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How to Develop a Pre-Performance routine

Pre-Performance Routines

A pre-performance routine is defined as a sequence of task relevant thoughts and actions which an athlete engages in systematically prior to his or her performance of a specific sports skill (Moran, 1996). A pre-performance routine is used prior to a skill, most often a closed self-paced skill such as a golf putt or a tennis serve (Singer, 2000; Cotterill, 2010). However, they can also be used in more open skills such as goal kicking in rugby union (Jackson & Baker, 2001). They have been found to reduce anxiety and the chance of an athlete choking (Mesagno & Mullane-Grant, 2010).

How to develop an effective pre-performance routine

There are two main sections to developing a pre-performance routine: thoughts and actions.


Actions and behaviours need to be specific to your task. This could mean including practice swings in golf prior to driving the ball (Crews & Boutcher, 1986) There is no point putting in a behaviour that is irrelevant to your sport!

Your pre-performance routine also needs to be consistent. There is a large body of research that has found consistency to be key when executing a pre-performance routine (Lonsdale & Tam, 2008; Jackson & Baker, 2011). This means keeping the number of actions or behaviours the same each time you go to complete the skill (Cohn, 1990).


There are many different mental skills and techniques that can build effective mental control within a pre-performance routine.

Self-talk is a skill used by elite athletes to tell themselves what they are about to do or feel e.g. telling yourself to relax as you breath out. Make sure the things you are telling yourself are positive, relevant and just a few words or phrases.

Imagery is also a common technique used within pre-performance routines. To use imagery effectively, you need to imagine the skill you are about to perform successfully and from your own eye. An example of this is imagining the line the ball will take when you kick it.

There are also a number of breathing techniques that you can integrate into your pre-performance routine to help you to relax. Simply, breathing should be slow and rhythmical. There are more specific breathing techniques that can be useful, for more information on these please contact me.

It can also be helpful to ‘feel’ the skill to ensure you are not over thinking the movements you are about the perform.

Final Tips

The routine needs to be what works for you! (Cotterill, 2010).

It doesn’t matter on the length of the routine as long as it is consistently the same length every time you execute it (Mack, 2001)

Be flexible with your routine over time, as your skill develops and improved you will need to adapt it slightly to fit to your new mastery of the skill (Fitts & Posner, 1967).

Don’t rush developing your routine! It will take time to establish!

If you get distracted during your routine, re-start it if you can! Also, don’t skip or add bits to the routine as this will decrease your performance.


Woking, Surrey

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