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Pre-Performance Planning

Pre-Performance Planning in Strength & Conditioning

There are two key components to planning that are overlooked, but integral to performance. Both of the key types of plans will help the athlete or performer to control their controllables when faced with adversity. Athletes and coaches work hard to plan the perfect travel itinerary or game day scenario. When everything goes as planned, things generally work out in the planner’s favor. Developing, understanding, and enhancing the preparation for performance has been seen as a very real way of ultimately enhancing performance level and consistency [1: 2: 3]. However, when things do not go as planned it can be a cause of stress, anxiety, and poor harmonization between athletes [4]. It is in this situation that a contingency plan would assist in overcoming adversity. Think of a contingency plan as a back-up plan for when things don't go as expected.


As a strength and conditioning coach we play an important role in teaching athletes about how routines can aid in performance. We provide structured situations that almost always follow a familiar format. This continuity helps athletes to warm-up successfully and follow through the program without pain or injury. As we talk about pre-performance routines in this setting, it is easy to compare sport specific tasks, with weight room tasks. These comparisons are easily understood by athletes and assists with their implementation of pre-performance routines in and out of the weight room.

Click below for a printable pamphlet!

Pre-Performance Routines

When a basketball player goes to the free-throw line, when a tennis player initiates a serve, or when a golfer sets up for a shot, each athlete has a routine that they do [6: 7: 1]. This routine helps them to focus on the goal of that very moment and helps them to prepare physically and mentally to have a successful performance [5]. When preparing physically, the goal is to reduce the heart rate and breathing rate to minimize unwanted anxiety [8]. Mental preparation refers to reducing distractions and focusing only on task relevant cues [8]. Pre-performance routines are used during self-paced events in which the athlete sets themselves up and completes the task on their own time, within the limits of the game [9]. Using this type of plan helps for an athlete to momentarily block out nerves, observers, coaches, and opponents in attempt to successfully execute the task at hand.

For a worksheet that will help create routines, click below!

Contingency Plans

Most research has been conducted in the corporate world [10: 11: 12], but the same ideology can be applied to sport. A contingency plan specifies, in advance, a backup plan that the team will follow if needed [4: 10], and enacted during situations when athletes or teams are faced with adversity. Adversity can come in many forms such as inclement weather, performance slumps, conflicts, and injuries [13]. Implementing a contingency plan can aid an athlete by helping them see that the inconvenience is not happening to them, it is happening with them. The term 'happening with them' is one a coach can use to show that the adversity is not happening because they deserve it or for any other reason other than it just happened. Showing athletes that everyone is faced with adversity and how to successfully view it and work with it, is something that will help athletes out-perform those who think the adversity is happening to them.

To work on contingency/back-up plans, click below!

The Skills
The Skills_Goal Setting

Goal Setting

Pre-Performance Planning: Resources

[1] Cohn, P. J., Rotella, R. J., & Lloyd, J. W. (1990). Effects of a cognitive-behavioral intervention on the preshot routine and performance in golf. The Sport Psychologist, 4(1), 33–47. 
[2] Wrisberg, C. A., & Anshel, M. H. (1989). The effect of cognitive strategies on the free throw shooting performance of young athletes. The Sport Psychologist, 3(2), 95–104. 
[3] Cotterill, S. T. (2011). Experiences of developing pre-performance routines with elite cricket players. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 2(2), 81–91. 
[4] DeChurch, L. A., & Haas, C. D. (2008). Examining team planning through an episodic lens: effects of deliberate, contingency, and reactive planning on team effectiveness. Small Group Research, 39(5), 542–568. 
[5] Perry, I. S., & Katz, Y. J. (2015). Pre-performance routines, accuracy in athletic performance and self-control. Athens Journal of Sports, 2(3), 137–151.
[6] Czech, D. R., Ploszay, A. J., & Burke, K. L. (2004). An examination of the maintenance of preshot routines 
[7] Morais, C., & Gomes, A. R. (2019). Pre-service routines, mental toughness and performance enhancement of young tennis athletes. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 50(2), 176–192. 
[8] Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2014). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (6th ed.). Human Kinetics Publishers. 
[9] Lidor, R. (2013). Pre-performance routines. In S. J. Hanrahan & M. B. Andersen (Eds.), Routledge handbook of applied sport psychology: a comprehensive guide for students and practitioners (pp. 537–546). Routledge. 
[10] Bloom, M. J., & Menefee, M. K. (1994). Scenario planning and contingency planning. Public Productivity & Management Review, 17(3), 223. 
[11] Smith, D. (1990). Beyond contingency planning: towards a model of crisis management. Industrial Crisis Quarterly, 4(4), 263–275. 
[12] Rodrigues, A. (2021). From contingency planning in times of change and uncertainty to risk control. International Journal of Advanced Engineering Research and Science, 8(1), 056–058. 
[13] Tamminen, K. A., Holt, N. L., & Neely, K. C. (2013). Exploring adversity and the potential for growth among elite female athletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14(1), 28–36.

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