PREPARING FOR COMPETITION
Separation by preparation. I am sure this is a phrase most of you have heard before either by coaches, teammates, parents, or someone close to you. The key to being successful in big games is in the preparation. Winning is a habit and to develop the habit, you need to prepare yourself mentally and physically for competition.
The best part of playing sports is playing in big games. Whether the game is an elimination/playoff game or a game in the middle of season, the excitement is always intense or at least should be.
Competition is what drives us as athletes. It also teaches us to perform well in the face of challenges.
Here are six tips to help you get ready for a big game:
Visualization can be a very useful tool for all types of athletes. The night before your big game, think about what you want to do during the game. Imagine the shot you want to take, the pass you want to deliver, and the defense you want to play. Think about your role on the team and what you hope to do to help your teammates. Every player can think of a time that they were disappointed with their performance in a game. Decide how you can avoid your previous mistakes and play better the next day. On the other hand, imagine the best goal, shot or play you’ve ever made and how you can recreate it. Everyone makes in-game mistakes but it is how you learn from them that will separate you from the competition.
Everyone knows the importance of sleep. Try to get between eight or even nine hours of sleep the night before your game to rest your body and mind. Sometimes it's hard to sleep when you are excited about the game, but experiment with different methods to find out what works for you.
No, loading up on 3 cups of coffee or an energy drink before the game is not the strategy elite athletes use to fuel themselves nor is it sustainable. Food is energy.
Everything you put into your body in the 24 hours before competition will influence how you play. For example, Carbohydrates (pasta and grains) are very important because they provide long-term energy. Hockey is an endurance sport, carbohydrates will help you skate for longer without tiring. Stay away from fatty and fried foods. Also, you should avoid eating large meals within four hours of your hockey game; you want to be fully digested by the time you take the field.
The importance of stretching cannot be stressed enough. You should begin stretching the day before the big game.
Tight muscles are responsible for countless injuries that are easily avoidable.
Thoroughly stretch your legs after practice, before you go to bed, and after your pre-game warm-up. Note that stretching is more effective when your muscles are already warm. Remember if we are injured we won’t be able to perform on the ice, which will hinder our goals. Please refer to my previous article about proper pre-performance stretching if there any questions regarding this.
The best athletes in the world have specific routines that they follow every game day. You don’t need a precise ritual, but consider using at least some form of routine for each game. Not only does this discipline put you in the zone before each game, it also helps you avoid being affected by outside distractions.
To play to your full potential, you should speak with your coach before the game. Your coach can tell you what he or she expects of you and what you should expect of yourself. A good coach can give you the extra push that you need to be successful in the game, and will have experience and insight that you might not yet have. This is a good time to go over in game scenarios or plays that you might not understand as well or want to review.
The Bottom Line
If you properly prepare yourself for big games, you will be much more successful in each of them. Fuel your body properly, light workouts/warm-ups, dynamic stretching, the right amount of rest, and going of game plans/film will allow yourself to be physically and mentally for performance. As always please feel free to contact me with any questions at Jacob.Alberts@irgpt.com