Walking to the field eating chips while on Instagram your pre game preparation? Good luck then, the only thing you'll be doing professionally is watching highlights of games on YouTube. Preparation proceeds excellence, and training your body and mind in the same way before each performance allows your pre game preparation to become more systematic and routine like. If repetition is the father or learning then routine is his father. Setting a stable routine that gets yourself at its optimal working condition allows for repetition within that routine and consistent outcomes. Before your head spins off and you start bleeding from the ears trying to understand all that, remember it also takes time to train these pre performance routines.
Soooooooo what's the magic perfect pre game performance routine that will get you playing your absolute best every single time you step out on the pitch!?! (DRUMROLLL PLEASEEEEE)
Sorry to break it to you, there is no ONE perfect routine that works for everybody, you need to find out what works for YOU! You need to tinker with what gets you where you need to be, and that will be different for us all. What gets Frankie revved up may make Johnny nervous and what gets Mikey focused may relax Timmy too much. With that in mind you need to find and play with what works for you, and thinking you're going to figure it out in a game or two or a month or two is setting yourself up for failure. It takes time, patience, confidence and reflection to understand what level of arousal you need to maintain going into a match.
Your pre game preparation up to this point may have had you walking off the pitch asking yourself questions like:
"I don't get it, one day I play great, the next I couldn't do anything right, it's not like I've changed as a player over night, what's my issue?"
"Man I was so ready to go last week, but this week I'm just not feeling it for some reason, what's that all about?
But of course as always, in case you need a little jump start, here are some that are used at the college and professional levels.
1) Listening to music that pumps you up
2) Listening to music that calms you and relaxes you
3) Going for a walk and clearing your head
4) Reading self affirmations back to yourself
5) Keeping loose by joking around with a close friend
6) Calling and talking to people who are close to you mom/dad/brother/girlfriend
7) Picturing your every move on the field in a quiet spot
9) Reading a self confidence letter back to yourself
10) Playing video games
Again these are just examples, trying some of these mixed with your own ideas will get you on the right initial track.
Before I found my pre game routine at the college level I was at the end of my 3rd year after experimenting for close to that long with it. By the time I started playing professionally in Europe I thought I had it figured out but again it evolved as I played at a higher level. That means that your pre game routine after you have it set in stone may change here or there based on how you develop as a person and player.
Every pro has a pre performance routine or some sort of pre game preparation they go through. Some very serious others laid back and everywhere in between. What works for you will take some trial and error, but it's important to remember the steps you went through prior to the game when you were successful and not so successful. At first it will be hit or miss, but eventually as you start to gain a better understanding of what elevates your game you will start to see the picture more clearly. It takes time so think of it as a work in progress.
Well it did take me some time to get it just right like any part of my game but I got it to the point where my performance became constantly outstanding. You need to be patient and understand just like any part of your game it will take time to slowly improve after you put the work in, evaluate how effective it is and adjust as necessary. To give you an idea of the steps I took to get mine just right feel free to read through all the steps I took before getting it just right. This one may not be right for you but you will get an idea of the detail and variety of things I would do to get myself in the right mental and physical state before playing.
So first I'd usually give myself about 45min prior to the game to start my routine, the first 15 I would walk into the change room and mess about with the guys a bit having a laugh or two.
Then I would slowly get changed keeping to myself mostly, for about 5 minutes.
After I got changed I'd start reading two pages of quotes I developed from players and coaches I've been with that have said something that stuck with me (compliments, inspiring words etc). Took about 5 minutes.
I'd put on this one song (no Elton John hits here) that really raised my arousal level to the right point. I'd read these over then I had a self affirmation letter i wrote to myself that I'd read at that time, twice if I needed to. 10 Minutes
After that I'd start pumping up my teammates with some words, "you're gonna terrorize them today" etc. 5 minutes worth.
One last look at my locker, a look at some pictures of my family, 5 more minutes there. Tell myself "Here's your chance, take it" and I was off.
Right nothing fancy about my pre game preparation but got me ready to perform and I did that every time before every match and it worked for me. Yours may have more or less steps, again you need to find our what is true for you.
Now it's your turn to find out what it is you need to do to get ready for battle.
First you need a bigger sample size, a one off of anything doesn't prove much but you want to take the themes from a large sample of games. Use you pre game preparation routine on at least 3 games and then evaluate how well you played and more importantly how it made you feel while you're playing. If in those three games you just felt awful, lethargic and unfocused then scrap the whole thing, if there were moments you felt good and others not so good look to make slight adjustments. Change just one thing at a time so you know what the difference maker is or isn't, if you change everything every time you won't know what pieces of your routine worked and which didn't. Be sure to review your pre game preparation after every game and write down exactly how you felt before, during and after the game and try and rate that feeling on a scale of 1 to 10. Once you've done that then change one thing for the next set of 3 games and slowly you will be keeping and shedding those things that work and those that don't until you have the perfect pre game preparation routine that works best for you.
Really consider adding a low stress exercise to your daily pre game preparation routine. Not only will it help to loosen up your body and make your feel great physically the benefits of it mentally are even more important. A morning walk, stretch, yoga, mediation or light touches on the ball can put your mind at ease and prepare your mind and body for battle, follow the videos below if you need some exercises.
The days (not just the night before) leading up to a match you should get good consistent nights of sleep. They say 8-10 hours is ideal, during the day of the match if it is an evening or later afternoon match look to get in a 30minute nap as well, nothing more or you might get that groggy feeling.
Other sleeping tips for your pre preparation include:
-Try and go to sleep and get up and the same times
-Put your phone on the other side of the room
-An hour before you go to bed turn the lights low, get off any screen (phone, tv, laptop etc)
-Close all blinds and windows, the darker the room the better
-The ideal sleeping temperature in a room is 18.3 Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit), try get as close to that as possible
-Get to bed before midnight, they say every hour before midnight is like sleeping two hours after it
Your pre game preparation needs to have all sorts of boxes checked from sleep, stretching, clearing your head and of course the fuel you put inside your body aka food. As an athlete you should be eating healthy all the time but here are a few things you should be thinking about as you approach your game. If you want a full guide feel free to read this Nutrition For A Soccer Player Guide.
24 to 48 Hours Before - You want to prepare the body to be able to go to its reserves throughout a match so having a variety of carbs is important to start taking in. Such things as pastas, rice, vegetables, chicken etc are great examples of food that will help you perform at your best a night or two out.
Morning Of - EAT BREAKFAST! If you skip breakfast now and again I get it, but not on the day of the match. As soon as you get up try and have a full healthy breakfast that will jump start your metabolism nice and early and keep you going all day long. Great breakfast ideas include fruits, eggs, whole grain toast, omelettes, avocado, bananas, yogurt and oatmeal to name a few.
3 Hours Before - If you're one of those people that needs to eat a few hours before the game then no problem, just don't be going for the complex carbs here that will just make you feel heavy. Stay away from the pastas and rice and look for the lighter snacks such as fruits, veggies, soups and light sandwiches.
1 Hour Before - Stay away from eating anything an hour before the game, at this point it is too late and staying hydrated is the most important thing. If you must stick to something light such as fruit or a healthy granola bar.
Halftime - Feeling that hunger at half? No issues here, keep this to a piece of fruit or piece of chocolate to give you the last boost in a game, just a bite or two though.
Post Game - They say you should get a meal in 30 minutes after the match. Do you best to do this but if you can't have a protein shake or some fruit ready for after the game you can take quickly to hold you off until you can get home and have a full meal. They say that 30minute window is crucial for recovery and regeneration.