Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, baseball and nine other spring sports had their seasons canceled. Senior and junior athletes leave their thoughts on their athletic careers at Lafayette and the season that might have been. (Jack Weaver)
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, baseball and nine other spring sports had their seasons canceled. Senior and junior athletes leave their thoughts on their athletic careers at Lafayette and the season that might have been.

Jack Weaver

The Impact of Mental Preparation

May 22, 2019

Mental preparation is defined as “the act of mentally preparing oneself for a performance,” whether it be academics, athletics or fine arts, a lot of practice and preparation is required to achieve the desired outcome. Along with physical preparation, mental preparation is often a large aspect of one’s success.

While people often mentally prepare in different ways for different types of performances, most can agree that without prior mental preparation, their performance would not have been to the best of their ability.

Setting the stage

Photo by Makayla Archambeault
Undefined members warm up before their first performance of the day by “passing a heartbeat”. This exercise consists of everyone on the team crossing their hands and “sending” a squeeze around the circle that passes from person to person and back to the one who started the “heartbeat”.

Undefined, Lafayette’s improv troupe, has a very unique way of mentally preparing for a show, after all, how can you prepare for something that is made up on the spot? Undefined member junior Alex Vancil provides some insight on how the troupe prepares for a show.

“We always do something called ‘getting fired up’ which is when we all get in a circle and chant something, and that’s typically to get us all on the same mental level. With improv it’s very much based on how well you work with other people. If you are all on the same level then you can kind of understand what someone is gonna do,” Vancil said.

When it comes to improv, Vancil emphasizes the importance of energy on the team to keep an audience engaged with the performances. He says if the team isn’t energized, then the audience would be disengaged and that show would not have the desired reaction and interaction of the audience.

Just like any type of team, the improv team requires all parts to function. This includes making up for someone when something in a scene goes wrong.

“Last year there were a couple of times where someone would come in and change the scene entirely and in order to accommodate the new scene I would try and weave the two things together somehow just so there’s not too much incontinuity,” Vancil said, “My biggest challenge has been knowing when to say ‘no’. With improv that is very much a big struggle because preparing wise, you can’t really prepare other than practicing the games. The biggest problem comes into play whenever I start a game during a show. If something goes wrong I have to very quickly be able to get over the problem.”

Vancil acknowledges the team captains as huge motivators when it comes to keeping the energy up on the team,

“The team captains are very good with feedback and they know exactly what to say. While they are very supportive they also are able to tell us what we can fix to make for a better more energetic show,” Vancil said.

At the end of the show, Vancil accredits his performance to the preparation done beforehand.

“Preparing mentally has a big impact on my performance. It’s really important because if you’re not prepared for a performance it can affect the whole team and the audience. If you prepare mentally the entire show will go much better,” Vancil said.

The steps to success

Courtesy of Noah Korenfeld
Senior Noah Korenfeld plays his trombone for the District Solo and Ensemble competition. “I’d say my college auditions have been pretty competitive. I’m auditioning against the same people who get into Juilliard on full ride scholarships. It’s a lot of not focusing on them and what they are doing, and trying to do my best,” Korenfeld said.

Senior Noah Korenfeld is an active member of Lafayette Band. This year Korenfeld was part of the Lancer Regiment and performed in their show entitled Steps, but takes a different approach to preparing mentally for solo performances and auditions.

“When I have something like an audition I cut off everything just so I can focus and not have outside sources of stress. I just get into my own bubble,” Korenfeld said.

Korenfeld finds that mentally preparing before college auditions has proven very helpful.

“I guess I’d say my college auditions have been pretty competitive. I’m auditioning against the same people who get into Juilliard on full ride scholarships. It’s a lot of not focusing on them and what they are doing, and trying to do my best,” Korenfeld said. “In music, mistakes happen all the time. It’s usually not who can play it the best. It’s who can play it the best, make a mistake and still bounce back without letting it affect everything else.”

Preparing for a musical instrument audition can include anything from cleaning the instrument to breathing exercises, however, oftentimes no amount of prior preparation can end in being completely comfortable when performing.

“Not often do I feel completely prepared. Usually I feel like I could have done more, but it’s one of those things that’s inevitable. You kinda just have to accept, you are where you are, and you can’t make something better in the last couple of seconds,” Korenfeld said.

