by Lisa Berman, TEAM USA, St. Louis, MO
Feb 28, 2019
The following are excerpts from emails sent by Lisa Berman to the State Team members in March of 2018 as they prepared for the World Sport Stacking Championships. Coaches and stackers training for any event might find the information useful.
Preparing for World Sport Stacking Championships
Part One-4 Weeks Out
This will be my 4th World Sport Stacking Championships. I have learned a lot about competing in this event just by experience and wanted to share that experience with all of you so that you can enter this competition feeling as prepared as you can be.
Here is the big picture in terms of the mindset I believe you should have to do your best at Worlds:
Training 4 weeks out:
Example: My personal bests are 2.3, 3.1 and 8.7 and while I would hold 3 world records if I could get those times in competition, it is just not where I am today for competition reality. My consistency goals in a comp training are 2.6, 3.4 and 9.5. See the difference? I can only get those personal bests inconsistently, but those consistency goals I really can get when I do my best focused stacking. When I get those consistency goals down, I reduce them by a tenth of a second at a time. Right now, I’m kind of stuck on those, but I’ll keep working on it!
Obviously, parents will have to paraphrase all this for the youngest stackers, but I think these notes will put everyone on a path to confident successful stacking at Worlds.
Part Two-3 Weeks Out
I love the book Michael’s Golden Rules. If you’ve never read it, it is a picture book written by Michael Jordan’s mom and sister (I think) and is all about being a good sport and a good athlete. I’ve attached a photo from the book.
The two athletes in the story are baseball players and not having a very good season. They seek some advice from an older adult who was also a strong athlete. Here is the advice:
1. Know the game.
2. Pay attention to the coach at all times.
3. Know your opponent.
4. Be a team player.
5. Practice a winning attitude.
6. Find out what you do best.
7. Find out what you need to work on.
8. Practice, practice, practice.
9. Learn from your mistakes.
10. Have fun!
All this is relevant to sport stacking and being at World Sport Stacking Championships. Each number below relates to a “golden rule” above.
1. You all know our sport well enough to be involved in it at an international level. Parents, if you feel like you need to understand the sport better, I encourage you to read the WSSA Rule Book.
2. Please read my emails and give my advice some thought. If something I put doesn’t feel like it will work for you, that’s okay. As long as you consider it and figure out what works for you, that’s the same thing.
3. Know your opponent. To get an understanding of what to expect at Worlds, you could look at the 10th place prelim times at Worlds, Asian Opens and JO’s for the past few years in your age division. This is not definitive of the times that will make finals, but can give you an idea of what might be true. This can be discouraging to some stackers so try not to hang your success on those numbers. It’s just a way to understand the field of stackers. It is okay to check that out 3 weeks out, but then forget those numbers and go back to last week’s advice where I said not to focus on making finals.
4. Be a team player. This will be important especially when practicing for relays and doubles. The teams that work well together and encourage each other will be more relaxed and more successful. So,
5. Practice a winning attitude. ‘Nuf said.
6. Find out what you do best. HOMEWORK: Reflect on this during practice this week. Use this as a way to boost your confidence.
7. Find out what you need to work on. MORE HOMEWORK: What are your weak areas? Spend more time on that this week. I’ll give some ideas below of what might be areas of concern for all stackers.
8. Practice, practice, practice…comp trainings and finals practice. See more below.
9. Learn from your mistakes. What has gone well for you this season? What do you wish you had done differently? Now is the time to consider your weaknesses from past competitions and see what you can do to improve your performance.
10. Have fun! I want everyone to leave Worlds feeling like it was one of the best experiences they have had. Your “winning attitude” can help ensure this outcome.
Training goals for this week:
1. Comp trainings. As you complete comp trainings, have a goal of getting at least 2 times you are happy with out of 3. It seems that often stackers get 1 out of 3 and call that a success. Being consistent enough to get 3 out of 3 similar times is super, but we know everyone has fumbles. Going for 2/3 in each event during your comp trainings is a great goal to build consistency.
2. Finals practice. Lots of stackers do comp trainings like prelims, but I don’t hear of many doing Finals practice. Really focus on one stack at a time (3-3-3, then 3-6-3, then cycle) as if you are in all 3 finals. Practice 3-3-3 for 10 minutes then complete 2 practices and 3 attempts, then move on to practicing the 3-6-3 for a bit and then do your 3-6-3 “finals” and then the cycle. Reflect on how this is the same or different from your comp trainings. In which type of practice are you more consistent? Work on whichever you are weaker.
3. Consistency training sheet. I’ve sent this to some of you before. Imagine if we only got 1 attempt in our sport. Lots of sports are like that. This sheet takes you through comp trainings where you only get 1 attempt, then 2 attempts and then 3. How would you approach your prelims or finals if you only had one attempt? If you fumble on or scratch your first 2 attempts, it’s the same thing. Use this sheet to practice your best stacking in 1 attempt, then 2, then all 3. When you got all 3, how many were ones you’d be happy to get. (see #1)
4. Don’t throw away an attempt. I see some stackers finish their stack that they know will not be faster than a previous attempt with a mess of crashing cups. I see this on YouTube and in competition. Do not end any stack this way IN PRACTICE OR IN COMPETITION! You need to end every attempt with a clean finish. I know one of the stacks might fall afterwards, but you should never intentionally cause the scratch with an unclean finish. What you see as a catastrophe not worthy of salvaging might be less catastrophic than one of your opponent’s attempts. Always practice a strong finish in case that is the one that is better than someone else’s imperfect attempt.
Part Three- One Week Until Orlando!
Training plan for this week:
This week is all about confidence! What can you confidently do?
You need to do LOTS of comp trainings and think about different scenarios.
-How will you handle your three attempts?
-What if you are not happy with your first 2 attempts?
I get asked a lot about how to handle nerves at the table. My favorite book to understand about handling nerves in competition is called The Inner Game of Tennis. Since I can't really cover the book here, this is how I summarized it recently for another stacker:
I might have said this before, but I also suggest never using your timer at the on deck table or during your 2 warm ups. Make the focus in those moments the stacking and not the time.
Part Four-This is the Week!
This week is all about comp trainings! You should know by now what you can confidently accomplish at the competition table. Keep preparing to do your best stacking!