Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Mental Game Before A Big Tourney

A shorter entry for tonight.  So what should a young player do when preparing for a big tournament mentally, such as college regionals this weekend? I thought I'd throw up a few thoughts and things I've found work for me. However, I believe that some things are good for everyone to work on, a lot of mental preparation is a personal process.

1) Take care of your body. I realize this is a physical thing, but it helps your mental game immensely. Don't do silly things like drink alcohol the night before or eat a crappy dinner. Drink lots of water in the week leading up to a big tournament. Carbo-load throughout the week to give your body the energy it needs. I'm sure the people that know me are like "TK!!! Come on! I've seen you drink the night before a tournament!!!" That's true, but in college I gave up drinking for 4 weeks leading up to sectionals and throughout the series. The reason this helps the mental game, is that it takes away as many physical distractions as  possible for the tournament. There's nothing holding your body back that your mind has to think about, even if it's something as small as a tiny bit of dehydration.

2) Have both team goals and personal goals set. This one is fairly simple. Your team should be discussing goals as a team for the weekend and game by game. As far as personal goals, have your captains or coaches help you with some personal goals (not getting beat deep early, containing 100% of breaks in zone, etc). But I also think it's important to set some of your OWN personal goals. You know yourself as a player better than anyone else. Is there something that terrifies you to throw? Can you handle marking someone taller/faster? Those kind of things are great questions to ask yourself when setting personal goals for a tournament.

3) Get fired up. I think this is especially important in college, where so much of the game is about effort and energy. Think about the kinds of plays that fire you up. Watch some highlight videos on youtube, or some old team videos. Think about what it is about Ultimate that gets you out of bed at 6:30 in the morning ready to run for eight hours at a time. Think about what you're going to do out on the field that will fire you and your teammates up. And most importantly, think about what you're going to do on and off the field to maintain that intensity level.

4) Be realistic. A big problem I had as a younger player, is the night before a tournament I'd get super excited that I was going to absolutely destroy the other team. I was gonna be unstoppable on the field and push the team to the next level by myself. Confidence is a good thing, but setting goals and personal expectations too high is going to set you up for disappointments. I'm not saying you shouldn't expect to get a game changer, everybody can be that person, but going into every tournament expecting the performance of a lifetime isn't realistic, and you want tangible goals. There were games where I felt I had played amazing, but I never had that transcendent performance I had expected, and as such, learned that it was better to have goals that challenged me, but I wasn't out there winning the game single-handedly.

Good luck to all the college teams playing their hearts out this weekend across the country.

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