Mental preparation is typically the last thing done before a performance. What comes before is the physical preparation which, in Korenfeld’s case, is learning and practicing the music for the audition. After someone is physically prepared, usually about a week prior to the performance, is when the mental preparation comes in.

“I would say being in the right mental space is 70 percent of what makes a successful musician. You could be great in the practice room, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t perform when it’s important,” Korenfeld said.

Debate mental preparation relies on research

Debate team member freshman Deena Iqbal attributes her success to her preparation in advance and the support from her friends and family.

“My parents and friends have been a big support to everything I do, and without preparation it’s not easy to go into something that you’re not prepared for,” said Iqbal.

Iqbal spends a lot of time preparing and visualizing in advance in order to be ready when going up against strong arguments.

“One of the first tournaments that I went to we had to go up against a strong argument. I hadn’t been prepared and I didn’t do so well in that round, but I learned from that,” said Iqbal “I definitely think that visualizing everything before you go into a big event is really important to help keep your mind straight during the event.”

A lot of the mental preparation that goes into debate is heavily researched-based as their entire performance is debating their argument with someone else. A lot of these arguments are very different from each other and based on different aspects of the world, politically, economically and environmentally.

“Going against arguments different from what you’ve experienced is always a little bit of a challenge, but I had different arguments prepared beforehand which really helped,” Iqbal said, “I didn’t have a partner for a good amount of time during the season, but that was a pretty big challenge because there aren’t that many people in the policy debate that I do.”

When in the heat of a debate, team members must rely on prepared arguments in order to use in refuting their opponents argument. They must also be ready and quick to improvise if a debate doesn’t go the way it was expected. This is all based on research and mental preparation beforehand.

Pointe of success

Courtesy of Olivia Kalamboukas
Olivia Kalamboukas performs as Clara in “The Nutcracker” this past December with St. Louis Ballet Company. “It was a total of 13 performances. I was very stressed with my grades and studying, especially when I had to study after coming home at around 11 pm. It was all worth it in the end even though I was extremely exhausted,” Kalamboukas said.

Junior Olivia Kalamboukas currently dances with Saint Louis Ballet Company and just recently starred in the role of Clara in the company’s production of The Nutcracker.

“My biggest challenge was portraying Clara in The Nutcracker this past December. It was a very rigorous time where I had to balance finals with the performances. It was a total of 13 performances. I was very stressed with my grades and studying, especially when I had to study after coming home at around 11 pm. It was all worth it in the end even though I was extremely exhausted,” Kalamboukas said.

Kalamboukas attributes her success as a dancer to her physical and mental preparation. After being a dancer for most of her life (starting when she was three), Kalamboukas is often prepared for performances as far as confidence, however, she recalls an incident where she faced what every dancer dreads, forgetting the choreography.

“There was a show where I was dancing the choreography, but I suddenly forgot it and had to improvise. I remember thinking in my head that I was dancing so badly since I forgot the choreography. Although, when I came off the stage, everyone approached me saying how wonderful I was. It was definitely an intense moment for me, but I’m glad I was able to be quick on my feet,” Kalamboukas said.

As far as what is done before the show, Kalamboukas takes the day before to really prepare for what’s to come.

“I usually take the day before a performance to stretch more, pack all of my performance stuff, and just generally have a day to relax so I won’t be anxious for the next day. On the day of the show, as I’m waiting in the wings, I slow down my breathing do 10 jumps, and crack my shoulders which are my superstitions before performing,” Kalamboukas said.

Before going on stage, Kalamboukas tries to stay positive in order to better her performance.

“I usually tend to think about positive things before going on stage. If I get bad thoughts before a performance like ‘oh what if I mess up,’ ‘what if I fall’, then that will reflect on my performance,” Kalamboukas said.

When asked about her inspirations, Kalamboukas spoke of her friend Raffaella Stroik, who has encouraged her to do her best in all of her performances.

“My friend Raffaella Stroik, who passed away this past November has been my biggest inspiration. Every time before a show in The Nutcracker, as I was waiting for the curtain to open, I would say ‘This is for you Raffi.’ It has been really difficult dealing with her loss. After seeing how happy she was on stage, she has been my biggest inspiration to keep dancing. It seems to be the only time where I am truly happy and I worry about nothing else,” Kalamboukas said.

Batting to the beat

Jack Weaver
Senior Tyler Hagan takes first base in a District baseball game against Marquette High School.

Senior Tyler Hagan focuses primarily on mental preparation right before a game.

