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  • Writer's pictureBen Carnes

How To Get In The Right Mindset Before A Game

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

Are you feeling nervous, anxious, or stressed about your upcoming game? Do you feel like you're not in the right mindset to play your best? Coaches and athletes pour an incredible amount of time and preparation into their training, but if you cannot play at your best when that big moment arrives, it can lead to frustration and even decreased confidence in your ability to win. If you mental game isn't where you want it to be leading up to game day, you are not alone. Many athletes feel this way before a big game. But the good news is that through some mental preparation you can reduce anxiety and boost your performance!

Understand the reaction of your mind and body

Before we get too far into the world of sports psychology and performance, it is important to have a basic understanding of how your mind and body will react to high-pressure situations.

Example #1: 1+1= ___

If you can read this sentence, you know the answer to that problem. You don't have to think about it, the answer simply comes automatically.

Example #2: If you were stepping off of the sidewalk into the street and a car suddenly laid on its horn, you would most likely jump back instantly out of instinct.

You would not have to think about it. You would not have time to think about it. Your mind would control your body to keep you safe. After this, you would feel the physical effects like a racing heart rate and probably muscle tension, muscle weakness, or trembling knees.

Example #3: Right now, you are not paying attention to what the bottom of your feet feel like, but if you wiggle your toes, your brain will pay attention to that.

Your brain is constantly deciding what it will pay attention to and what it will ignore. If your brain were not able to do this, you would be overwhelmed with sensory overload consistently.

So what? How does this make a significant impact on my pregame feelings? Because once you more completely understand what is going on, you can more effectively take back control.

These three examples point to 3 things you need to know about your brain:

  1. Your brain can do things quickly and automatically without thinking or hesitation

  2. Your brain has the ability to cause physical changes in your body

  3. You do not always consciously decide what to pay attention to and what to ignore

This is not just limited to math problems or honking horns. Your brain is going to think about things automatically...maybe something like, "this is a big game, and I don't want to let my teammates down." Your brain has the ability to cause physical changes in your body...such as a racing heart, tense muscles, sweaty palms, and butterflies in your stomach. You do not always pay attention to the right rather than preparing for how we will play at our best, we can get caught up worrying about worst-case scenarios.

If this is you, the good news is that you do not have to stay stuck here! You can take back control of your mind and body! Your mind and body react pretty much the same in everyday life as they do on game day, so once you can learn how to take back control, you will be able to do so much more consistently-including during your pregame routine.

Also realize that feeling excited or nervous is not a bad thing! Having a bit of extra adrenaline can actually help you