A little while ago we walked a young talented rider to the start line of a big event and this particular athlete (exceptional and by far the quickest and most tactful rider to contest the event) was in the best form of his life.
Quite young and new to the sport, the rider hadn’t yet experienced what it was like to be ‘challenged’ off the track in the warm-up area by other riders.
Whilst warming up, ‘exceptional-talent’, (let’s call him Jim) was approached by his competitor who mumbled a few words in his ear and tried to strike up a conversation.
Jim’s competitor then proceeded to remain in the warm up area, and encroach upon Jim’s space in the lead up to his event before he was due to race this rider…
Little did Jim know, the tactics of the impending match-sprint had already started, and when it came time to line up for the actual event, the race didn’t start on even terms...
Jim’s opponent had the upper hand, Jim wasn’t mentally prepared, his legs felt ‘dead’ and his best race performance wasn’t achieved...
So what happened?
Jim’s opponent manipulated the warm up environment to play Into his own best interests, and without even realising it, Jim allowed this opponent to distract him by enabling him to get into his head in advance of the race. He shut down his required mental momentum to enable him to best prepare, and the result meant that Jim was underprepared which cost him dearly..
Does this story have a familiar ring in your own race environment?
Off Track Environmental Manipulation, let’s call it OTEM is a dangerous dangerous thing…
...we see it all the time, and particularly in Junior or Novice categories where riders are less experienced and prepared to contest their events. In saying that, we’ve seen it happen to even the most experience riders at the highest of levels.
What’s more troubling is that riders don’t see it coming, it’s like a dark knight that flies in and strips you of your confidence cloak leaving you and your 12 months of training preparation cold and frightened in the dark.
The good news is that you can avoid this situation and ensure you’re ready to perform at your best!
Being aware that this may be happening to you is the first and most important step! If you find your opponent being overly chatty before your race, or encroaching on your space and neither of these two strategies work in your favour - acknowledge (in your own mind) that this is a dirty tactic and comes under the OTEM banner.
The next step we like to call ‘agility’… it’s where you’ve acknowledged that an opponent is trying an OTEM tactic on you, and you use your own agility (fast thinking and action) to get yourself out of the negative-situation and back into the environment that works for you. This can simply be achieved by picking up your stuff and moving to another space, or if it’s happening whilst you line up in the ‘heat box’, you move a few seats away, or simply block out his/her voice and practice your own self talk.
Step 3 we call internalisation - this is where you fire up and continue with your own race preparation strategies.
Internalisation can be strategies that help you prepare such as playing a few songs that you like that help you reach your optimal race-arousal level, or moving to a quiet space to recite your ‘pre-race mantra’… you know what works for you (it has more than likely worked well in a training environment or race situation beforehand and is usually personal to you…).
Learning how to be in control of the environment that works for you is essential to producing your best performances. Generally we find that riders who insight these types of pre-race tactics are only doing so to overcome their own nerves and lack of confidence.
It’s key that you don’t let others (or become one of those others) that play-in to ‘dirty pre-race off track tactics’ that detract from your ability to perform.
Feel free to leave us a few comments in the box below, we’d love to hear from you!