Sam Pratt

The Lonely Game

Sam Pratt
The Lonely Game

It’s that time again. The training, preparation and dedication now boils down to this moment. The margin for error is slim to none. The countdown of the timer syncs with your rapidly increasing heartbeat. The matting can be a lonely place. You try to isolate your thoughts and by doing so block everything out. This leaves you alone to do your thing, lost in a space of empty thought and determination where you can only rely on yourself.

The pressure is on. You find yourself alone in front of a crowd, eagerly anticipating spectators. You're also confronted with problems designed to separate and divide the field. This, combined, can have one of two effects.

Either you are an individual who relishes this opportunity and takes such pressures in your stride, using it as a mechanism to perform at your very best—or you are the complete opposite. The vulnerability, pressure and level of expectation can hinder you, affecting your decision making and your ability to shut off and totally focus on the task in hand. For many, that feeling of vulnerability and isolation is overwhelming. The spotlight is on you and only you can control the outcome of your performance.

At this level, 100% precision and composure can only be achieved by momentarily leaving behind everything, shaking off the pressure and finding that balance of adrenaline and control. Some are born with this mentality, but for others it is something that can only be achieved through experience. You adapt to the incredibly intense environment of competition climbing. Those who can obtain this will appear relaxed and in control, welcoming them into a headspace gaining an advantage over other competitors.

Dealing with failure or unsatisfactory results is something all athletes in any sporting discipline will learn. There is nothing worse than coming to the end of a competition not feeling satisfied, making it extremely easy to focus on negatives, leaving you asking questions of your preparations, ability and performance.

“Have I been doing the right things?”

“Am I good enough?”

“Did I really give it my all?”

Placing yourself in a position where you are putting it all on the line against other people and showcasing your ability is a frightening prospect. You have nowhere to hide. It takes courage and dedication to actively seek and apply yourself to a situation that can either leave you feeling successful, satisfied and rewarded or disheartened and often almost embarrassed or ashamed of your performance. It is that make-or-break scenario that makes competition climbing what it is and what separates the best from the bunch. Expectations can not always be met and this is something that is easy to dwell on, asking the same questions of yourself over and over again. In reality, its more productive to take from it what you can and to come back from it as best you can.

After all—there’s always next year, eh?

Climber, photographer and creator from Northern England