Maybe It’s Not Just Another Game

“It’s just another game.”

That’s usually the advice given to athletes before a big game. It’s a sentiment with good intentions – designed to relax the athlete before the big event.  I can remember telling my players (a few who were wide-eyed and nervous during pre-game) this before a soccer play-off game years ago.

But it wasn’t entirely accurate. While game between the lines might have been the same – I’m sure my players noticed that everything surrounding The Big Game was very different. The build-up to the game had more intense (the first playoff game in a few years for the soccer team). The game crowd was larger (the game had been moved to football stadium at the school). There was more at-stake with the game’s outcome (this was a loser-out game).

This got me thinking about how to help athletes before The Big Game. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts from a sport psychology perspective to consider:

The Don’ts:

Don’t wait until the night before or the morning of the game to think about how you want to play.

Don’t significantly change your physical training routine. More is not necessarily better – overtraining will interfere with your performance.

Don’t get involved in activities, events, or situations that are likely to lead to personal problems/conflicts/drama. This can be emotionally and physically draining. Try to get as much rest as possible.

Don’t get anxious about being anxious. It’s perfectly natural and normal to be nervous (in fact, it’s just your body getting physiologically ready for the game). Remember, it’s ok to be nervous – just don’t lose your nerve!

The Do’s:

Do trust your training and planning – confident athletes they’ve training hard and are prepared for this moment.

Do spend a little time each day leading up to The Big Game thinking and rehearsing how you want to perform in the game. Picture yourself making the play!

Do prepare mentally and physically for anything that might happen during the game. Effective performers have a plan before it hit the fan! Expect the unexpected – surprise can mean trouble if you don’t have a response ready.

Do dress to win. If it works to wear your blue shirt during warm-up, wear it! Superstition or not, if it helps, do it.

Do have fun and enjoy the challenge! This will help create positive energy and keep you relaxed during play.


1 Response to “Maybe It’s Not Just Another Game”

  1. 1 AHNaylor January 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Good thoughts on the “big game” phenomenon. It’s all about perception management and remembering as you mention “game between the lines might have been the same.”

    It would be remiss to suggest that some contests don’t feel “bigger” than others. Sounds like the art lies in enjoying the energy of the “big game,” while committing to consistent, quality… “normal” preparation to assure success between the lines.

    Discounting the emotion of the “big game” would take away from what is most loved about sport in the first place!

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