It’s important for young athletes to not only physically prep for game day, but also to mentally prepare themselves. As a coach or parent, take time to make sure the team or individual athlete is thinking about the upcoming game or meet. Be aware that some players on the team might have game day anxiety that can negatively affect their performance. It is crucial for a coach to know each player’s personality and structure the practices and preparatory drills accordingly. It’s the coach’s job to assess the team and decide how much practice time will be devoted to recreating the actual game environment.
Tips for coaches and parents
- Whether it is the night before the game or the day of, both coaches and parents can help their athletes to visualize the environment of the competition. An example would be a cross-country course. Ask your athletes to think about the sounds, sights, obstacles, smells, ground surfaces, spectators, etc., that will be elements in this environment.
- Some of the most effective times for visualization exercises are before bed at night, on the way to the game/meet site, during warm-ups, or even cool-downs (ideally at the previous evening’s practice).
- Have players prepare mental scripts of their game, race or meet, as well as their role in a game, potential challenges and how to react to expected situations. Recording these scripts on an iPod and listening the night before competition and/or the day of can also be very useful.
- Be consistent with warm-up and cool down routines. Designate a leader (or team captain) and rehearse these routines during practices so there is no confusion the day of competition.
Written by: Melissa Gollick, Sport Psychology Consultant, Children’s Hospital Colorado.
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