Anyone who is even half-serious about their sport knows the truth behind the old saying that “preparation is everything.” From kids’ teams to the over 50s, and whatever the sport, it is also important to remember that there is more to preparation than running through one practice drill after another.
The most successful sports players prepare their mind and body through a regime that takes a number of factors into account to deliver the best possible performance. Let’s take a look at some of the preparations you need to make to give you that winning edge.
It is all too easy to focus all your preparation on the gym, while overlooking the importance of mental fitness. This is an even greater factor when it comes to team sports, in which morale can have an enormous impact. We have all seen examples of when a team has real belief in itself, and puts in a performance that is greater than the sum of its parts.
One of the best ways to prepare mentally is through the power of visualization. This technique has received plenty of media attention recently, and is apparently key to the great performances of the US Women’s soccer team, as well as Lindsey Vonn, one of the most successful downhill skiers in American history.
Of course, mental preparedness goes far beyond the game itself. If your mind is distracted by something else, there is no way you will perform at your best. We all live busy lives, but the best sportsmen and women are able to shut everything else out, at least until the end of the game.
An army marches on its stomach, and the same can be said for a successful sports performer. Making sure your body is fuelled up and ready to go is an absolute must, or you will feel distracted and short of energy.
Everyone’s body and metabolism is different, and it is essential that you understand yours, in order to achieve the best possible performance. Having said that, we are all variations on the same machine, so there are some general guidelines that apply across the board:
- Allow food time to digest before your big game – that means if you are planning on fuelling up with a big meal, have it at least two to three hours before the start. For a smaller meal, allow at least an hour.
- Your pre-game meal should be big on carbohydrates. Bread and pasta-based dishes are ideal.
- Avoid high protein foods, particularly those that are high in fat.
- Sweet snacks, such as candy bars, might sound like a great idea before the game, but they can cause a surge in blood sugar followed by a sudden crash, right when you don’t need it, so resist the temptation.
- Stay hydrated – and when it comes to hydration, good old-fashioned water is the best choice.
One of the downsides to vigorous sporting activity is that it is all too easy to pick up injuries and strains. In the majority of cases, these can easily be avoided with some basic precautions.
Always remember those all-important stretching exercises before you begin, to ensure your muscles are ready for action, and choose clothing and equipment that will give your body and joints the best possible support. These days, sports players have a huge selection of clothing they can choose from that does exactly that, including back supports, underwear, compression socks and lots more.
The best facilities
Take a guided tour of an NFL or NBA stadium, and you will be amazed at the difference between the home and visitor locker room facilities. Often, it is such a stark contrast that visitors initially think the tour guide is joking with them.
This is no coincidence, and neither is it a case of the venue being parsimonious. It is a tactic to give the home team as much of an edge as possible.
If it is a strategy that is employed by the New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox, then it has to be worth considering for your amateur team! Invest some money in providing the best possible environment for the minutes leading up to the game, and you will see the benefits.
Sitting around in a hot, crowded and humid dressing room will mean you are at a disadvantage before you begin, and could ruin all your preparations.
Relax and enjoy
Last but certainly not least, remember it is a game. Set out with the aim of enjoying yourself, and try to avoid putting too much expectation on yourself and your team mates – the results will speak for themselves.