Many of us probably know the suffix “-logy” means “the study of.” For example, astrology is the study of stars, neurology is the study of the nervous system, and ideology is the study of ideas. So, what does this have to do with sports? I would like to introduce a new “-logy” into the world, one that sets the top players apart from the rest: Competeology, the study of competing. Understanding how to compete is the key to sustainable and long-term success in any sport.
So, why is “competeology” so important during competition? Think of it this way: We require a basic knowledge of all the sciences to understand the world we live in, therefore, wouldn’t it make sense that we require a basic understanding of how to compete, what it means to compete, and what are the key tenants to competing. This understanding will position a player to maximize their potential?
By successfully utilizing these six essential tenants of competing, you can earn your Ph.D in Competeology. More importantly, this applied degree will position you to unleash your potential.
1. Sportsmanship: A competitor respects themselves, their opponent and the game they play. Their focus is on ethically following the rules, while trying their best. A competitor plays with intense self-belief, but checks their ego at the door. This allows them to play free, adapt and adjust to situations, and opens the door to limitless performance. They do not hold onto the expectations of what others think, rather, they acknowledge their opponent for putting himself or herself on the line. This mindset allows them to focus on his or her own game and the best tactics to utilize within the contest. A true competitor understands that their opponent is not an enemy, but views them as a challenge, an opportunity, a partner that is necessary to take your game to the next level.
2. Focus on what you can control and let go of the rest: A competitor stays focused on what they can control, things such as effort, energy, time management, and bouncing back from adversity, just to name a few. They understand they cannot control how well their opponent plays, the on-court conditions, or winning and losing. When a competitor focuses on his or her game, utilizes their strategy and competes to the fullest, they always walk away knowing they did their best on that day.
3. Never, ever, ever give up: Competing means never giving up and managing all situations, no matter how dire they may seem. A true competitor understands that not every day is going to bring top-level performance. Such a player thrives under adversity, especially the adversity of having to figure out what to do when their game is not on. A true competitor doesn’t mind winning a tight or even ugly contest. They have perspective and prioritize building experience and learning from the outing over the result. Before winning the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, Rafael Nadal said, “I just try my best in every moment, every practice, every point.”
4. Adapt and adjust to situations: A competitor is constantly adjusting and adapting within a contest. This is what separates the great players from the good ones. Momentum shifts are a given in a contest. What’s most important is to be aware of what is happening and adjust and adapt. Too often in the heat of competition, athletes get caught up solely on the result, or what was. This singular focus takes them away from a key question: What do I need to do to play better now or get back in the match?
5. Get comfortable being uncomfortable: A competitor understands that during competition, they may have to take a calculated risk, try something new, or hit a shot not quite the way they would ideally like to. They understand that they may have to navigate through momentum shifts which are not always comfortable for them. However, they also understand that by embracing the idea of getting comfortable and being uncomfortable, their game will become more diverse and escalate to another level.
6. Be aware and make high percentage choices: A true competitor makes high percentage choices during all stages of their competition. For example, does a tennis player try to hit a screaming winner down the line that may appear on ESPN or counter with a defensive shot that will get them back to a neutral position? Or, does a player go for an outright winner, something they cannot control, or go for target zones? Sometimes, the best choice is to stay patient, stay in the point until an opportunity presents itself.
By following the above tenets of competeology, you will put yourself in the best position to achieve optimum results. These concepts are all within a player or teams control and will therefore increase your confidence in competition. They will help you to stay present instead of worrying about results, focusing on the past, or looking ahead to the future. Lastly, they will help you become increasingly aware of what is happening, which will allow you to relax and make better decisions. Ultimately, following the tenets of competeology will free your path to learn and grow every time you compete.
Rob Polishook, MA, CPC is the founder and director of Inside the Zone Sports Performance Group. As a mental training coach, his focus is on the athlete as a person first and recognizes the strength of being “More” than an Athlete. Through this lens, he is able to help athletes be their best version of themselves both on and off the field. His best selling book Tennis Inside the Zone- 32 mental training workouts for champions is sold nationally and internationally. He has spoken at USTA, USPTA, ITA conferences, and has conducted workshops India, Israel and the Omega Institute. His work has been highlighted in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, Sports Illustrated , NY Times and other media. Additionally Polishook is an adjunct Professor at Seton Hall University. He may be reached by phone at (973) 723-0314, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.insidethezone.com.