Big Game Blues: Don’t get too pumped up

Here’s a reprint of a story we did a long time ago for Student Sports Magazine designed for football players and their mental approach in the hours leading up to a big game.

It’s the big game of the season. Everybody in town will be there and that arch-rival school of yours scored that lucky win in last year’s big game.

It’s only hours before the game, now. You tell yourself you’re going to get so psyched to play hard that not even a brick wall will stand in your way. You also tell yourself not to think about anything else. Concentrate only on the game, and how you’re going to whip your opponent.

You’re now getting dressed in the locker room. You and your teammates are still psyching up for the game, and it’s time to hit the field. You scream and yell for about 10 minutes and then start going through your warm-up drills. Occasionally after one of your drills is completed, you can’t help but to butt helmets and crack the shoulder pads of your buddy. Then, just before the game begins, you and your teammates jump into a big pile. You’re so psyched to play that you feel there’s a fire raging inside you.

The game is now underway, but for some reason things aren’t going like you thought. That other school already has scored twice and you can’t seem to get enough of a push on that defensive end you’ve been trying to block. You start getting frustrated.

Your team never does seem to get untracked and your school loses the big game.

The loss is tough to explain. You and your team seemed so emotionally pumped up.

There is a possible explanation for poor individual and team performance, however, that involves the more correct mental preparation for a game. Performance studies over the years have shown that oo much pre-game thinking and too much pre-game activity might actually hinder what happens during intense competition.

The more correct course of action for pre-game mental preparation is to being by not thinking about the game. Instead, think about your family, your homework, or some other project. Do some visualizations where you see yourself in your mind being successful on certain plays, but don’t think too much about that game and cut down on some of the high fives and jibber-jabber until just before the kickoff.

By concentrating too much on the game before it starts, by jumping around and screaming an yelling too much, you’re actually activating a lot of adrenalin in your body. This is important to stress because when adrenalin goes up it then naturally will go back down. You don’t want to be on an increase one hour before the game and be on a decrease while the game is going on. That upward spike should be going on during the game.

This is not to state that you should be around your teammates during the few hours before a game. A certain Esprit de Corps definitely is important toward a winning attitude. You and your teammates simply have to be aware that too much thinking about a big big and getting too pumped up to play could actually be a negative influence on all of you.

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