“Before a game I’ll sit back and listen to some music and just get mentally dialed in,” Hagan said.

Hagan went on to explain how you can put in the work when it comes to physicalities at practices, but what it ultimately comes down to is getting your head in the game before stepping out onto the field.

“I would say preparation is really important along with hard work. Once you get into those tough situations then you are prepared to get out. In football this year when we were playing Parkway South it was a tougher game, tougher than we had anticipated, but because of all the hard work we had put in before hand we were able to pull it out and get a homecoming win,” Hagan said.

When on the field, teammates work together to both execute plays and also improvise some plays when put in a situation they were not expecting or had not physically prepared for. This is when it comes down to mental preparation and whether a team is prepared to make good decisions on the spot. This requires everyone on the team to be mentally prepped and in-tune with each other.

“Preparing mentally has a huge impact. Just even being mentally stronger than the other team and being able to bounce back is tremendous in helping you be successful,” Hagan said.

Hagan recalled times when mental preparation helped him and his team pull out to execute a good play.

“My sophomore year we were down by two runs, had bases loaded. We were playing JV baseball against Eureka. I was up at the plate, and I hit a double to score all three runs,” Hagan said. “With no mental preparation it wouldn’t go as well as it could’ve. You have to get your mind ready before your body.”

Built to win

photo provided by Emily Liu
Senior Emily Liu with the 2018-2019 robotics team at the Worlds Championship in Houston.

For robotics team members, months of preparation go into building their robot to compete against other robots in tasks that vary from year to year. This year, the Lafayette Robotics Team won the State Competetion and qualified for the World Competetion.

A lot of the preparation does go into building the robot in the first place, and when the team actually arrives at the arena, there’s not much they can do but tighten the bolts on the robot and mentally prepare themselves for how the robot may perform.

Senior Emily Liu, who competes on the team, said, “I tend to do the listen to music thing to try to get myself in the right place and then I focus with everything I have.”

Liu says that when at the competition, most of what’s to do is up to the drivers of the robots, who stand in a separate area than the rest of the team and control what the robot does as far as what the team has built.

“For me at every robotics competition something is bound to go wrong, and you just have to hope you have the materials ready to fix it. If you don’t then you just have to tighten everything and tell your drivers to be careful,” Liu said.

Liu recognizes that without mental preparation all leading up to the short time when the robot is actually competing, the run would not go as well as it could have.

“On my performance, preparing mentally has a big effect. It gets you in the moment as opposed to you being distracted about homework you have to do,” Liu said. “With no preparation it would go pretty badly, and it’s happened multiple times before. In anything when you’re not ready for it you just spend the first ten minutes trying to get ready and then you may have missed it.”

After the team gets to the arena, Liu says that they “always wish [they] had more time to prepare,” however, in the heat of the moment, all you can really do is depend on what you’ve done so far and how mentally prepared you are going into the arena.

Presentation preparation

Dawn Indelicato-Faw, ALARP (Advanced Language Arts Research and Presentation) II teacher, talks to her students consistently about mentally preparing before their end-of-semester presentations.

“Practice and preparation are the two main strategies I talk about with my students. People want to believe that they can just wing it and it will somehow all turn out okay. Winging it is never a good idea. Facing the reality of just going through the material, slide by slide, owning your material and your presentation, is going to help alleviate a lot of the stress that comes with presenting in front of people,” Indelicato-Faw said.

When preparing to give a presentation, Indelicato-Faw recognizes that different students have different strategies when mentally preparing before giving their presentation.

“A major part of any performance is your state of mind. Ensuring a positive mental state before a big exam or presentation can be done through thorough preparation and positive self-talk, putting your hype up songs on, meditating, whatever it is that helps you get into the best frame of mind,” Indelicato-Faw said.

After researching a specific topic for an entire semester, ALARP students tend to find more trouble when actually presenting the information rather than gathering it. While a student may be very confident about his or her topic, not preparing in advance to give their presentation presenting their ideas, can end up being their demise.

“You have to believe in what you are presenting; you have to believe that you are going to go out there and deliver the best presentation you can because you’ve prepared all semester long for this day,” Indelicato-Faw said.

Indelicato-Faw stresses the importance of preparing for any type of performance and believes that without mental prep, the performance will not have been the full potential of what they could have been if they had prepared to give it.

“The mental prep is just as important as any of the other preparation one does for a performance or presentation,” Indelicato-Faw said.

