundations of your technique, evaluate your strength and conditioning levels, and assess your lifestyle habits, such as diet, sleeping patterns, rest days and so on, and then address any of these areas which are below par.
Simply focusing on, and strengthening, the somatic fundamentals of your sporting skills is frequently all that’s needed to help you return to good form.
However, if your somatic fundamentals are robust but you’re still experiencing a performance dip, then it’s essential to address your cognitive fundamentals – in other words, your mental processes.
Because athletes tend to be very determined, it’s easy for them to overthink everything which is related to their performance dip. Yet the key to recovery is for them to simplify and improve their mental processes. Remember, positive thoughts build positive emotions, which in turn create positive actions.
You can improve your cognitive fundamentals by…
- Actively engaging in positive self-talk
- Practicing mindfulness by staying in the moment
- Focusing on the task, rather than the result
- Setting and achieving small goals to grow your confidence
- Executing your skills in practice instinctively and on auto pilot
It can also be highly beneficial to get away from your sport periodically in order to freshen your mind and body, and to help you gain a wider perspective. Remember, sport is a part of your life, but it is not all of your life.
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