CARVER Coaching & Performance Newsletter

Hi, Paul here,

I hope this finds you well. This week’s theme is…


Preparation is the process of preparing to perform a task, action, or duty. Prior to performing, we can take actions to prepare our minds and body to perform. The attention we give to preparation can influence our performance.

The benefits of good preparation can serve to reduce anxiety, improve concentration and focus, and build confidence. Long-term preparation can help us to build confidence and skill. For example, our commitment to athletic development and deliberate practice can help us to physically prepare to perform at our best. Setting goals and targets can help us to give purpose and clarity to our actions, focusing our minds on the task at hand. Developing a routine that works for us can also assist in reducing the variability in our preparation, giving us a greater sense of control and helping to ease performance anxiety. More immediate preparation includes ensuring that you have enough sleep, good hydration and nutrition and that you are clear on the game plan or tactics in the lead-up to performance, The Wheel of Preparation is a useful tool to use for both mental and physical preparation. It is most powerful when used 7-10 days out from the competition or game

1. Draw a circle as per the diagram on the right (typically 6-8 segments work well)

2. Each segment represents an element of preparation for the game ahead. Include elements that you believe to be key to performance and within your control, e.g. sleep, hydration, nutrition, etc.

3. Shade in each segment to represent how prepared you are in relation to that element. Fully shaded would suggest that you are 100% prepared and ready to perform.

4. Identify gaps in your preparation, and set specific actions you can take in the coming days to improve your level of preparation e.g. get 30 minutes more sleep per night in the lead up to the game.

5. The objective is that on the day of performance or competition that most segments are fully shaded and you are well prepared in the areas that are within your control.

It is important not to strive for perfection. The process of preparation is not about being perfect, but rather about getting better. Preparation serves to reduce variability, but it is impossible to eliminate all variables. This is why the focus is on areas that you can control. Habit tracking is also useful in helping you to prepare and monitor the variables that are within your control to the best of your ability.

Over-preparation can be detrimental to our performance. The Inverted- U Theory(1) explores this by highlighting the relationship between performance and pressure (or arousal). Where there is little pressure, an increase in pressure can positively influence performance. This trend continues until we reach an optimal point. Past this optimal point, any increase in pressure can negatively influence our performance. This can be applied in the context of preparation. When the level of preparation becomes obsessive it can lead to increased anxiety, and shift our focus away from the purpose of preparation – to enhance performance.

What segments would you include in your Wheel of Preparation? How prepared are you for your next game or competition?

(1) Yerkes & Dodson (1908)

CARVER Insight

Currently, a number of teams and groups are using one of my journals ‘Journaling to Be the Best You Can Be in Sport- A Journey into Journaling’ to journal together for 30 days as part of their preseason. I deliver a workshop to commence the programme and afterwards it works best if the coaches support it in a meaningful and diligent manner; in coaching we must challenge for sure, but we must also assist.

A collective journaling programme is a powerful group experience, and increasingly, teams are beginning to appreciate this. It plays to the heart of what is termed a ‘player-centred approach’ to coaching. A player-centred approach places the athlete at the centre, with the coach’s role being to develop the player as both an athlete and a person based on their needs and goals for their performance, as well as their life.

From my perspective, it is always interesting to see how a tool (i.e. a book or journal) I have created can be used, or brought to life by other people. I presume in some ways it is akin to the songwriter, in that it must be interesting for them to see how others react to their song, and I’d imagine they come across people who can sing it better, or make more of it some way or other.

I feel this is true for this journal. As I observe it being used by teams and groups, I see it being brought to life in many different ways. I see that in the hands of some it can be made so much more than I ever thought it could be. The journal is broken down into two parts, with the first 8 days entailing a number of journaling prompts under the following headings:

• Day 1- What Sports Means to Me

• Day 2- My Identity and Personal Truths

• Day 3- My Character and Values

• Day 4- Being a Teammate

• Day 5- My Mindset

• Day 6- My Application to Practice

• Day 7- Managing My Time and Energy

• Day 8- What Excellence, Success and Commitment Means to Me

On the ninth day, the challenge is to harvest the learnings of the previous 8 days of journaling in order to come up with your own personal ‘This is Me’ guide.

When this 9-day challenge is completed as a collective, it gives huge scope for deep, considered and meaningful conversations where people can share thoughts, challenges, experiences and beliefs. From this sharing grows empathy, understanding, appreciation, trust and an increased motivation to play as for, and with, one another. Research terms this practice Personal-Disclosure Mutual-Sharing (PDMS). A foundation is set from where people can move forward together, from a deeper point of connection.

I will share with you in another CARVER Insight how the second half of the journal can be used to build practical personal improvement skills but for now I will sign off with my original ‘What I know for sure’



P.S. Please drop me a line if you are interested in running a project such as this with a team you are involved with. I’d be delighted to talk to you about it.

Copyright Paul Kilgannon 2021
Website by Grafton Digital.