To learn more about ALARP check out the feature story on the LancerFeed.

Q and A with a student who got a perfect score on the ACT

One thing many students can understand is the mental preparation that goes into taking a test. While some students do fall short of preparing to do well on a test, there are few who excel when it comes to the preparation leading up to test-taking.

Four students from Lafayette were interviewed by Channel 5 for the achievement of a perfect score on the ACT . Among these students is senior Elvis Wei, one of four students to score a perfect 36 on their ACT here are his suggestions: 

Q: How do you mentally prepare for a test?

A: My biggest mental problems with tests usually come from me being too nervous or intimidated because a test might be very important or difficult. The best way I’ve been able to overcome this is to take practice tests or study the content enough so that I am confident enough that I will do well, which tends to eliminate my testing anxiety.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge and how did you prepare for that?

A: I’d say my biggest challenges so far have been things that I didn’t really get to prepare for. One example would be ALARP, a class which was very hard for me because I always had a lot of anxiety issues when doing any sort of public speaking. I couldn’t really prepare for the class and that’s definitely what made it so hard, but I guess that’s a good thing because I actually ended up learning a lot which was kind of the point of taking classes in general when you think about it.

Q: When was a time that something went wrong or unexpected in your event and you had to improvise do you think you were able to bounce back due to the preparation beforehand?

A: Last summer I was taking part in the STARS summer research program and I was assigned to some crazy chemistry lab that used one big, expensive machine that did all of the lab work. I had to do some experiments and collect data like basically every research ever, but early into the program, part of the machine was malfunctioning and nobody could figure out why. We ended up spending the entire summer fixing the machine, but that meant I had no data for my research paper. This was something I was completely unprepared for because nobody expected things to go this wrong, but also because I had no clue what I was doing throughout the entire summer. What I did was instead of collecting data, I just descriptively explained our entire process of fixing our big machine, and turns out that worked because the judges somehow liked my research paper enough to give it an award.

Q: Has there been a time where you wish you had prepared more or a moment when you realized that you couldn’t just wing it?

A: I remember the first time this realization of not being able to wing it came in sixth grade during the MCTM math competition, which happens annually. For the past two years of the competition, I would study hard each year and I would win awards and be all happy like that. However, in sixth grade, I decided in my infinite wisdom that I didn’t need to prepare for some reason (I was lazy) and when the test came around, I had no clue what I was doing. It was really disheartening to watch all my friends walk up for awards while I sat in my seat pretending that I mattered.

Q: How much of an effect do you think preparing mentally has on your performance?

A: I think being in a mentally comfortable state when I do things is a requirement for me being successful at anything. I feel like there is a very direct correlation between how nervous or anxious I am and how awful I perform; whenever I’m nervous for a speech, test, or competition, my mind seems to go into deep freeze and I’m unable to do anything slightly productive.

Q: If you were to just jump in with no mental preparation at all, how do you think it would go?

A: Really garbage, and I know from experience. If I’m not mentally prepared for a task, that also means I’ll most likely fail at it because I’ll just freeze up.

Q: Is there anyone who helps in your mental preparation or inspires you to do your best?

A: I feel like just talking to people about my mental worries can go a long way in relieving my mental stress. Like when I figured out that everyone on the face of the Earth was ready to fail the next (and every) AP Bio test, it made taking AP Bio tests a lot easier because I knew I wasn’t alone, and that it was OK that I didn’t feel totally ready.

Mental preparedness is unique for each activity and participant

There are no “How-To” guides on how to prepare for any specific performance. When “how to mentally prepare for” is put into any search engine, it automatically fills in with everything from “how to mentally prepare for the ACT” to “how to mentally prepare for getting a dog.” However, no matter how many guides are out there, not one can perfectly prepare any given person for their specific performance.

So what is the trick to mentally prepare for an event? The answer to this question is much simpler than most people realize. Trial and error. It may be a long and grueling process to figure out how to best mentally prepare for a test or a game, however, it is a necessary process.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to giving your best performance, all it comes down to is the willingness to put in the work, before and during a performance, no matter the person and no matter the occasion.

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About the Contributor
Photo of Makayla Archambeault
Makayla Archambeault, Editor-in-Chief

Makayla is a senior and this is her fourth year on the news production staff. When she's not writing, Archambeault can usually be found playing lacrosse, performing with Lafayette's improv comedy team, Undefined, reading or watching movies. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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