Day 24: Game Day Routines
Helping Athletes, Coaches, and Teams Perform!
Game day is the culmination of weeks, months, or even years of hard work and preparation. As an athlete, you understand the importance of physical training and practice. But have you ever stopped to consider the impact of your mental state on your performance? Once you get to an elite level, more often than not, the mental game outweighs the physical side of competition. Especially when the pressure is on and our minds tend to run wild.
Your game day routine should not only involve physical preparation but also a strategic approach to your mental game. In this article, we will explore game day routines that can help you optimize your mental performance and achieve your best results.
Below are a number of considerations for your game day routines. Remember, each athlete’s routine is going to be unique to them so consider what goes into your routine and make sure you do the most important thing, connect the physical, mental, and cognitive (thinking skills) during your routines to enhance your performance, level up your game, be consistent and confident.
It's essential to have a proper pre-game meal and/or snack to ensure you have the fuel you need to power through the game. You should aim to eat at least 2-3 hours before the game to give your body time to digest the food properly. A balanced meal with protein, fiber, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates is ideal. It's also important to stay hydrated throughout the day by regularly drinking water.
For more on nutrition and nutritional psychology, check out our resource guide series and specifically our Athletic Nutrition & Nutritional Psychology 101 Guide below.
Start your game day with a mental rehearsal. Visualization is a powerful tool used by many elite athletes to enhance performance. Close your eyes and imagine yourself executing perfect plays, making crucial shots, or achieving your goals. This technique helps build confidence and reduces anxiety by making the game feel familiar.
Positive Self-Talk Routine
The way you speak to yourself on game day can significantly impact your performance. Replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk. For instance, instead of thinking, "I hope I don't mess up," say, "I am prepared and ready for this challenge." Positive self-talk boosts confidence and keeps you focused on success and creates a positive environment.
Develop a consistent pre-game routine that helps you get in the zone. This could include listening to motivating music, doing a specific warm-up routine, or engaging in calming activities like deep breathing exercises. A consistent routine signals to your brain that it's time to perform.
Set clear and achievable goals for the game. These goals should be specific, measurable, and realistic. Having a target to aim for can help you stay motivated and on track throughout the match.
Managing Performance Anxiety
It's natural to feel nervous before a game, but excessive anxiety can hinder your performance. Practice relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or mindfulness meditation to calm your nerves. Remember that a certain level of anxiety can be beneficial as it keeps you alert and focused.
Focus on the Present
During the game, concentrate on the present moment rather than dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about future outcomes. Focus on the task at hand and trust in your training and preparation. By staying focussed on the present you will be forced to be process oriented. For more on staying process focused, check out our previous article on Focus on the Process.
Stay Mentally Resilience
Understand that not every game will go as planned. Mental resilience is about bouncing back from setbacks. Learn from losses and use them as opportunities for growth. Stay positive and keep pushing forward.
After the game, take some time to reflect on your performance. Identify what went well and what needs improvement. Use this feedback to adjust your training and game day routines for future matches.
For more on game day preparation and routines, check out our Game Day Preparation Resource Guide.
Key Take Aways
Mental Preparation is Crucial: Mental preparation is just as important as physical training, yet as athletes we do not always give it the same amount of time. Visualization, positive self-talk, and relaxation techniques can help boost confidence, reduce anxiety, create a positive environment, and improve overall mental performance.
Consistency in Pre-Game Routines: Establishing a consistent pre-game routine is vital. This routine helps signal to your brain that it's time to perform and can contribute to a state of mental readiness. It connects the physical, mental, and cognitive.
Learn from Every Game: Embrace both wins and losses as opportunities for growth. Post-game evaluation is essential for improvement. Reflecting on what went well and what needs work allows athletes to adjust their training and game day routines for future matches, fostering a continuous improvement mindset through self-awareness.