Notes on Preparing for Performance: Strategies Adopted Across Performance Domains

By Stewart Cotterill

“Effective performance under pressure is normally characterized by the consistent execution of complex motor skills in a flawless or near perfect manner” (Cotterill, 158).

Proper preparatory routines have been linked to success across disciplines, including sports, the performance arts, and business (Cotterill, 158). Additionally, several common links between each preparatory routine are “providing an attentional focus and reducing distraction,” “preventing performers focusing on the mechanics of the skill,” and “allowing performers to evaluate the performance conditions and calibrate the required responses” (Cotterill, 158).

Cognitive research across the disciplines of “the military, law enforcement, emergency medicine, aviation, performing arts, and sports” suggests that the same mental processes are responsible for performers’ executions during performances (Cotterill, 159).

Performers who exhibit the worst results often are prone to escapist behaviors, or behaviors that cause them to focus on exiting the current situation or quickly finishing the assigned task (Cotterill, 159).

For example, it has been proven that the preparation phase is crucial to the success of surgeons in the operating room (Cotterill, 159).

A group of performing artists, athletes, surgeons, and musicians were surveyed to find common links between their professions (Cotterill, 159). Below are listed the most prominent links between their preparation routines and performance experiences, listed by category:

Physical Preparation:

  • functional behavior preparations
  • feeling ready
  • rhythm (Cotterill, 161)

Mental Preparation:

  • positive self-talk
  • focusing
  • managing emotion
  • yoga or meditation
  • visualization of successful completion of tasks (Cotterill, 161)

Influencing factors:

  • fatigue
  • experience effects
  • live adaptation
  • aging effects
  • audience pressure
  • perfectionism (Cotterill, 161)

Preparation functions to:

  • provide confidence
  • warm-up
  • get into character
  • motivate to perform
  • switch into performance mode
  • oxygenate the brain (Cotterill, 161)

Mindset of performers:

  • task focus
  • outcome focus
  • image in mind
  • in control
  • calm under pressure
  • automatic (Cotterill, 161)

Technique Development Methods:

  • coach or instructor guidance
  • reading material guidance
  • organic development
  • taught techniques (Cotterill, 161)

Cotterill, Stewart. “Preparing for Performance: Strategies Adopted Across Performance Domains.” The Sport Psychologist, vol. 29, no. 2, 2015, pp. 158–170., doi:10.1123/tsp.2014-0035.

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