For many athletes, the most anxious time they experience in sports is just moments before game time when their nervous energy spikes, oftentimes resulting in debilitating anxiety, poor focus, and scattered thinking. In these instances mental toughness quickly goes out the window and the athlete is left in a very challenging position – either quickly regain focus and confidence, or deal with the negative symptoms of anxiety that usually lead to choking. It is for this reason that pre-game routines are vitally important to mental toughness and athletic success (Sport Success 360).
Fortunately, athletes almost always have control over the unique things they do before games, whether its stretching, using imagery to see the first few plays in their mind, or listening to a specific song that helps them with focus and confidence. The key for athletes is to leave the locker room as they head out to the field having the best, most positive attitude that they can possibly create. While some athletes do in fact take control of their surroundings and engage in a proactive, positive pre-game routine, many others do not and instead succumb to the pressures of the unknown (i.e. the opponent, the crowd, etc.).
When I work with athletes I remind them that attitude is a choice, and by being proactive and doing things pre-game that make them feel good is a huge first step toward athletic success. Unfortunately, many athletes do not develop a pre-game routine, and instead leave themselves wide open to react to situational variables, which not only negatively impacts focus, but also elevates nervous energy.
Remind the athletes in your life the importance of developing a unique pre-game routine that helps them with their attitude, confidence, and focus. Keep in mind there is no “wrong” way to do this, the key is to go through an individual plan that helps with body and mind preparation. For many athletes, having specific music ready to listen to, goals to review, and some sort of stretching/muscle relaxation techniques are ideas that have been proven to work. Also, remind them that since their pre-game routine is an experience that they create, it is inexcusable to leave the locker room unprepared and with a poor attitude. While they may not have the most talent, they can always be ready to play with confidence, sharp focus, and a positive attitude!
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