Pre­-Game Mental Hacks to Get You and Your Team’s Mind Right

November 24, 2015
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Guest Post by CoachBase

Here at Coachbase, we’re big on preparation.  Having been to hundreds of game, we know it’s often as much mental as it is physical.  Here are 5 habits of highly successful youth coaches that will ensure that you and your players will be 100% focused for the big day.

  1. Have a set routine (mental and physical) before each game

Whether you’re going up against the state champions or playing a friendly game, it’s important to prep the same way before each game to avoid adding to player’s nerves.  Your routine starts from the practice before the game. Only use a small percentage of your time to work on your weakness. It’s like cramming in school, if you haven’t gotten it the practice before the game, you’re not going to get it then. Instead, focus the team’s strengths and running drills your team is good at. Whether it’s running through each of your offensive plays or playing half court 3 on 3, keep it the same to build your players’ confidence.  A word of advice: tapering (i.e running an easier practice to let your player’s bodies recover) is recommended for better performance, so it might be wise to lay off the conditioning workouts if you want your team to be fresh for the game. Your players also should get plenty of sleep.

  1. Give yourself time for the unexpected

Preparing for the unexpected is the old cliché, however, realistically that's not always possible.  Aim to show up at least an hour early to the game facility gives yourself enough time to make adjustments if need be. Don’t compromise your player's routines at any cost!  No balls to warm up with?  Don't worry you've got enough time to sort it out and run the team’s pre­-game prep.

  1. Know your responsibilities before you set out

Everyone in your team, from your players to your assistants should know exactly what's expected of them from game day.  Sometimes, its a good idea to give your players set chores to do, such as sorting equipment and drinks carrying.  This can infuse a sense of responsibility and take their mind off worrying about the game.  Be consistent where you put all the important stuff like ID's and jerseys so you're not panicking last minute before the game.

  1. Stay calm in the pre-­game talk

Kids are generally naturally excited for a big game so trying to give them a passionate talk to make them "fired up" can sometimes make them more nervous.  Instead, try to stay calm, focusing on encouraging the players to give their maximum effort. Know that praising a child for their effort is way more beneficial for them than commenting on the outcome of the play. Make concise, clear points about what they have to do during the game.  As a coach, your job right now is about controlling their emotions so they can be in the best frame of mind to play.

  1. Encourage team visualization

Visualization is a technique used by most professional athletes to help reduce nerves and focus a player's mind.  As it's a complicated technique and if you want to know more, go to blog.coachbase.com for my other blog post, but for now know this: setting aside a quiet moment in your locker room before the game so that players can close their eyes and reflect is often highly beneficial amongst the frenetic atmosphere before a game.

I hope that after reading this article you'll be able to take these five pre-­game mental hacks and use them to improve your team's pre­game preparations.

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Coachbase is the maker of the Basketball Practice Planner.  This app will help coaches plan practice in 7s or less.  With drills from coaches like Dell Curry and practice templates from six­-time USA Basketball gold medalist head coach Don Showalter.  You’re bound to learn something useful.  Check out how it works here and download the app from the itunes store here.   

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