This is going to be a very broad topic, but one that I have been wanting to write about for a while now. It’s about being a first time competitor. This article is more tailored to the novice athletes/ new comers to athletic participation’s, however even the elite could benefit from this. Whether you’re getting into road running, getting on the mat for your first wrestling match, stepping on stage for a bodybuilding show, your first bowling tournament, or anything in between. This article was written for you. So, the question is, how do you get started?
Starting out is probably the hardest, yet most exciting, part about getting into sports. Most people tend to be nervous in their early stages of competing and training, but lets face it, everybody was a rookie at some point. Nobody starts out as a pro. Now, while it’s natural and in some ways a good thing to be a little nervous, the key is to not let yourself get overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and smile, you should be excited. You get to go out and try something new and test yourself in a new way. Often times when I’m training first time track athletes, they tend to be nervous because they are afraid of coming in last place and being judged negatively by everybody else. Here is where I let you in on a little secret, nobody cares.
Now I know that sounds harsh, but the reality of it is that nobody cares what place you come in. People are going to cheer just as loud for you whether you are in first place or last place because in the end. You are the one that is going out there, getting out of your comfort zone, and pushing your body to the limits. As long as you’re going out there and doing the best you can, nobody is going to judge you negatively. People are more judgmental over people that go out and don’t try. I had never realized it until I had started competing many years ago, but the camaraderie in sports is like you wouldn’t believe. No matter what sport you are participating in, everybody just wants to see their opposition do well. Nobody wants to see the downfall of anyone else. I remember when I was competing in Powerlifting, all the competitors would stand there and eagerly await to see the others attempts. They would all cheer when somebody got a new personal record. If somebody missed a lift, they would give words of encouragement. I see the same thing happen in track and field, cross country, basketball, wrestling, and every other sport. By going out and trying something new, you’re going to get a lot more supporters than you think.
The other part about getting started is knowing what you’re getting yourself into. It is important to learn as much as you can about the sport/activity you are planning to get into as possible. Such as if there are any specific rules and regulations that you need to follow, how the event is run, and so on. These are all things to consider when choosing a sport and a federation. There are usually different leagues/federations for the different sports. So read up on some of the rules and see what fits you best.
Many people like to be spontaneous and try an event that they haven’t even prepared for because they just want to go out and learn something new and have fun. I really admire people when they do this because they are getting out of their comfort zone and trying something new. While I do support this though, I encourage people to get at least an understanding of what they are getting into. Going into something completely blind can leave you unaware of your surroundings and force you to spend your whole time trying to get your bearings rather than competing and enjoying the moment.
So now that you know about what you want to compete in and you’re feeling more confident, the next question becomes, how do you get ready? There are a lot of ways to go about this, but my first recommendation is to find the right coach. When looking for a coach, you need to find somebody that is going to be patient and want to work with you. A coach that you can really connect with. The other thing to look for in a coach is how knowledgeable they are. You aren’t going to want somebody coaching you that doesn’t have at least a basic understanding of human anatomy and physiology and isn’t knowledgeable about the sport that you are looking to participate in. A coach is somebody that can help guide you from where you are now to where you want to be. There can be a lot involved when it comes to programming or writing up workouts and preparing for a sporting competition, so make sure you find the right coach for you that can help get you started or take you to that next level.
Regardless of whether you have a coach or not, or how long you have been involved in the sport, one of my biggest pieces of advice for everybody is to become a student of your event; be coachable. Whenever I try getting into a sport or am coaching one, I always try to learn as much as I can. I had to do the same thing when I had helped my schools wrestling team. I didn’t know much of anything about it, so I got involved and learned as much as I could from the other coaches, other athletes, and videos online discussing the sport. There is so much valuable information out there. Everything for recovery, nutrition, training regimen, equipment, and more is out there. Many coaches will often have different ideas and tactics when it comes to these things and research isn’t always going to line up with other research on what is best between various workout programs, and some things are just very individual. There is no one size fits all when it comes to sports. Certain things will help more than others, however the small details can sometimes vary from person to person. So become a student and learn as much as you can. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.
However, as important as all of these things are, I have not yet mentioned the most important factor to take into consideration, and that is this. Have Fun! You can get the best coach, read all the training articles, get the best gear, but if you aren’t enjoying the process and you are stressed about your event, it might not be the one for you. Not every sport is for everybody. Anybody can run, but not everybody is going to enjoy it like I do. I truly enjoyed powerlifting and hope to compete again one day, but it will never be as enjoyable to me as running is. I had gotten a nice road bike, good helmet, the lights for my bike, cages for the peddles, all of that. Cycling is something I get a lot of joy out of, but it just isn’t my number one sport. I’m not sure I would ever compete in wrestling either, but I’m glad I at least tried it, learned about the sport, and got to surround myself with other wrestlers and practice a bit. This was something that I had always wanted to participate in and I gave it a try. I got out of my comfort zone and enjoyed every minute of it.
Everybody is different, so go out there with an optimistic mindset and try something new, have fun with it. You never know unless you try. There is no rush and there’s absolutely no pressure. So go have fun trying something new outside of your comfort zone. You have nothing to lose and your only regret will be not trying sooner.