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4 Best Practices for Reviewing Performance Routines


In the NFL game today, there are a lot of better athletes than I am, and quarterbacks these days are faster than the quarterbacks have always been, they’re running like crazy. But I kind of stick to my roots of the disciplined quarterback. You know, I’m doing the same routine every week, studying tapes and working hard, getting ready to play and making good decisions on Sundays – Peyton Manning

 In sport, we are familiar with the purpose of routines. We require them to function and need them for peak performance in both training and competition. When executed efficiently, they aid in preparation which leads to confidence, provide opportunities for emotional & attentional control, simulate consistency if repeated efficiently and can influence content (what is happening in the moment). And like Payton Manning highlights, commitment to routine ensures success in performance.

Depending on your sport, routines are the epicentre to achievement and are used very differently depending on individual/team sport, environment (where you compete) and length of competition. As much as creating and implementing routines is essential for each athlete, we must review our performance routines to avoid complacency and monotony in both training and competition.

So how do we do this and why is it useful?

When reviewing with athletes, I prefer to intertwine goal setting and performance profiling at the beginning of the season. By including routine review within training or in off season, it gives ample opportunity to make necessary changes if something isn’t working or needs to be tweaked.

I start with a simple exercise talking about Routines – pop culture references are helpful, depending on sport I like to use real life examples when introducing this topic. After the Olympics, I continuously referred to Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, Canadian Ice Dancing pre-performance routine – which resonated with athletes. I then move on to a general brainstorming session:

  • IDENTIFY your different types of routines: What purpose do they serve in your sport? 

Back to the drawing board – I provide athletes a blank piece of paper or use a whiteboard and have them identify all the different types of routines *(daily, sport, non-sport) routines they use.  I consider age level, emotional & cognitive development as this becomes more specific depending on competitive level of athlete. From there, we prioritize what needs to be reviewed in sport and go through each set of routines to decide what requires closer examination. 

  • REDEFINE OBJECTIVE & PURPOSE  What are you doing in each routine? Is it helpful, harmful and serving a purpose? Some other questions to consider:
  1. Where does my routine fit, regarding training vs competition?

Training Routines: Do I use the same routines in training that I use in competition? If not, why am I not practicing them?

Performance Routines: Which routines I am using consistently in my performance? Do they support achieving an “Ideal Performance State” (IPS – Stay tuned for the blog next week).

  • Pre Performance – Which routines do I use to prepare me for competition? Do they help with activation and arousal control? Do they limit distraction and help with time management?
  • During Performance – Which routines do I consistently use during performance? Do I have a way to reset if I get distracted or fall out of routine?
  • Post Performance – Am I debriefing my performance? Is this part of my post performance routine? Am I taking enough time to decompress mentally and take care of my physical body?
  1. Does my sport have timing limitations that require me to adjust my routine during the diverse aspects of competition? Have I practiced the timing of these routines?
  2. Have I played around with my routines to see what works vs what doesn’t? Is there an appropriate time to do this?

Athlete Example:  A swimmer that uses his pre-performance routine faithfully and has mastered the concept of timing, created a routine (after many attempts) that uses what he needs to prepare physically and mentally before going to the blocks. He knows how long his dynamic warm up lasts, he visualizes a successful race plan, and has confidently timed his activation period. We have continued to work together on adapting this pre-performance routine depending on environment (where he swims in case of potential distractions, number of swimmers) and the specific race he is swimming for his visualization session, as some races take longer than others.

  • IDENTIFY “What’s happening”: Do my routines allow for executing the necessary skill and technical aspects that I am trying perform? Do I have cue words as part of these routines for resetting? Are there extraneous aspects to my routine that I can remove? Overall, what is literally happening in the routine? Also, is it possible to include imagery/visualization for support and refocusing?

Are there any challenges that continue to arise within my routines in training and competition? Am I prepared to adapt when some days I just maybe go through the motions or lose sight of focus and what I am trying to achieve?  Be patient – ironing out routines take time.  If you need further help, review with a sport psychology consultant or your coach for a more in depth discussion and direction.

Keep in mind – ROUTINES WORK when they are individualistic – must be relevant to you, your sport and your team. Sometimes they need to be tweaked, discussed and reviewed for them to serve YOUR purpose.

Athlete Question:  Which of my performance routines need to be reviewed?

Coach Question: How can I support my athletes in creation, review and implementation of performance routines?

As always if you have any questions, please head to the website at and send us an email!  Or train your mental game and sign up for our Athlete Mental Skills Training Program.