The big game is just weeks, days or hours away, but your palms become sweaty and your mind races every time you think of stepping on to the court or field. You’re excited about the day finally comes, and you’re using that drive you to train as hard as you can. BUT you want to make sure you focus that energy effectively and ensure you are the best player you can be on game day.
What are the best ways to get psyched up before a big game?
How can you channel those nervous jitters and transform them into focus and precision on game day?
Here are some research-backed tips for how to make sure you have the best mindset for your next big competition.
(By the way, if you want to read more about the science behind “getting psyched up” in sports, scroll down to the end of the article).
Here are some other articles for youth athletes that you might be interested in:
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- Teaching teenager athletes to be coachable
- How much sleep does youth athletes need?
- Summer football soccer camps
How to Get Psyched Before a Game – 7 Tips
1.Find a routine
Have you ever seen Lebron James do his famous pre-game “chalk toss”? Or did you know that Curtis Martin reads from the Bible to calm his mind before each game? Or that Rafael Nadal has to walk on to the court with a racket in his hand, eat an energy gel and drink his hydration drink in the exact same way each time?
Pre-game routines, which sometimes look more like rituals, help you get into the right mindset before a game. Find what calms you, motivates you or provides you with the direct focus that helps you perform best before a big game.
While you might have your own rituals, try creating some team rituals as well! Participating in pre-game routines as a team also helps to improve performance and create a positive team culture.
Imagining yourself making those free-throws, scoring those goals or taking the right steps to dodge and weave through the defensive line could have a significant impact on your actual performance during the game.
A study carried out by professors at the University of Tennessee found that a positive imagery exercise for free-throw shooting with basketball players before a game had a significant positive impact on the number of free-throws made during the game.
3.Listen to someone who motivates you
Motivational pre-game speeches from your coach can be useful, but you have to be connected and inspired by what they say. If you don’t always feel inspired by your trainer’s inspirational pre-game words, spend some time watching or listening to famous motivational speeches online delivered by players or coaches you admire.
As you get prepared for a game, watch the video to get motivated. Imagine that they are giving the speech to you, and focus on each phrase and message that the speaker is trying to deliver.
4.Positive and instructional “self-talk”
Cut out phrases like “I’m going to fail”, or “I’m going to miss my shot” from your thoughts in the lead up to the game.
Instead, only allow positive and instructional self-talk. Instructional self-talk helps you revisit tactics and techniques that lead to better performances, while positive self-talk can boost your confidence. Both can help you perform better during competition.
If you are having trouble eliminating negative self-talk from your internal dialogue, start by having a deliberate instructional self-talk session out loud. When you have a moment to yourself, revisit the techniques you have practiced over and over during your training sessions and say them out loud.
Once you feel comfortable with instructional self-talk, only allow yourself to say positive things about your abilities and your performance. Include what you see when you visualize yourself succeeding.
Right before a game, some athletes run the risk of letting their bodies become passive. This is often the case if you have to take a bus to where you need to go, or if you have been on the sidelines before getting on to the court or field.
Keep your body active, and your body and mind will match their excitement.
Try drumming along to your favorite songs, doing jumping jacks, jogging or walking at a brisk pace. Pair these activities with some of the positive and instructional “self-talk” methods mentioned above and you’ll be ready for the performance of a lifetime!
6.Put together a playlist
Are you someone who tends to get nervous or anxious before a big game? Try listening to some music.
A study carried out by scientists in India found that music therapy helped to reduce stress before competitions, as measured by the hormone cortisol.
The trick is to make a playlist that calms your nerves before a game. If you are having trouble putting one together, try listening to this song, which Mindlab International showed can reduce anxiety by up to 65%!
Note that it might be a good idea to only keep this song in your back pocket if you find you have too much nervous energy. If you aren’t nervous, the song might calm you down too much, and you’ll end up feeling sleepy!
If you aren’t feeling nervous, try listening to a “pump-up” playlist with a song you love that will help keep you energetic and focused.
7.Find a role model
Is there a special athlete you look up to? Is there someone who motivates you to be the best athlete you can be? Is there a player on a team that you love to watch play? Do you try to integrate some of the moves you see your role model do into your own playing style? Role models are a reminder of the possibilities of what you can achieve in your athletic career.
Role models help to cement the belief that you can be successful in your current competitive place, as well as in the future. In fact, finding a role model with whom you identify could significantly influence your success in sports in general.
Remember that finding a role model doesn’t mean you want to become them. A role model is someone who inspires you and who has qualities you aspire to have. However, you should always continue to be your own person – find your own style on the field, and own it. Having role-models can motivate you when things start to get tricky.
Remember, role models don’t have to be famous athletes. The advantage of having role models you know personally is that you can get advice from them, and they can give you personalized messages of motivation.
Sports Psychology: How “Getting Psyched up” Improves Athletic Performance
The whole idea of “getting psyched up” implies being in the right mental state to perform at the optimal level. In other words, it refers to the power the mind has to help us play the best we can on the field or court. This tells us that we need to train our bodies as well as our minds when preparing for a competition.
Believe it or not, there is a significant connection between your state of mind (thoughts, feelings and ability to focus) and your performance. There is an entire field of psychology dedicated to this called “sports psychology”. This field has skyrocketed in popularity over the past several years because research has shown how important it is to be mentally prepared before a game, and to maintain the right mindset throughout competition.
In fact, studies show how mental health has a significant impact on an athletes’ success in sport; up to 85% of athletes can be deemed as successful or unsuccessful after measuring their mood and personality structure.
Some factors, like; setting goals, visualization and routine all have an impact on athletic performance – and all three of these elements are separate from training on the field, and have everything to do with getting into the right mindset – “getting psyched up”.
Being the best player you can be on the field or court isn’t just about putting time into practice and training. You also need to pay attention to what is happening in your brain. Getting into the right mindset has a significant impact on how well you do on the field during big games.
These seven research-backed tips will help you get psyched up before a game. Remember, however, that everyone has their own unique routines and rituals to help them feel confident, focused and directed before a game, and maintaining that mentality throughout the competition. If you haven’t found yours yet, start experimenting!
If you are struggling with getting into the right mindset, talk to your coach or teammates about your worries. Ask them for tips on how they get psyched up before a game. If you feel like your internal challenges go beyond anything you can discuss with your teammates or coach, consider talking to a counselor or therapist. A counselor will help you take meaningful steps towards improving your mental health, which will result in benefits both on the field and in your life in general.
Are you ready for your big game yet? You are going to kill it on the field!