Yup, you knew it was coming, you saw it on the horizon and it's here. The morning of the game you've been preparing for. You've slept terribly, you don't feel ready, can't find your left wrist guard and your usually positive peppy self just upped and hopped off for a day trip to un-happy land.
So how do you maintain a good mental game from wake to final whistle?
For me it's about routine, and that starts by trying to stay focused in the week up to the first whistle. Here's a list of all the things I used to be really good at – these are not things to follow at all and show how awful my Gameday prep was!
- Not eating breakfast (or anything at all, all day) – yep, I would awake at ridiculous o'clock (see point 3) and eat zero items until the final whistle. This was for two reasons, 1. I convinced myself I didn't need it 2. My nerves were so bad I felt physically ill if I did injest anything.
- No pre-match (or during match) hydration – (you may see a pattern is emerging) I would take a full bottle of water to a game and come back with a 3/4 full bottle of water. I hate water, I survive on tea. This was my excuse and it is a pretty useless one at that!
- Go to bed late, Wake up Super early – The theory behind going to bed late was, if I go to bed later I'll be more tired and therefore sleep better. Wrong. My mind doesn't cope well with this situation and pre-game insomnia commences.
- Leaving all the kit packing until the morning of the game – you see where this is going right?
So what did I do to break all the awful, horrific habits. I start my game day routine from the week before. This starts with continuing the routine I already have or some additions if I've got slack with myself
- Breakfast every day – even if it's just yoghurt or fruit. If I force myself to do it I do feel loads better, so by game day it's normal standard routine and my nervous body accepts it better. Plus the food seems to reduce the nerves, I tend to eat no later than 2 hours before the game anything less than that and I get a bit drowsy. Alongside this I Prep a decent meal for post (or pre-if it's a late first whistle) game eating. Which usually consists of a salad for convenience or a light sandwich (gluten free of course)
- Hydration – I force water into my body from 7 days before and track it on an app (I'm a Fitbit wanker) to make sure I do. I also now have the best LUM who makes sure I at least sip some water after every Jam as it still gets a bit much in all the adrenaline to remember to drink! Praise be to good LUMs 😘
- Don't change your sleeping habits! I don't make a point of staying up late or even going to bed early, I keep to my routine. That way my body knows what time bed is and it doesn't cause me to lose sleep as much from nerves of excitement. If 10pm has been my bedtime all week 10pm will be my bedtime for Gameday eve
- Kit Pack in advance – I pack my kit for a Saturday game on a Thursday. That way I can double check all the bits and pieces on Friday to confirm and reassure myself I've got my mouthguard, spare socks and lucky rabbits foot without having to stress on the Saturday morning that I've forgotten anything. I can just get up, get ready (have breakfast) and leave.