I had a chance to spend 30 minutes on the phone with Mario Andretti to ask him about the importance of a good mental preparation and his mental game in racing. What a fun and enlightening interview.
He was happy to share his experience with me on the importance of confidence, focus, desire, and teamwork in a racer’s success!
Mario was a huge believer in mental preparation for racers. One area we talked about what his ability to anticipate challenges he may face on the track. This mental preparation strategy is an advanced mental game skill, which helps you mentally prepare for anything that might happen on the track.
The best athletes in the world are able to foresee the future and predict what might happen in competition (using their past experience) that could cause athletes to get derailed mentally.
“I think it is important to have an instinct for things but also what is very important is to be able to try to read potential trouble situations. Such as, all of a sudden you are coming into a lot of traffic and guys are dicing all over the place and you figure I wonder what the heck is going to happen here – what if this happens, that happens? So you have to be vigilant sometimes you can’t help yourself you can’t just go in there blind with the attitude everything is going to be all right, ‘no way is he going to come down on me’. You have to think of the worst possible scenario and be able to react to it so you can save your self,” said Andretti.
You can use this mental preparation strategy for racing long before the competition. Your task is to anticipate probable challenges you are faced with on the track. More importantly, you want to develop a coping reaction to handle each situation. For example, how would you react if you overshot your pit box by mistake?
Racing does not happen in a vacuum. Stuff happens. For this reason, you need to be prepared when stuff happens to you on the track. Your goal is to prepare yourself to react with composure when something unexpected or unpredicted happens, which could distract you at the very least.
One of my NASCAR students was becoming upset with little things that would go wrong on the track. He needed to learn what to do in those situation to help him relax and stay in control.
Examples of challenges to anticipate include difficult weather conditions, unfair officiating, rude spectators, psych-out attempts from competitors, errors, bad luck and unexpected equipment problems.
The goal is to prepare to cope with any challenge, instead of being surprised by various obstacles or distractions. This strategy can even help you become better with your mental game.
For example, if you know what the triggers are that cause you to lose focus or become distracted then you can prepare your mind to refocus when you are distracted.
The first step in this mental preparation skill is to write down on paper any situations you can anticipate, such as distractions or emotional triggers, which may present challenges during competition. You can start by thinking back to past competitions. At what times did you get pulled out of the zone and get distracted?
Looking into your “crystal ball” to anticipate potential challenges is only half the strategy. The most important task is to develop a coping strategy for each scenario you listed in step 1. The goal is to react with confidence, focus and composure.
Anticipation and cope strategy gives you a mental edge in racing and is part of your normal training. When you have prepared yourself to react confidently in any situation on the track, you are a mentally prepared racer.
Want more information on mental preparation for racing?
Check out my online videos about pregame jitters and download a free PDF Report titled, “The 10 “Deadly” Mistakes Athletes Make With Their Pregame Mental Preparation.”