How do you prepare for games?
Do you have a routine?
Or do you just show up to the rink, throw your stuff on, and go out there and play?
It's always amazing to me when players can't figure out why they are inconsistent from game to game.
When players aren't doing everything in their power to make sure they're prepared to play, they're often inconsistent.
Preparation is a big key to success.
The first thing that needs to be understood is that everyone’s pregame routine, or preparation, will be different. What may work for you, may not work for your linemates and vis versa. The key is to discover a routine that works for you. You want to feel confident, poised, and ready to play your best from the time you hit the ice in warm ups to the time the final buzzer sounds.
6 Keys to Building a Pregame Routine that Works
Understand your why and what you want to achieve
Like any aspect of hockey, or life, if you don’t have an understanding of what you are trying to do, and why you want to do it, then you’re never going to achieve ultimate success. You need to have a clear path and vision to what you want, but also understand why you want those things. Any time you know what you are trying to achieve, it makes it easier to build a process around achieving that success.
Plenty of rest, proper nutrition, be on time (never rushed)
I group these three ideas together because I feel like for the most part they are self explanatory. If you want to be at your peak level of performance you need to be well rested. A physically exhausted athlete is not going to be performing at their best. The same idea holds true with nutrition. The food you eat is the fuel you need to perform. It sounds simple and seems like such a common sense principle, yet it is one of the most overlooked aspects in young hockey players. Eat foods that are light and that you know are going to make you feel good. Stay away from any foods that may leave you feeling sluggish or unsettled (examples include greasy or spicy foods). Finally, be on time! It’s amazing how something like being late to the rink can throw off your pregame routine and your focus. Before taking the ice, you want to be feeling calm and prepared. By simply being on time, you create a sense of comfort and readiness.
You can’t expect to achieve success unless you can see it in your mind. This is something that I have learned through years of playing and coaching. Find a quiet place where you can close your eyes and focus on your thoughts. Visualize yourself playing the game. See yourself making tape to tape passes, winning 1 on 1 battles along the boards, blocking a shot, scoring a big goal, winning the game and celebrating with your teammates… all those little things that will make you and your team successful. See them in your mind and start training your mind to expect those plays. When you can see those plays in your mind, your confidence will begin to grow.
Create Mental Reminders
Mental reminders are your three key points that you want to focus on in order to keep your mind in tune with your surroundings, engaged in the game, and playing at your best. These ideas should be short, simple, and concise. Between periods or shifts, good or bad, you can remind yourself of these things in order to make sure that your mind stays focused. Know in your mind that if you can do those mental reminders each shift, you’re going to be playing well and helping your team be successful. Examples of mental reminders include: keep my feet moving, good stick on stick, finish my checks, strong in the grey zones, good first pass, call for the puck… the list can go on and on and can change from game to game depending on your role. These simple ideas are a great way to keep your mind focused and into the game.
It seems so simple, yet is so powerful. Learn to breathe and calm your nerves or amp yourself up. Breathing is unique because we unconsciously do it in order to live, yet have the ability to control it if we want to. Feeling nervous before a game? Take a few deep breaths, slowing inhaling until your lungs are full, holding for a few seconds, and then slowing exhaling. This will calm your heart rate and in turn help calm your nerves. On the flip side, if you don’t feel into the game, you can use your breathing to help get your adrenaline pumping. Quickly breathing in and out will help your heart rate rise and get adrenaline pumping into your body. This can help your mind focus and get excited about playing the greatest game on earth.
Feel calm and confident
The most important aspect of a pregame routine is to leave you feeling confident. The whole point of creating a routine is let you have a series of predetermined activities that you know you will be successful at to help build that comfort level and confidence. Remember, success leads to confidence and confident hockey players are great hockey players. Every player is different and different things work for different players. Try a few things (taping your stick, warming up a certain way, etc…) to find what works best for you. Stick with your routine and give it a chance to work for you. Things can always be added or changed, but it ultimately boils down to whatever makes you feel comfortable, confident, and ready.
There’s no magic formula to what makes the perfect pregame routine. The only consistent idea is that having some sort of routine is important to success and being at your best. Some routines are simple, while some are a bit more complex. The key is to find what works for you and be consistent with it.
When times get tough, or you're looking for something new to give you an extra edge, examine your preparation.
The way you prepare is another one of those things that is completely in your control as a player. It will not only help you play more consistent, but will also leave you with a feeling of confidence.
Don't overlook the power, and importance, of giving yourself the best opportunity to be successful.
Let us know if the comments section what works for you.