If the athlete is going to participate in a fast sporting skill, such as football, it involves speed, thus the need for a proper warm-up is critical. The warm-up is the preparatory exercise to enhance the athlete for the competition or training to follow. The model of a traditional warm-up includes a low-intensity aerobic exercise followed by stretching and exercises related to the sport the athlete is engaged into. The purpose of a proper warm-up is to prepare the body for the exercise to follow, increase tendon and muscle flexibility, increase blow flow to the periphery, increasing muscle temperature, and enhance free, coordinated movement. Thus, a proper warm-up should be encouraged from a young age, for beginners to elite players. Professional athletes put so much importance to conduct a proper warm-up before participation.
Research on the ”Effects of Warming-up on Physical Performance: A systematic review with meta-analysis” was conducted to show the relationship of whether a warm-up would improve performance for the physical activity to follow. The majority of these studies showed that performance had increased after a warm-up (79%), 3% showed no change in their performance, while 17% had a negative impact on their performance. Thus, this showed that carrying out a warm-up before the competition can ensure that the athlete has the best performance during the competition.
There are instances where sporting events are carried out in unfavorable environmental conditions such as extremes heat and cold. As a result, this will put more challenges to the athlete and puts threat on health. Environmental conditions will affect all the players playing. However, players who regularly train and play in moderate temperature conditions will be at a disadvantage when they play in hot humid regions, to a team that is familiar with these conditions. Thus to ensure that the athlete is well prepared and has the best performance, strategies of interventions to the players must be implemented to minimize this disadvantage. (Rj Maughan, Sm Shirreffs & , 2010)
Such interventions include active cooling strategies that can help to reduce body temperature with the potential outcome to improve endurance capacity. Exposed to hot temperatures, sweat losses will be higher, even without exercise thus the need for an increase fluid intake is essential. (Rj Maughan, Sm Shirreffs & , 2010) Thus, having the player aware and experience similar playing conditions prior event will put him/her more in the picture for the day of competition.
Maintaining fluid intake, prevent risks of dehydration and hyperthermia during the competition, because if severe it will impact the athlete. A performer being dehydrated by at least 2% of body weight will impact the exercise performance. While a loss of more than 5% of body weight could result in decreasing the capability of work by about 30%. (Armstrong et al. 1985, Craig and Cummings 1966, Maughan 1991, Sawka and Pandolf 1990).Performance could be affected by, a decrease in stamina it could affect an athlete’s capacity judgment and a reduction in performance technical skills and cognition. Experiencing fatigue towards the end of competition could be as well due to dehydration due to fuel substrate reduction. In addition, with a loss of body water, the chances of heat illness, increases, and large sodium losses might lead to muscle cramps. Thus, it is essential that the athlete keeps hydrated by drinking regularly, before, during and after the competition. (Humankineticscom, 2018)Nutrition and Sports Performance Traditional research, in line with the Olympic motto, ”Citius, Altius, Fortius” had as well taken into consideration sports nutrition, as it contributes to the performance on the competition day. The importance of nutrition in the field of Sports is still evolving at a rapid rate. (Glclose et al, 2016). Nowadays, research is as well investigating strategies on what could prepare the athlete for competition, such as ‘pre-exercise fuelling’, during the performance, such as fluid intake and the intake to recover from competition, for muscle recovery. Thus, for the athlete it is essential, to know the purpose of the exercise session, and the days prior game to maximise performance or modification in terms of nutrition. The athlete’s awareness on nutrition plays an important role in sports performance. However, nutrition is one of the common problems, as they fail to consume sufficient food energy. These include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and water, which all have a specific function for the nourishment of the body. In relation to nutrition, one should also shift focus to the intensity and duration of exercise to best prepare for the competition, as the nutrition and body composition varies for different sports events. (Manikandan & Selvam, d, 2010)The foundation for an optimal training and performance could be developed through a well-designed diet to consume the right amount of calorie and nutrient intake. The food pyramid could serve as a guide for athletes to follow a balanced diet. Maintaining a good body composition is also essential for players to be in good form prior participation and to enhance their performance. If the athlete is tired and feels worn out, it will prevent the athlete to concentrate on their form, which could increase the chances of an injury. Thus, by eating a balanced diet, the body gets the nutrition needed to help prevent injuries, fight illness, not feeling fatigued and increase sports performance. (Docheff, Dennis & Mandali, 2005)Motivation and Psychological Preparation Looking back in the early 1950s, breaking the 4-minute mile run was impossible, not just dangerous. It was in 1954, that Roger Bannister had managed to break this barrier. Part of his training involved visualizing this achievement and provoking a feeling of certainty in his mind. This is a classic example that shows how progress could be a psychological one, which is individualized to the player’s expectations of what he/she able to reach. Psychological preparation is a lengthy process and this helps the performer to be the best of her/his ability on the day. (Impossiblehqcom, 2014)Motivation is an important factor in sports. It is the need that drives the athlete to perform actions in order to accomplish the goals set, such as performing to their