How do you manage the pressure like a champion?

How manage pression

Manage your stress, stay focused, go the distance… Manage your stress, stay focused, go the distance! Good players or great champions – even though the challenges are the same when it comes to competition, the big advantage of long-term players is their experience. Rituals, general lifestyle or mental preparation, how do they cope with the intensity of tournaments? They tell us their secrets and give easily applicable advice.

A rhythm to take

“The mind is like a muscle; you have to exercise it.” François Fel, professional coach

During my first competitions, I slept only two hours a night, I was very anxious,” recalls Baptiste Combescure, a professional bridge player a year ago. Little by little, the young man learned how to tame his stress, which even became an ally: “Today, the pressure makes me even stronger.” The same goes for Sylvie Willard, multi-medalist bridge player, with a forty year career: “The high stakes give me strength, the greater the challenge the more Imanage to surpass myself and concentrate.” This capability for acute concentration is not due to chance. It is the fruit of serious preparation. Like all great athletes, professional bridge players start preparing weeks before a big competition to be on top. Technically of course, but not only that.

Cédric Lorenzini, European champion and vice-world champion, does a lot of sport, swimming and running: “It’s important to be ready to make a long-term effort.” Baptiste Combescure as well adapts his lifestyle a few weeks before the competitions: “Ieat a balanced diet, I sleep well, I play sports.” Simple advice that can make all the difference when the championships are exhausting. “39 matches in 15 days: that’s really a lot. Therefore, it is essential to arrive well rested and with a clear mind”, recognizes the champion Sylvie Willard who admits that she “needs a week to recover from a tournament”.

Eat sleep healthy

All the more so, because the competitions often take place all over the world. This means added fatigue from the jetlag. Alain Lévy, three-time world champion, remembers: “We often went to play in China. We always arrived a few days early to have sufficent time to get acquainted with the place, to deal with the jet lag.” During the entire competition, too, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “For me, a dinner without wine is not a dinner. But during a competition, it is forbidden to drink!”, recognizes the player who declares “to enter into religion” when the tournament begins. For this regular guest at big championships this means every day the same bedtime, the same wake-up time, the same breakfast and, before going to play, a long energizing walk. Rituals that allow him to stay in his bubble. “If my wife also comes (she is also a top class player who has been a member of the French Women’s team) she knows I won’t talk to her,” he warns, “I have to stay focused on bridge, and nothing else”.

Baptiste Combescure on the other hand needs to have breaks during a championship, to think about something other than bridge. The young champion therefore allows himself some “getaways”: “When I’m not playing, I will go for a swim or I connect to social networks and read messages of encouragement. But in any case, I avoid watching the other matches.”

Others take revitalizing naps when they sit out a match; this is the case of Michel Bessis who played a large number of nternational matches in his life: “Between two matches, I will lie down, like that I get all my energy back”. For him, no need for long speeches to be at his best, but he has a motto that he repeated over and over to the French women’s team when he was their captain for the first time: “No sun, no rosé”.

What is the average number of cards a participant must measure during an event?
The answer is 30,000 cards!

A team effort

And because bridge is not played alone, the preparation is not solo either. The right understanding within the pair is essential. Discussions, fine-tuning – you have to know the strengths and weaknesses of your partner in order to best react in the best possible way when faced with difficulties.

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