Anyone who has ever competed in snowboarding knows that it is a lot different than gymnastics. Gymnastics has hours of dedicated training time on equipment that is basically exactly the same all the time. Yes, different high bars have different chalk layering and trampoline beds each have a different feel, but in general these differences are negligible compared to the constantly changing natural conditions that snowboarders face all the time. As any outdoor sports athlete will attest, environment is unpredictable, therefore your sport is, or can be, just an unpredictable.
Having worked with Snowboard Germany for the past two years, Greg Roe has seen how drastic their competition conditions can become. The competition goes on virtually no matter what the conditions are. If visibility is low because a snowstorm just came in you still have to compete. A gymnast never has extreme conditions like that to deal with. This makes snowboarders in general very good at their mental game when it comes to competing. What is Andre's trick to competing in any weather?
FOCUS ON ONE THING!
After talking with Andre and other snowboard athletes, the common thing they tend to do is only focus on one aspect of the skill at a time. The skill should be locked into the brain from hours of training and the only thing to do at competition is to pick that one aspect of the skill that is most important for you and think about nothing else.
A typical halfpipe routine will have 6 to 8 skills in it before they reach the end and there is about 2 seconds from the point they land on side of the pipe and ride to the other for the next skill. This allows snowboarders to switch from one focal point to another. When you add in the time dilation that happens in the brain, making everything slooooowwwwww dowwwwwn, you can easily see how they can switch back and forth thinking about one aspect of the skill.
What about in trampoline? The time in the bed is only about 0.3 seconds so can this strategy work for trampoline athletes? From my perspective the answer is both YES and NO. The time that an athlete kicks out of a skill at 12 o’clock and then falls, lands in the bed and waits for the next skill is only about 0.7 seconds which really is enough to switch from one focus to another assuming your brain speed is up to par naturally of course. If you have early kick outs then you naturally have more time to prep for the next skill focusing on one aspect, whether it is a great kick out or focusing on a late twist.
When competing you can use this strategy and it is one that I use when I compete. But, what if your brain speed is naturally slower? Super fast neutrons are not always great because they can make connections that are not practical as the signals wiz around at lightening speed. In that case I notice that most athletes have common issues with all of their skills. Some athletes have great kick outs but struggle to stay in the middle. Others can stay in the middle but have terrible kick outs. From my years of coaching and training I have noticed that athletes tend to gravitate towards one mistake on all of their skills. Call it a natural bias.
If we utilize the big mental trick that snowboarders use to help be prepared for any competition environment and apply it to trampoline competitions you can simply pick one bias that you have on all of your skills and stick to that in your mind. Repeat it in your head as you do the routine but do not try to change your focus on each skill like a snowboarder may be able to. Think about that one problem you always have and make your competition routine focused around that one issue. Do not try to think of 10 different things to fix, just focus on one thing per competition and over the years you will be more stable at competitions.
Just like I say during training; athletes should focus on one thing per turn and not over think it. You can always repeat the skill in sets of reps focusing on the many different aspects to improve on, but in that moment, only pick one. Compete the same way!