Top 3 Mental Mistakes Sailors Make Before Important Regattas

Published on January 6th, 2014

By Dr. Rulo, Head coach, Laser Training Center
1. Placing strict expectations on your performance.
Despite what motivators and positive thinkers preach about the benefits of positive expectations, high and strict performance expectations can actually limit your success. Expectations set you up for failure before you even start racing. In most cases, your expectations mean pressure and pressure can turn into pre-race anxiety.

If you don’t achieve your expectations in the first races, you tend to doubt your ability during or a after racing. To avoid pre-race anxiety and self doubt, replace high expectations with small manageable objectives. Such as: hike with a straight back, or focus on being locked into the boat while sailing downwind.

2. Psyching yourself out before the regatta even starts.
Do you compare yourself to your competitors before a race? Some sailors I know place too much emphasis on their competitor’s strength, and feel they don’t deserve to win. Your confidence can quickly diminish after you make comparisons to other sailors who you think are better than you.

I remember in 2008 Olympics all sailors staying at the athletes village were talking about their weight during dinner. Sailors who felt that they were too light or too heavy felt bad and lost the race before even getting to their boat. To avoid this kind of pressure the British team did not stay at the village, and the sailors showed up only when it was time to race. It worked well in the Laser class with a Gold in the Men division.

3. Getting distracted by the atmosphere of a big event.

The hoopla or atmosphere of racing in a major regatta such as nationals, regionals or Olympics games distracts athletes and causes additional pressure to perform well and therefore more stress. To succeed in a big event, treat it as just another regatta, and focus on your normal routine and pre race preparation.

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