Developing Big Game Mentality
How to keep a cool head and give your best performance when intensity shifts to fever pitch levels
“Pain is temporary, glory is eternal.”
Legends of the game have always managed to keep one eye on the bigger picture when it comes to competitive football. Some of the greatest victories are won with a combination of skill and composure. The pre-game mentality adopted by the team and its manager is reflected in their performance and outcome of the game to a large extent.
On several occasions, even top-tier teams have fallen to pieces when the pressure of competition has gotten too much to handle. Players allow themselves to get too nervous or too excited right before an all-important clash, creating muscular tension which makes muscle tissue contract – a direct physiological effect of stress. This, in turn affects, their confidence. In footballing terms, this is what it means to ‘choke’. Runaway, pre-game nervousness can stem from various sources. Some of them are:
- The level of opponents skill
- The level of aggression in gameplay
- The level of competition
- Intimidating fans at away games
- Full house in attendance at an intimidating stadium
- Player’s need to prove his abilities and make it to the regular starting lineup
- Playing time in question (will the player get enough playing time to prove his mettle?)
While there are many factors in top-level competitions that can potentially lead to nervousness, one of the main causes for performance-disrupting panic is lack of self-belief. This can be tackled by small, but effective, mental exercises that players can adopt to help them bring out their best when it counts the most.
CONCENTRATE ON THE “NOW”
When players allow their focus of concentration to jump ahead to the future, or drift back to the past, the result is always an increase in their anxiety. If you want to stay cool and calm in the clutch, then you have to train yourself to keep your focus in the NOW — especially during your game.
DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF WHAT’S IMPORTANT
It’s very easy to lose focus and let your mind wander, but it is imperative that every player in the team consistently concentrate on the task at hand. Any break in concentration can drive the stress level of the team through the roof and sabotage gameplay.
FOCUS ON YOU, YOUR JOB, AND YOUR PLAY
If the focus of the team drifts to anyone or anything other than their own players, (i.e. opponents, the fans, the coach etc.) it could lower the morale of the team. Staying focused solely on the your team and the job will keep you calm and confident.
DON’T FORGET TO HAVE A GOOD TIME
Having fun while playing is the secret ingredient to staying calm and doing your best when the heat of competition is turned up high. If the team is to perform well, the trick is to get into the game, enjoy the tournament, embrace the challenge from a tough opponent, and have fun with your teammates – during and after the game!
LEAVE YOUR GOALS AT THE DOOR
While it is important to push yourself to achieving personal milestones, pursuit of individual glory can induce mental mistakes that will knock you out of the competition.
KEEP YOUR MIND DISTRACTED BEFORE AND AFTER GAMES
Overthinking gets the better of most footballers and lands them in undesirable situations. While you can’t really stop yourself from thinking about the game, you can distract yourself from it.DO NOT FOCUS ON THE “UNCONTROLLABLES”
There are a lot of things that happen in your sport that you do not have direct control over. Make a list of all of the things about the upcoming competition that you can’t directly control. For example, the officiating; the crowd; coaching decisions, (i.e. playing time); the future, such as the outcome of the game, how well you’ll play, winning or losing; how you are feeling that day; other people’s expectations; etc., and post the list in a highly visible place in your room.
The Big Game Mentality has to adopted by the coach and team together as one, only then can they rise above doubt and go on to make history.