Often when people talk about being mentally prepared, the focus is on competition. However, your training habits are going to strongly influence your game habits and your competitive mentality. Therefore, it is essential develop effective habits and make each training session a quality one.
Let’s Call it Preparation I’ve always had issues with calling practice “practice.” To me, the word practice has the connotation of just going over your skills and repeating what you already know. I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with the physical act of practicing. Just the opposite. I think that practice is extremely important and, because of its importance, we need to view it as more than just something athletes do because it comes with the sport. I would rather people refer to this time as “preparation.” I believe if you connect everything you do during your “practice time” to the fact that it is preparing you for your game that you will take it more seriously and have a more productive focus. Additionally, by thinking about your “practice time” as “preparation,” you can enhance your confidence on game day. Before your games you will be able to look back and remember all of the little things you did to prepare. In knowing you made the most of this time, you can trust that your training has you fully prepared to compete your best.
Quality Control To assess the quality of your training, first identify what is necessary for preparation. You can define this for yourself and may want to include things like: self-talk, attitude, focus, persistence when tired, doing each drill as designed, perfecting the details, specific improvement, nutrition, stretching, lifting, doing extra before/after, recovery, etc. If you had to average how you did in each area over the past week, what would your grade be?
A = Excellent B = Good C =Average D =Fair F =Poor
Having a “B” average is enough to keep you at your current performance level and improve in some areas. In order to really get better be fully prepared, it will take “A” type training. While you may think a C/Average day is acceptable, if you have those kinds of days too often you are going to develop bad habits. It is especially important to focus on having an “excellent” practice on days when you are tired or your legs feel sluggish because that’s when you need to make sure your good habits are the strongest. You never want to settle for just getting through practice, you always want to be working to be better than you were yesterday. Creating Winning Habits through Focused Training In addition to making sure you have proper off-field habits, improving your preparation quality is as simple as focusing on the correct things. Here is a checklist to make sure your mind is where it needs to be in order for you to get the most from each moment you spend preparing:
Pre-Training Mental Checklist:
- What specifically am I going to improve on today?
- What will I do to make sure I get better at this?
- Why is this important for me to improve?
- How can I have a positive influence on my teammates today?
There will be some days when you are tired or stressed and find it very difficult to be motivated. On these days, it can help to focus on being a positive influence to others.
In-Training Mental Checklist:
- What is the purpose of this drill? How can I use this in the next game? Am I going at game pace?
- Is there anything else I need to do to prepare myself for the upcoming game?
- What is my mindset right now? Can I improve my attitude? Focus?
Post-Training Mental Checklist:
- What did I do today that I will carry over to my next game? (Visualize doing this in the game!)
- Will I play well/better in the next game because of what I did today?
Carpe Momentum (Seize the Moment) With each training session you have the opportunity to get better, to stay where you are, or to create a bad habit. When you take ownership of your actions and know that what you do today prepares you for tomorrow it makes “practice” easier. If you create the right habits and do all of the hard work in training, games will be a lot more fun.
Make it great!