Winning a tournament is an awesome feeling. Losing can feel like you’re getting your heart broken. Before you start playing in a tournament setting, you need to mentally prepare yourself for both possibilities. Of course, the way that you prepare should bring that win closer within your reach. Here are some tips on the best way to get your head in the game and mentally prepare yourself before your next tournament.

Focus On What You Need to and Think Neutrally

Trevor Moawad is a mental conditioning coach who has worked with a lot of top athletes in many different sports. His most important edict to the players who he coaches is that they need to think neutrally about approaching competition in high-stakes games. The best course of action is to think about things neutrally rather than fearfully. His principal ideology is seemingly simple, but it’s succinct targeting rings true in every arena. He advises that the key is to think about what it’s going to take to win and then do what it takes.

Envision Your Win

A lot of players put serious stock into the importance of visualizing victory. They think about how they want things to go, and some even go so far as to play out an entire game in their head with a grand and victorious conclusion. The exercise isn’t like a prayer or making a wish. Instead, it’s an expression of intentionality.

When people picture themselves doing something, they’re better able to believe that they can do it. That confidence translates onto the playing field. Players can just react automatically rather than going through a complex or worried thought process because they have programmed the right course of action into their thoughts.

Let Go Of Fear

Much like positive visualization can foster success, fearsome worries about mistakes can give rise to terrible blunders. If you spend too much time stressing about the ways that you could mess up, it’s more likely that you will. It’s not a question of irony or bad luck when something happens that exactly matches what you were worrying would happen. Believe it or not, worrying about it may have made it happen.

Trevor Moawad often recounts the infamous tale of Bill Buckner. In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, a ground ball went through Buckner’s legs. This disastrous error cost the Red Sox the game and the series. It is one of the most painful to watch errors in the history of Major League Baseball. Unsurprisingly, Buckner had described his fear about that type of error happening well in advance of the game.

Get Comfortable

An important element of mental preparation is acclimating yourself to your physical surroundings. The first time that you see a playing field shouldn’t be within an hour of having to win on it. Once you’ve been somewhere, you’ll feel more comfortable there and won’t feel out of place. In fact, going out onto the field is an optimal place to do some of your visualization exercises.

In addition to your surroundings, it’s important to be comfortable with the equipment that you’ll be wearing or using. A tournament may not be the best time for players to try out a new pair of shoes or new softball gloves. Ideally, their equipment should be items that they already feel totally comfortable with.

Be Ready to Have Fun

Part of the secret to winning in a tournament is to let yourself enjoy what you’re doing. The stakes are serious, but you’re still playing the sport that you love. You need to be having as much fun as you usually do in order to play your best.


Your mental preparation is arguably just as important as your physical preparation for a tournament. Even if you go onto the playing field with all of the physical skill an athlete could possibly need, you’ll still need a winning mindset to make it happen.