Consistency – The Hallmark of Excellence


One of the biggest struggles athletes have is with their consistency. Being able to reproduce high quality performances is elusive for most and it really separates top-notch competitors from the rest of the field. When I’m working with athletes who feel that they can perform at a higher level than they are currently, I want to know why they have that belief. Invariably, they say in one fashion or another “Because I’ve done it before”.

If we imagine the high level performance as a destination, I want to know what road the athlete traveled to get there. Unfortunately, many competitors weren’t paying attention on their trip and don’t know the directions back. They definitely enjoyed spending time at the destination but once they left, they had no recollection of what steps they took to get there in the first place. And this is where a pre-event (pre-game) routine is invaluable.

My working definition of a pre-event routine is a series of tasks or steps that the athlete completes immediately before a performance in order to prepare their mind and body for success. There are three qualities that I look for in a pre-event routine: 1) it needs to be explicit; 2) it’s comfortable for the athlete to perform; and 3) it’s systematic.

When asked if they have a pre-event routine, nearly every athlete will say they do. When asked to detail their routine, very few athletes are able to give a clear answer. Write out your routine and follow it like an airplane pilot follows a pre-flight checklist. Without knowing exactly what you’re doing, you won’t be able to determine what works and what doesn’t.

The purpose of the pre-event routine is to get the athlete in their ideal performance state, physically and mentally. Having over elaborate routines or trying to do things that don’t feel “right” defeat the purpose.

Developing a pre-event routine takes some time to find the right mix of steps to get you to where you want to be. The routine should be evaluated regularly and tweaked to get the best results. Make small changes and evaluate. If you make too many changes all at once you won’t know what steps make the difference.

You can now use your explicit, comfortable, and systematic routine that you’ve developed as a map to your high level performance destination. It will also help in identifying where you made a wrong turn in your preparation. By following the directions laid out in your routine you will become more consistent in achieving high level performances. You will know how to get there. Remember to keep evaluating as your routine will need to adapt as you gain experience.

What are some of your pre-event routines? Leave them in the comments, if you’re so inclined.

I’ll leave you with this quote which I believe epitomizes how some athletes use pre-event routines:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
– Albert Einstein

Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

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  1. Cassie
    8 years ago

    This is a very important reminder. Often when I fail to do this (especially with my male dog who is also dependant on it in order to de-stress and acclimatize) I am reminded of it’s value by a less than ideal performance. I think that being said, it also becomes a comfortable cue for our partners in agility, my dogs also really “get in the zone” when they see their agility leash come out and I start asking them to do their stretches and warm ups. Each dog reacts differently to it also and I have a slightly different pre-event routine for each dog although each routine seems to have the same effect on me.

    Thanks for the reminder and I love the blog!

    • John Cullen
      8 years ago

      You make a very good point about adapting your routine for your dog. One thing that I find interesting to watch is what people do with their pre-run routines when they start working with a new partner. There’s always that play from run to run where they’re trying to figure out what works for the dog and still gets them ready.

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