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Understanding Variables in Competition

by Trevor Stutzman

There will be meets where you throw far and meets where you will not throw far. Understanding this fact is essential to maturing as an athlete, having a positive perspective on training, and maintaining mental focus. However, this does not mean that you should accept or be indifferent to poor performances, but understand why you performed poorly and how to improve your physical and mental preparation for the next meet. There are an infinite amount of variables that go into performing well in a meet. They range from long term preparation to day of the meet preparation, variables that you can control or influence, to variables that are completely out of your control.

We will start with variables that are completely within your control as a thrower. All of these variables are completely your choice, and will either have a positive or negative effect on your performance. These decisions start at the beginning of the season when deciding on how hard and how often you are going to train. It is no question that someone who has not trained hard all year will not perform well at meets, yet there are a surprising amount of throwers who are expecting the opposite to occur. Then there is the week and day of preparation for a meet. A thrower that drinks or stays up all night two days before a meet shouldn’t expect to throw far. On the day of the meet, are you relaxed and focused or are you goofing off and running around while waiting for your flight to start? Self confidence is another variable that will impact performance. It is completely up to you whether you will believe in yourself or let negative self talk or comments from other people impact how you approach the meet. One of the biggest variables in meet performance is how you choose to deal with events that cannot be controlled. If it is raining out, it is still up to you whether you mope and complain that nothing is going your way, or stay focused and take on the challenge.

Then there are variables that you will have an influence on, but might not be able to outright control. One of the big variables here is the energy of the meet. Often times I hear people complain that the meet just didn’t have any energy and that’s why they didn’t throw far. It is certainly hard to get something going if you are the only person trying to get hyped, but it will certainly not happen if you don’t try to get it started. Then there is the feeling you have in the circle. This is probably the most elusive aspect of competition and throwing in general whether you feel good or not. The reason this is an influenceable variable is because there is a lot you can do in preparation to determine whether or not you feel good in competition. This includes recent sleep quality, amount of energy expended before competition, to technical consistency on previous days. Good feeling can also be impacted by how you take your warm ups and first throws. Are you trying to go as hard as possible right off the bat, or are you easing into your throws, feeling out the technique, and then adding power? However, the truth is that sometimes you feel like you did everything right and you still couldn’t find the feeling. Don’t get discouraged by this, but simply do everything right the next meet and most likely there will be a different result.

The final category are variables that are completely out of your control. This could include the weather, either partly cloudy and 70 degrees, or windy, raining, and 42. It could also be how the meet is run. Maybe the official calls you on a foul you didn’t make, or they stopped the meet for the national anthem right before your throw. You can’t always predict or prepare for these things to happen, but you can go into a meet knowing that it doesn’t matter what unexpected things occur, you are going to approach every throw with a fresh mind and with absolute confidence.

Everyone values athletes that have maturity, experience, and mental focus in meets. But what actually creates those attributes? I believe it is having realistic expectations for what can happen during a competition. A lot of this comes down to simply doing it over and over again and learning by experience. But if you haven’t gained that experience yet, this article can be a useful guide to understanding the variables involved in competition and how to deal with them. If you can attempt to foresee everything that can go wrong and everything can go right during a meet, you can align your actions as best as possible to steer yourself onto the path towards success.

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