This November, with my karate club’s National Titles coming up, I’ve decided to put together a four-part series on how to win at competitive sports. I’ll be covering the importance of knowing the rules, physical preparation, mental preparation, and tactics, in the bid to, hopefully, give you some helpful hints and tips to make winning that bit easier!
Welcome to part one of my ‘How to Win at Competitive Sports’ series! Our first point of focus is knowing the rules. This might seem like a simple and probably patronising point but, trust me, you probably don’t know the rules of your sport or the event that you’re attending as well as you think you do. Most athletes rely on their coach to tell them how the rules work and how they differ between particular events. However, if you find all this information out yourself, you will firstly feel a lot more confident on the day as you will be in a more knowledgeable position than your rivals, and secondly with me able to tailor your training to ensure you achieve the best results.
No matter what sport you do, the rules will be written down somewhere. Your coach or instructor may be able to give you a copy, and is likely to be impressed by your proactivity towards your training if you ask for one, but if they can’t, you will definitely find them online. All you need to do is Google the event, or association running the event, and search their website for a breakdown of the rules. This might have a webpage to itself, or may be a downloadable PDF. If this proves difficult, your next step is to email or call (you may want to ask your parents/guardians to do this) the association and ask them to send you a copy.
Now you’ve got your hands on a copy of the rules, it’s time to get to work. Grab yourself some highlighters and highlight rules that apply to different issues in different colours. For example, highlight scoring criteria in red, etiquette rules in blue, clothing and equipment rules in yellow, and registration rules in green. These categories may be different depending on what sport you’re doing, so if you’re unsure of how to split the rules up don’t hesitate to ask your coach or parents/guardian for help!
Once you’ve highlighted all the important bits, it’s time to get clever. The majority of the information you’ve highlighted you will need to learn. The real focus is on the scoring criteria, however. Once you know and understand how to score, you are in an ideal position to train in a way that will make your points undeniable. For example, in karate there are six criterion for coring a punch: good form, sporting attitude, awareness, vigorous application, good timing and correct distance. By knowing these six criterion, it becomes much easier to direct your training in a way that will improve your execution of your point.
The rules are not to be taken for granted when training in a competitive sport. Whichever competitor or team knows the most about the rules of the event has the upper hand in the competition. They are there as a guide for judging your ability and so it would be silly to only skim over them in your preparation! Winning is all in the preparation and you’re well on your way to a big gold medal! Stay tuned for part two!