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Bringing Your A-Game When Needed

Stew smith

What Does It Mean to Bring Your "A-Game"

Bringing your A-Game on big events is nothing new for many of us who have had to rally to get a project completed, push through the 4th quarter of a ballgame, or accomplish a challenging goal like spec ops selection. Regardless of the goal, you may have had to push through fatigue, hit a personal record (PR) for a win, and overcome a high stress moment or series of moments. In the end, it comes down to  your mindset going into such events as the following: 

For instance, prior to a job interview, a presentation, a test of any sort, the finish line of a race, or challenging selection event, being in the right mindset going in matters. If you spent significant time preparing and now it is GO TIME, you have to understand that what is about to happen means you have to bring it or your opportunities may end with poor performance or failure. 

Can You Handle Changes? 

Many candidates see their first taste of procedure changes during their first PST. Some rules for the swim, pushups, situps, pullups, and even the run can frustrate a candidate especially if they had trained and self-tested a different way. Be prepare for "arbitrary" rules changes or venue changes when taking the PST or other tests and crush it regardless of how you have to take the test.  If the instructor requires no mask or goggles - suck it up. IF the run is not on a track but on a road .75 miles in one direction and .75 miles back - do it as needed without worry or any sign of frustration. Bringing your A Game means perform at your highest standards regardless of the situation or who is judging your performance. 

Wet and Sandy - Getting wet and sandy when you are dry is something that can make the most physically fit person in the class change their mind about their dream job. There may be a handful of dry days at BUDS out of six months and once you understand that you can set your mindset for just expecting to be wet, cold, and sandy every day. Realizing it takes 2-3 hours to drip dry from a morning wet and sandy session can be something to look forward to perhaps, but most of time, you will be starting and finishing your day wet. Understanding that this is the standard and you have to endure it is part of the journey. Your
A-Game attitude and ability to stay focused and unphased by the uncomfortable days and nights is what you need to endure the hardship in front of you. A Game is really more about attitude than anything else. 

Treading - If you are lean, you will find treading is an event that requires you to "bring your A-Game". I have seen many people not take treading seriously and fail a 10 minute tread test and panic even though they are normally comfortable in the water. The problem is they did not expect treading to be so hard. If you go into a treading test knowing it absolutely sucks and is a put out evolution, you have the right mindset and will not be surprised by the challenge. You can rbing your A-Game to the event and the next time you can pass it because you are mentally ready to embrace the suck that is treading. Practice treading and know it requires you to put out and bring your A Game.

Running - My personal weakness as I started this Spec Ops wanna-be journey was running. In order for me to get TO and THROUGH training, I needed to up my game with running. But also embrace the mental part of it as well. I worked hard for about 2 years to become a better runner but even then to be competitive in the class, it required me to "bring my A-game".  A 7-minute mile for 4 miles every week in boots, pants, tired legs required my focus in order to be in that zone to stay in the top 25% of the class and far away from the minimum standards. This meant I had to focus on my fuel prior, hydration, stretching, and yes my pre-game positive self talk that got me into the right state of mind to bring my A-game for every running event I had to do. 

Sure there were other events and tests that required similar mental preparation, but for me - nothing like running. Knowing that the next several minutes had to be a "put out evolution" was enough to get into the right state of mind prior to the event.  

Work on Weaknesses - During your preparation phase, you will have to put out and bring your A-Game especially for your first PST / IFT that earns you a contract. You may find one or more of the events of the test are easier than others (strengths) and your weaknesses can weigh you down. Bringing the right mindset into the testing day is helpful just as much as you preparing.  The more you practice the events of the test and the test itself, allows you to create a strategy to succeed and be at your best any given day. The combination of proper prepartion and game day mindset is how you prove to yourself that you have made a weakness into more of a strength. That will take you far in this journey. 

"Get Up - Keep Moving - Time to Find the Fuel when the Tank is Empty"

Work on Your Self Talk Game - You can use what are called "performance cues" to get yourself into the right state of mind prior to any challenge. Phrases like "Bring it", "Let's roll" or "It's go time" are all great to quickly say to yourself prior to testing but also when just working out or on anything you have to do. If you practice these sport psychology tips enough, you will find a state of being associated with them and can transfer to you in that moment when you need to perform. 

Rise to the Occasion or Bring Your A-Game? 

There is a saying that "you never rise to the occasion but you fall back to the lowest level of training." I agree especially when it comes to actual tactical proficiency, but you can find the missing 10-20% of fuel when the tank is empty by pushing perceived physical limitations and gain the mindset that gets you to and through the challenge in front of you.  

Related Articles on the Topic

Are You Mentally Ready? Special Ops Level Tactical Fitness Training Ideas for the future: 

Dont Let Them Get Into Your Head - Handle Negative Feedback

Determine Your Why, - When Your Will is Tested - Why Do You Want to do This? You better have an answer.

Twelve Questions / Answers About Mental Toughness

Quitting or Not Quitting - The Choice is YOURS  

Getting TO and THROUGH Training (Two Phases of Tactical Fitness)

Learn How to do Seasonal Periodization to Build Tactical Athlete Skills

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Who is Stew Smith? Coach, Trainer, Author, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that special ops candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

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