What is stress?
It is the body’s response to a threat or demand that can be both physical and mental. It arises as a combination of natural instinct, previous experience and our external environment, which can threaten our sense of well-being.
When feeling emotional, it engages both our skeletal muscles and mental faculties. These will be taxing on our bodies, especially if they occur repeatedly over prolonged periods.
It is Important for coaches and athletes to identify exactly what kinds of stress emotions athletes experience during competition.
- Anger can be elicited when goals are obstructed.
- Sadness is seen to occur in the presence of perceived failure.
- Fear arises with the feeling of an imminent threat to one’s safety or well-being
- Disgust manifests when an individual comes into contact with something repulsive.
Each of these different emotional reactions are examples of a specific way in which athlete’s responds to a given situation. These emotional responses can lead to stress and negative side effects, hence when dealing with stress it becomes important to identify the specific emotional trigger that serves as the root cause and devise how to best remedy this.
In the case of combat sports, it is likely that these emotions are occurring repeatedly and intensely, often blending with each other.
The Calm before a storm
Here are a few things I do before my fighter steps into the ring.
In a quiet environment, I ensure my fighter dig deep into his/her soul to find strength from within, stand firm and remain unshakable. Nothing else matters when it comes to this point. Walk in faith and not wander.
At this point, most of them have butterflies in their stomach. I encourage them to recognize fear but not succumb to it, recognize it but never allow it to beat you. In a fight, physically, the point is to win, to beat the opponent but I always teach them to be 1 step ahead, beat themselves. They always say ‘the number 1 enemy is from within’. In fact, in a fight, it shows a reflection of them in their opponent. Every move and every second that passes is critical, at any point of time if they choose to stop working, the fight is over.
I’ll walk through the fight plan with them and always encouraging them to hit first. It’s always better to give than to receive. Inform them that they will get hit because they are human and nobody is untouchable however they will have to hit back harder as well as be smarter about their movement.
As their bout draws nearer, seconds after seconds. I’ll remind them to push all the other unnecessary ‘noises’ that is playing in their head and to keep faith in their own ability. 90% of the work is done in the gym with an awesome team. The last 10% is psychological.
They will be given a massage to loosen them up followed by shadow boxing for a simple warm-up. Now its time to work physically, it’s showtime!
Stay positive! – Kelvin