Be your own coach...

In my earlier years of training, I struggled really hard in identifying my weaknesses but I found it was even more difficult to fix them by myself. Also, for that matter, I had no idea what my strengths were or how to effectively build from them. I relied heavily on my instructors and coaches for direction and assistance. In tournaments, I completely relied on my coaches for support and encouragement. I felt secure having a coach present even if I couldn't always hear what they were telling me to do in the middle of a match.

Of course, I still rely on my coaches today for encouragement and support. I am so very grateful to my coaches for all that they have invested in my growth and development. I may not be as blind as I once was, but still struggle to see exactly what I need to work on and to find ways that will effectively fix them. Thankfully I got a few coaches that will do what it takes and even go above and beyond to help improve my game. I can only assume that as I progress it will be easier for me to identify my areas of weaknesses with more clarity and thanks to my instructors, I'll have more tools to fix them. I am learning how to be patient. I know it's a long road ahead of me.

Over the years I've competed several times in tournaments without a coach but I've always had at least one person there to cheer me on. At my very first tournament my boyfriend at the time was the only one there to support and cheer me on. No matter how many tournaments I've done, I still find a lot of comfort in having an entourage of coaches, family, friends and teammates present when I compete. I also find that it makes me push harder knowing that I have people wanting me to succeed.

This past year at the Pan American Championships was my first time competing in a large scale tournament without an actively participating coach there to support me. Thankfully I had my friends, teammates and family. I learned a lot from this experience about stepping up to bat and being my own coach, being direct and asking for help, and preparing mentally and physically.

When competing, I think it's good to be direct and ask for what you need. Thankfully I don't have a problem asking for help or directing others, especially when it comes to something I want done. I find that it helps to have at least one person available to help with the little things like getting water, massaging out my arms between matches and reminding me to breathe.

I've learned over the years to "relax" when I am taken over by waves of nervousness or anxiety. I've learned to use breathing and stretching exercises to relax my body and brain. The best distraction tool for me is music. I like to relax by listening to my MP3 player but that can have a downside too, like I sometimes don't hear my name called! Which is not good! Worst of all, I maybe because of the stress, I get extremely scatter brained and tend to leave things all over the place. For instance, last year I almost forgot my Pan American metal on top of a trash can. Having extra eyes and ears looking out for me really helps me to relax, let go and prepare mentally for my match. Laughing and smiling are also good ways to ward off the nerves. Just being happy and excited about the match works too. It is incredibly important to me to be focused, calm and alert prior to my match.

It is equally important to be physically warmed up. Without a coach you can still warm up with a jump rope, jumping jacks, jump squats, push ups, sit ups, etc. Yes, it helps to have a coach to push you harder but you can do it on your own too. When you don't have anyone yelling advice or pointers at you during your match, then it is up to you to keep an eye on the time and score, to work through your sequences, take advantage of openings and completely pay attention to what is happening. You really have to focus on the match as a whole, not just what is immediately happening. I find that it requires a totally different type of level of alertness that keeps improving as time goes on.

But what do you do when you have no-one and no coach? I am about to find out. The only other person I know that will be in Rio competing is my teammate Ian. I am not entirely sure he will be able to make it to my match. I might be flying completely solo. I am going to pack a backpack with all my gear in it and carry it around with me the entire time. I am also going to turn down the volume on my MP3 player! I will have to be 100% self reliant which I know I can do. I'll come back to this topic after the Rio Open and share anything new that I may discover. Wish me luck!


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