Game day preparation isn’t all stretches and drills. While a lot of people tend to focus on the physical aspects of the game, it is definitely worth your while as a player to focus on the mental aspects in your preparation routines. If you neglect it you can end up being distracted, and even if it doesn’t happen to affect you personally, it can affect your team, and when you affect your team in a negative fashion, it will end up affecting you individually and can lead to things like being benched, or even sent home for a game.
If you are going into a week pregame and you have some major events in your life, good or bad, get them off your chest. If you have it swirling in your head it will distract you in one way or another, or at the very least cause a delay in your reaction time. When you go into a game you need to clear your head and keep your mind on game related things only. This isn’t to say that you have to forget about things that are important to you, or that you are to forget about personal matters, it’s just best to temporarily put them on the back burner so that you can concentrate.
If you need some time to just clear your head, without any fancy breathing techniques or work out methods, just sit in a room, dark or light, and relax. This allows you to get these thoughts worked out, it allows you to clear your head, and allows you to just take a moment and be alone with your thoughts. Too often these days we don’t take enough “me” time because we are too busy and put it to the back burner for far too long.
If you find yourself tense, and have things bottled up inside, you could do one of a few things to release some of that pent up tension. You can drink some water and just sit and relax, this will allow you to gear down a bit and release some of the tension.
If you find that isn’t working, a quick work-out may assist you in burning off some of your bottled up feelings. If you just ignore your emotions and let them bottle up inside, you will reach a critical point in which you will just become mentally exhausted. Much like physical exhaustion you will just be worn right out, and will be playing at a fraction of your normal play. You will now be focused and you will not be in your grade A playing shape.
If you find yourself in a situation in your day to day life that just has you up in arms mentally to the point that you are losing sleep, or just need to take care of things before you get back to playing, make sure to let your coach know. Some people will try to just ignore it and play through thinking that it will go away or they can just forget about it. Bottling up problems and emotions is just like hiding injuries, it just gets worse.
Photo credit: Zach Klein