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Several indoor meets have offered the opportunity to post some scores during the winter. Valentine's Meet in Eloy and Paraclete XP Outdoor Championship in DeLand were the first outdoor meets this year. Local and regional meets will follow with spring arriving in the northern parts of the USA and in Europe.
Blue Skies Mag gave the NSL News the opportunity to think out loud about the mental part of competition in the latest edition. It's not about visualization or concentration skills and training - it's about the special feeling in the stomach that makes the difference between training and competition.
And all that seems to be nothing compared to real competition in sports. The difference—or better, the escalation of the same nervous feeling—comes probably from the knowledge that your opponents have nothing nice for you. The date is supposed to be fun, and the girl or boy will treat you nicely, most likely. The potential boss or employer will treat you well at the interview, as you will work for her or his company, and the doctor will try to be as easy on you as possible.
The opponents in sports competition have nothing nice for you. They want to beat you, and you know that. That's one of the reasons for increased nervous feelings when the competition is coming up. It's easy to fail under this pressure, which is identical with not performing up to your own speed and standards.
Top athletes are familiar with those circumstances and feelings, and they make all kind of efforts to befriend them. They know that they can perform better than in training, where they don't have any or as much pressure. How do they befriend those feelings and symptoms, which can make you feel so uncomfortable and nervous? There are mental trainings, relaxation exercises, and many other methods, and there are even sports psychologists who make their living teaching and coaching how to do it. However, most importantly, the top athletes in any sport compete on a regular basis to get used to a competitive environment.
Fast forward to skydiving competition where all the same experiences can be applied just as well. That counts not only for the traditional skydiving competition at the known meets, such as 4-way formation skydiving, which is obviously my own favorite. Very similar feelings and circumstances come up at record attempts and any other challenging skydives. There is pressure that needs to be handled.
It's the last minute in the plane when the stomach begins to act up and the ants begin to come alive—if it hasn't already happened. It is not unusual at all that teams and competitors begin to feel the pressure when they come to the drop zone the morning of a competition. Things that have been experienced many times in training all of a sudden feel a little bit different.
Usually it comes back in time if you have prepared yourself well enough. However, it was frightening and is still at least a distraction, while the funny feeling in your stomach is still there anyway.
Now imagine the surprise for a new competitor who has never felt anything like that. The impact is even stronger, and the results can be disappointing. You team mates depend on your performance, at least in any team event, like 4-way or 8-way (do I really lean a little bit...?) and the team doesn't function at all if one piece of the puzzle is missing. Life goes on after a bad round, and the next one is coming, but the disappointment is still tangible.
I still get this funny feeling in Round 1—after a very competitive soccer career, many track races, and 30 years of skydiving competition with hundreds of meets. I love it and embrace this special feeling, it makes me perform better and with more intensity and satisfaction, I never want to miss it. The best thing is that I know how it feels since I can go to a meet in the skydiving neighborhood at least once a month. And there I meet my pals who love the same feeling just as much. And by the way: Did you know that the winning teams at the championship events are the ones with the most competition experience...?