It has been a long and fun snowboard season. Whether its about competing or just gaining new skills, the snow, the weather, and the mountains in Summit County, Colorado have been on point this year. For some snowboarders, the season ends with USASA nationals at Copper Mountain April 1-8 2017. For other snowboarders the season never ends, they are always looking for ways to improve. How do these two mindsets come together when it comes to competing. How can the athletes have more fun at contests and be mentally prepared.
Snowboard Competition, like competing in many individual sports, is a tricky and delicate mental game. A lot of times it is counter intuitive to what many athletes may think. It is a gentleman’s game. The real competition is with the athlete themselves. The only thing that can be controlled is the athletes individual performance. The weather, the judging, the performance of the other athletes in the feild, and the course are all out of the athletes control. So what should a snowboard athlete, that loves competition and the sport, focus on.
The First thing is their goals. Goals can be broken up into 2 types of goals. The first one is outcome goals. Many outcome goals may be related to reaching the podium or placing top ten. We are not going to focus on those goals today (those goals are in the judges hands). Those goals are achieved through the other type of goal, which are called process goals. The true rider always has process goals on the agenda. Examples of process goals are things like, Back side 360 tail grabs, Front 7’s, clean up my heal edge carved turns, 1 ft. more amplitude on my strait airs in the pipe etc. They set these goals because they want them.
Process goals are things that can be set daily, weekly, monthly or season long. It is best to set long term process goals and then work backwards to come up with a training plan. With 3 weeks left until nationals the process goals should be geared towards the runs the athlete wants to showcase at Nationals. An example would be something like front 5, cab 5, Back 5 on the jumps. Once the long term goal is set, go back and determine if the goal is attainable and specific (add grabs to the tricks if you plan on grabbing. If you desire more amplitude in the pipe, say how much more amplitude you would like). Ounce attainability and specificity has been achieved (some would call the goals S.M.A.R.T) set weekly goals to get to the final goal, then set daily goals to meet the weekly goals. Write it all down so you can go back each week and adjust your final goals up or down. This is a process that the coaches at Team Summit Colorado work on with their snowboard athletes all the time (click the link we are awesome).
After the goals are written down, there are 2 other steps to practice to stay plugged in to your training plan. The 1st is developing a daily training routine. A routine will help the athletes plug their brain into the day. When the athlete is, “plugged in” their worries about homework, doctors appointments, significant others, etc. all go away and training is more productive. A routine will also help relieve competition anxiety. Here is the training routine that my pipe athletes at Team Summit focus on:
Lap 1-strait airs with style and control
Lap 2- strait airs with amplitude
Lap 3- front 3-cab 3 with style and control
Lap 4- front 3-cab3 with amplitude
Lap5-7 easy comp run
Lap 8,9 hard comp run
Lap 10,11,12 Learning new tricks and developing new skills
Lap 13+ Riders choice
The Second aspect of achieving goals is Positive talk. Positive talk relates to that little voice in an athletes head that sometimes verbalizes itself out loud. Positive talk is something that all riders should practice and develop. The idea is that thoughts lead to words, words lead to actions, and actions lead to habits. Athletes will face many obstacles throughout their lives and careers (especially when their goals are to achieve things no one else has done) so positive talk is an important skill to help push through the tough times. Positive talk will not ensure good performance, but negative talk will guaranty poor performance. Positive talk is something that can be learned. If it is a cloudy day understand that the weather can not be controlled and figure out what can be focused on and where gains can be made. If a rider falls on a trick several times in a row they may get frustrated. Frustration typically leads to more frustration. Instead of frustration they should rethink and visualize what needs to be done in each step of the approach, take off, trick, and landing. Not everyday will be a productive inspiring session, but if the athlete is still having fun then positive talk is still present. Positive talk will help the athlete stay engaged in the training process and on track to achieve their goals.
The art of mental prep may take years to learn. The ability to focus on the individual athletes plan will elevate their Snowboard game thus elevating their competitive game. A little trick that I do throughout the season is stand in front of the athlete during the run before they drop. This way I can talk to them about their run and get their brain plugged into the game plan. If the rider is watching the competitor before them they often get side tracked from their own performance (other riders do not matter. they may put down a great run, and that is intimidating, or they may fall, and that can create a sense of fear).
Focusing on a nationals game plan should start at the beginning of the season but it is not too late to start now. Even if nationals does not go as planned, there is always next year, this summer, or next week to go have fun on the snow.
Matt Voegtle is the author of this blog and the snowboard program director at Team Summit Colorado. Matt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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