best ability during competition. The coach could be one of the powerful influences that could motivate the athlete to continue practice to reach his/her goal. Research from the education field, reveals that along with the coach, other significant people of the athlete, are very influential on performance. As the athlete tends to perform well if expectations are high and confident, and performing badly if expectations are low and negative. (Don Davies & Malcolm Armstrong, 1989)If used wisely, a competition can be a good source of motivational technique. Knapp (1964), argues that competition, if not handled correctly, could impede the progress of the athlete. This is mostly seen in competitions which generate feelings of anxiety for the athlete, and levels of stress when so much importance is given to win and on the end result. Thus, as a motivational strategy, competing against oneself, is the best way to avoiding tensions that occur when competing against others. The athlete’s drive in intra-competitions is to improve from the previous score or maintain a better performance level. Attention should be given to athletes not to become over-aroused, over-excited and nervous, which will lead to a deterioration in performance during a competitive match. The level of motivation in performance is determinately depending on the arousal levels, this is the activation of the nervous system. According to Duffy and Stennett, 1957, they found out that performance is improved up to the optimum level for maximum performance, as arousal rises. The coach should play an important role in knowing how his/her athlete’s ability, temperament and how they could be helped to be at their best emotionally and mentally during competition. (Don Davies & Malcolm Armstrong, 1989)Anxiety, Stress, and Performance Mild stress could be helpful for an improved performance, as the individual will be more on the alert, and thus respond quicker to a situation and more precisely. On the contrary, it can as well be harmful, if the athlete experiences severe stress frequently, and this tends to deteriorate his performance as he/she is over enthusiastic, and disconcerting. This results in the athlete becoming self-preoccupied, not focusing on his performance and not thinking on his input in winning the game. (Don Davies & Malcolm Armstrong, 1989)There are methods that could help the athlete cope with stress which will benefit and prepare him to excel in his performance by controlling arousal levels. This leads the performer to remain calm, the being in control of the situations and in making correct judgments. Competing with opponents appropriate to a player’s ability, will not make the latter feel more anxious. This is the role of the coach or person in charge of the competitive match, not to put the child in such situation as this could increase in stress tolerance. Athletes being knowledgeable on the causes of tension that leads to stress is essential and to find remedies exercises to reduce tension prior competition. (Don Davies & Malcolm Armstrong, 1989)The Sport Psychologist The role of sports psychologists is nowadays increasing in demand. The role of Sports psychologists is to work with sports participants, involved in team or individual sports competitions from amateur to elite levels of competition. Their aim is to help athletes psychologically for competition and to deal with psychological demands of both competition and training. Unlike the coach, who is more specialized on the physical part of the sport. The role of sports psychologists could vary. They might deal with athletes who are facing difficulties such as losing focus during the competition, or experiencing troubles with teammates. But, they can also be sought to enhance performance, through mental strategies. This could include visualization of the competition, relaxation techniques, and self-talk to help the athlete to achieve his full potential. In addition, they could be a good source of motivation and to help the performer to deal with the pressure that competition evokes. Therefore, these could help to an improved performance for the athlete during the completion. (Apaorg, 2018)Practice and Teaching Sport Skills ‘Practice makes permanent’ – in other words, if the athlete is practicing in the right kind, leads to a higher level of performance or near, while if during practice, the athlete is doing the wrong techniques, and strategies it will be harmful to develop. For an effective practice, training should be relevant and similar to the game as much as possible, for the athlete to develop the level of skill and to be best prepared in competition. (Don Davies & Malcolm Armstrong, 1989)In addition, importance should as well be focused on the quality of training carried out, and with whom the practice is held, which must be with comparable or superior standard to one’s own to increase performance. (Don Davies & Malcolm Armstrong, 1989)Training and match demands, however, could vary, as one should take into account the number of days between competition and the quality of the opposing team. Periodization is a framework the coach should include in his training sessions. The idea of periodization is to optimize training to a specific sport, which including phases of general preparation, specific preparation, pre-competition, and competition, that could help the athlete to be at his form. Sleep and Recovery Alongside with physical conditioning, getting enough sleep and recovery is important for the athletic performance. Getting enough sleep especially on the days leading to the competition is crucial, as it helps recover the body and provides a source of energy to the body and brain. If not enough sleep, it could lead to an increased level of the stress hormone, cortisol, an increased possibility of fatigue and poor focus during game performance. Thus, enough sleep helps him/her to compete at the best level. (Sleepfoundationorg, 2018)Conclusion As we had seen, preparation for competition should not solely be on the physical aspect, but mental preparation, eating good nutrition, conducting a proper warm-up prior the event, managing stress and visualizing are also strategies that also helps to enhance performance during competition. This all goes down on the athlete, and how determined he is to improve and give his best version of himself during competition.