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Mental preparation for karting

We're going to look at mental preparation for kart racing and how it can help drivers. Now this is probably a topic that is often overlooked, because, as a driver, we want to drive fast and win races. We also want to stay in a positive mindset and how sometimes a negative mindset can make us do dumb decisions on track, which can cause mistakes or incidents. So, let’s look at ways that we can stay sharp and give ourselves the best chance of performing at a good level more regularly.

Now, what is mental preparation? It can be what you're thinking before a race. It can be nerves, it can be confidence, it can be visualization. It can be all these little things that are talking to you in your head that you either take on board, like "I'm really confident I'm going to make this pass on this lap," or "I can beat this particular driver," or "I'm going to get a good race start." But it can also have a negative effect where, "I've hit the brakes too hard; I'm going to spin out," or "It's starting to rain. Uh-oh, I hate the wet weather conditions," or "I'm really nervous about getting a race start against these particular competitors."

So it can go both ways. It depends on what you're using to your advantage and when you need to try and deflect the negative stuff and try and get it out of your head.

Some tips that you could use to manage your stress and your anxiety could be listening to music. Now this will be different for everyone, but we see athletes in different sports walking into the arena or into a race with headphones on. They're trying to get themselves in a good head space so that they're going out there with confidence and belief.

For some people it's going to be calming music because they're high energy and they don't need that extra exertion of energy to make them go over the top. Or it could be other kids that are a bit flatter and need a kick up the bum to get them going. It could be something that's more high energy to lift their spirits. So, music is a good one that I've seen work well for a lot of kids that I've coached.

The other thing could be just going for a walk. Getting out of your environment, and that might be your tent, there's high energy with whether it's parents, mechanics, engine builder, whoever it may be, causing a lot of stress that’s having a negative effect on the driver. And so just by removing yourself from that environment and going for a walk, kicking the footy, watching another race, just getting out of that tent might do the trick.

Reading a book can work, simply just having some quiet time. Now this works best with higher energy drivers that don't need that extra level of excitement in their system. So just reading a book in a calm environment can do the job.

It really depends on what works for you and so I would recommend trying different things. See what works for yourself or for your son or daughter. Then if it doesn't work, try something else or go back to it again another time. But it's a trial and error to see what works for you.

Drivers want to start to visualize themselves on the track. What we mean by visualization is that you're closing your eyes basically dream of yourself or visualize yourself doing something.

Examples could be taking a particular corner. It could be hitting the apex at a certain point. It might be overtaking another driver. It could be you visualizing yourself on the podium or the victory speech that you might already have planned out before you've won the race.

This for me was when I sat in the go-kart. I had my helmet on and would sit in the go-kart basically looking down so that other people, if they were going to come and speak to me, I wasn't looking at anyone, so they weren't going to come and interrupt me at that time.

But what that allowed me to do was visualize myself getting a good race start, warming up the tires, hitting certain corners that I needed to really maximize to get an advantage of my competition and then visualize myself winning the race.

I did this for every race for about 15 years. Really important! I didn't need other people saying, "Oh, you're going to win this race," or "You can do it." It was more just me; a bit of a pep talks to myself saying, "You know what? This is what we're going to do. If we do A, B, and C pretty well, the chances are that we're going to win the race or at least give ourselves a good chance."

You're in a good mindset, you're feeling confident. The nerves are there and nerves are important. It means that you care for something.

It's grasping those nerves and using them to your advantage, going, "Okay, I'm a bit nervous, but I still feel confident that I can get a good start. I can pass this person at this corner. I can block when I need to block. I can win the race." Being confident sees kids winning more races, rather than finishing third, fourth, fifth, a lot of the time and not quite getting that first win.

And once you do it for the first time, you start to get that feeling of, this is cool, getting that first-place trophy and speaking on the podium.

I hope that gives you an insight into why it's important to have that mental preparation. If you need to know more information about your kart racing, be sure to check out our Champions Program where we focus on a positive mindset as well as driving and race craft techniques.

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