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Chapter Two: Performance Routines

Before we go into detail about how to create performance routines, we need to understand what performance routines are and how they differ from rituals or superstitions. We also need to understand how to develop routines which are repeatable, consistent yet adaptable, comfortable, and purposeful. This chapter includes a couple of models for creating useful and effective performance routines. Also included in this chapter is a personalized worksheet for routines and performance readiness.

Routines, Rituals, and Superstitions

Performance routines are effective in increasing concentration, enhancing arousal, and aiding motivation and confidence. Routines actually influence performance factors, unlike superstitions, which are false beliefs about how irrelevant behaviors will affect performance. Rituals, on the other hand, can be an effective part of a performance routine if the ritual is performed with a specific purpose. For instance, a baseball pitcher’s ritual may be to tap his cleats every time he returns to the mound. If the tapping of his cleats is a reminder for him to narrow his focus as he returns to the mound, it could be a beneficial part of his routine. If, however, he believes that simply by tapping his cleats his performance will improve, this is an example of superstition, which is not effective or productive.

Why Establish Routines?

Performance routines include a sequence of task-relevant thoughts and behaviors, performed systematically (Weinberg & Gould, 2019). Routines can enhance attention and concentration, reduce anxiety, increase focus, and build confidence. Routines help athletes focus by shifting their attention from task-irrelevant thoughts, to thoughts which are relevant to the task. This helps limit distractions from both internal and external sources, meaning that the athlete’s thoughts are on what matters in the moment, and that outside sources are less likely to interfere with their performance. Further, routines have been shown to provide athletes with a sense of control, reduce stress, increase consistency, and help athletes to perform under pressure. Routines are anxiety's greatest enemy.

5 Steps for Creating a Performance Routine

  • Recording performance: Determine current routine, record on video or take notes.

  • Clarify behavior meaning: Performer watches recording of performance and routine and develops an awareness of their actions and routines

  • Develop focus and function: Player executes existing pre-performance routine and discusses with a consultant the function behind each action performed.

  • Routine construction: Discussion with consultant around what the athlete is seeking to achieve prior to competition (ie. relaxation, focus, imagery, confidence).

  • Practice: After developing behavioral and mental routines, they are integrated into practice.

Routines & Performance Readiness Worksheet

Routines and readiness consists of four main areas:

  • Preparation: This is technical skill, tactical strategies, physical readiness and psychological readiness.

  • Resilience in handling setbacks and performance errors: Positive adaptation to adversity, setbacks and performance errors.

  • Intensity, energy and drive: The level of physical activation needed at the start of a competition.

  • Focus and concentration: The width and direction of one’s mental focus; mindfulness.

Intensity and focus are linked and interact with each other. A certain level of activation and intensity is required for attention and focus, and every sport and every athlete is different. This all starts with setting specific goals for each area, identifying internal obstacles, and behaviors to overcome these obstacles. Click here to fill out your own performance readiness worksheet!

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