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The hardest part of a competition (for me at least) is not even surfing it’s sitting in the eddy waiting to compete. So many thoughts go through your head in that short period of time. Will I make all my tricks? What if I flush? Will I even make the wave at all? All of these thoughts rushed through my head when I competed in Freestyle Nationals last weekend at Columbus, Georgia. These thoughts rushed through my head because I felt a form of pressure. At least a thousand people were watching me at the event and over six thousand online.  Unfortunately, all pressure does decline your performance.

Competition is a mental game. If you let negative thoughts control your mind, you will get stuck in a pit that you can’t get out of. You have to stop yourself and change your mindset. I replace these negative questions with positive statements such as, ‘I can do my tricks’, ‘I will catch the wave’, and ‘I am and will do my best’.  Another strategy to use is ‘a growth mindset’. I was taught this in school. It helps me to change my thinking and gives me more positive and confident thoughts about my performance as an athlete. Here are some examples below:

I can’t do this….. This might take some time and effort.

I made a mistake…… Mistakes help me learn.

The point of this mindset is to help you grow and improve by removing self doubt.  EJ taught a form of this to my mom to use when she is scared about running something.  You don’t just focus on the one specific feature and your performance, you focus on the surroundings, which helps to remove your focus on the one specific thing. When your focus becomes to small that’s when you begin to be worried. Having a broader focus removes the worry. The way to practice this is to focus on a tree or a bird or something in sight.

It also helps right before you go to give a fist pump in the air, blow a kiss to your mom (cause our moms rock), or splash water on your face to help you relax. It removes the serious part of the competition.

The crowd scares me because I don’t want to let them down. Removing the crowd and just picturing myself alone with the feature also helps remove the stress.

I hope these strategies help you for the next time you compete. But I have one last price of advice, don’t let the competition get in your head or it doesn’t become fun. Kayaking is fun. If it isn’t fun there is no point in even doing it. Make the competition fun, rodeos are supposed to be fun! Because kayaking is the most fun thing on this planet!! And “Don’t let the fear of what could happen make nothing happen,” Anonymous


Maddie Kimmel