How you prepare physically and mentally for a game has a direct effect on the outcome of your performance on court and the overall success of your team. I’m not just talking about what you do in your practices, but the pre-game habits you develop as an athlete. Effective pre-game habits are not just something you do an hour before the game starts. Some of the most important habits take place a day or two before the game. Here are five pre-game habits to help you best prepare for a game:
1. Get the right amount of sleep.
Your body needs rest. You can’t perform at your highest level if you are always tired. Too little sleep can lead to fatigue and feeling disoriented. Too much sleep can leave you feeling sluggish. Listen to your body and what it needs or doesn’t need.
Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Countless studies show not drinking enough water has a negative impact on your performance. It will cause fatigue to set in quicker, impair your decision-making abilities and, as you probably already know, cause cramping. Keep a water bottle with you all day on game days and don’t let yourself drink anything but water.
3. “Lock in” and visualize.
I know it is hard to stay game-focused all day, every game day. So, set a time to “lock in” and become game-ready mentally. When I was a player, I did this during half-time of the girls’ game that was played before my team’s game. Go somewhere you can clear your head and visualize the game. Visualize defense, offense, your shot, making a big play, etc. Mentally preparing in this way will leave you more focused and more confident for the game ahead.
4. Loosen up.
Stretch. This may seem like a given, but it is something too many players take for granted. Just reaching down and touching your toes isn’t going to prepare you as well as doing dynamic stretches (active and moving stretches). First, get those muscles loose and ready to go by using a basketball or foam roller to roll out your muscles. Then, do a stretch while moving from sideline to sideline. You have to stretch properly and get your body loose and ready in order to have a good pregame warm-up and avoid injuries.
5. Have a physical routine.
Having a set pre-game shooting or ball handling routine helps you “lock in” for the game because you know exactly what you need to do to get as best prepared physically as possible. If you go out there and practice random shots instead of doing reps, you will be less likely to maintain your focus before the game. A workout routine allows you to have laser-like focus in the areas you know you will need the most for the game. Here is what I suggest to get the most out of your physical routine:
When getting up shots before the game, always start in close and around the basket. Get a feel for the rim, the glass, your touch; get comfortable being close. Then, work your way out to farther and more game-like shots. Remember, dunking and fancy layups don’t best prepare you for your game. I know we see NBA stars make their popular 2-line layups before a game, but what we don’t see are the hours of work they put in before that 2-line layup. The point is, don’t do everything you see others do. Know your own areas of weakness and the types of shots you will take in a game and practice those.
Getting a feel for the basketball is key. The more comfortable you are with the ball, the less turnovers you’ll have and the more your teammates and coach will trust you with the ball. Whether you are a post player, guard or shooter, warming up with ball handling is an essential part of your physical routine.
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The most important thing is to know yourself and what gets you prepared the best. Is it watching motivational videos? Is it listening to a specific song or certain type of music? Whatever it is that gets you pumped and ready, do it. Just stay focused. Once you “lock in”, don’t let anything distract you from the mission ahead.
I challenge you to stop viewing pre-game as a show for the fans and start viewing it as an opportunity to enhance your game.
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