Pre-performance Routines

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Pre-performance routines of kickers in Rugby

What is a pre-performance routine (PPR)?

A PPR is a course of performance relevant thoughts and behaviours. A PPR integrates cognitive (thoughts), motor (physical movement) and emotional behaviours to produce a systematic sequence of actions with the aim of mentally preparing you for performance.

For example, before serving in tennis, a player may engage in behaviours to help calm their nerves. This could include: self-talk, bouncing the ball 3 times and taking a deep breath. This routine may be effective for inducing a calm mental state for the player. It is important to note that PPR’s will be dependent on the individual and what they wish to achieve from it.

How is a PPR different from a ritual?

Pre game rituals are a unique set of actions that a person performs as they believe it to help with performance or reduce any negative feelings. However, ritualistic behaviours often have no causal connection between the actions and the outcome of the performance. For example, Lebron James’ chalk toss is a ritual he performed prior to stepping on the court, but is highly unlikely to have any significant impact on the outcome of the matchup or his personal performance.

How do PPR’s work?

Pre performance routines work in a variety ways. Depending on what you want to achieve from your PPR, it can focus on and facilitate particular psychological skills.

1.) Allocating attention to performance relevant information and diverting attention from irrelevant information. By engaging in a pre-performance routine you occupy your mind and focus on the routine itself and its components and block distractions such as crowd noise, negative self-talk or camera flashes.

2.) PPR’s encourage the use of psychological skills. As PPR’s are just that, a series of psychological skills, they promote you to exercise your mind and not just your body. To relax your mind and body, to use positive self-talk, disregards distractions and get you in the mental state ready for performance.

3.) PPR’s also work by reducing anxiety. Similar to attentional focus, the PPR’s promotes you to strategically concentrate on positive thoughts and behaviours that take your mind away from negative thoughts that can lead to anxiety. What’s more, PPR’s work by regulating physiological arousal such as: increased heart rate, muscle tension or restlessness.


Routines can incorporate numerous types of psychological techniques. A routine will differ from person to person and is contingent on the individuals’ goals. Examples of components include:



If-then planning


Breath control

Visual focus

Components of a PPR

The process of a PPR involves the following 3 components. Each component consists of different actives that you should engage in to ensure you carry out the process of a PPR as effectively as possible.


Focus thoughts and emotions to produce an optimal mental state for skill acquisition or performance

Ensure comfort

Be aware of different body parts

Imagine a successful performance

Focusing Attention

Focus on an external task relevant cue

Focus on a single internal cue or thought


Reflect on the process

Consider outcome of performance

Identify what worked and facilitated performance and what did not

Based on self-feedback adapt and modify PPR.

Post-performance Routines

Post performance routines aim to reduce negative emotions and thoughts after your performance. Similar to a pre-performance routine, a post routines is a sequence of psychological and/or behavioural techniques the performer undertakes. This occurs immediately after skill execution, to prepare you for the next one.

This type of routine mirrors the reflection stage of self regulated learning, where you consider what went well and what didn’t. Ask yourself ‘did I perform well?’ ‘Did I hit the target or achieve what I set out to?’ If you answer ‘no’ to these questions the components in your post performance routine e.g. motivational self-talk or goal setting will help you to move forward, ready for the next phase of play.

For example, a basketball player who misses an important free-throw is likely to immediately reflect on his/her performance, which can often lead to fixation of a mistake. To avoid this and remain focused for the next play, the athletes’ post performance routine may include: shaking it off, taking a deep breath and saying “next one!”

Purpose of Post-performance routines

Pre and post performance routines require constant refinement to develop an optimal routine. The purpose of a routine will depend on what you want to achieve, however here are some examples:

Regulate Arousal


Minimise negative affect

Skill Matching

Having a pre-performance routine can help to enhance the following psychological skills:

References, Reading and Resources

Cotterill, S. (2010). Pre-performance routines in sport: Current understanding and future directions. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology3(2), 132-153.

Cotterill, S. (2015). Preparing for performance: strategies adopted across performance domains. The Sport Psychologist29(2), 158-170.

Hanrahan, S. J., & Andersen, M. B. (2010). Routledge handbook of applied sport psychology: A comprehensive guide for students and practitioners. Routledge.

Lidor, R., & Mayan, Z. (2005). Can beginning learners benefit from preperformance routines when serving in volleyball?. The Sport Psychologist19(4), 343-363.

Mesagno, C., Hill, D. M., & Larkin, P. (2015). Examining the accuracy and in-game performance effects between pre-and post-performance routines: A mixed methods study. Psychology of Sport and Exercise19, 85-94.

Taylor, J. E., & Wilson, G. E. (2005). Applying sport psychology: Four perspectives. Human Kinetics.