Whether you are gearing up for a big soccer tournament or trying to get in the zone for your next tennis competition, it's important to have a pre-game routine that you can rely on.
Success in sports is all about muscle memory and training your body to act without thinking, and one of the best ways to do this is to ensure you are going through the same process every time.
If you are a cricket fan, you are probably familiar with the routine that most batsmen go through before facing the next delivery.
Each player is slightly different, but typically they will scratch at the pitch a bit, get into their stance, tap their bat to the ground and raise their head as the bowler is running in.
All of this contributes to getting into the right frame of mind and ensuring that the body is perfectly positioned for whatever comes next – and it's the same sort of thing for tennis and soccer!
The next time you are getting ready to head out onto the pitch or stroll out to the court, take the time to develop a routine, a set of basic actions that you can go through before every game.
One idea might be to create a mental picture in your head of how you would like to play today. Think about scoring that key goal or acing that perfect serve as you put on your gear.
Your pre-game routine can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. It might be as basic as putting on your clothes in the same order every time, or listening to the same few songs on your iPod. The point is to come up with a routine that works for you and gets you in the zone.
Some athletes have come up with pre-game routines so bizarre that they become famous for them. Baseball player Wade Boggs used to famously eat chicken before every game, for example.
Michael Jordan used to put on his old University of North Carolina basketball shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls uniform, while Dwight Howard once famously admitted to spending some time on "the throne" prior to every game, in order to "release all the bad stuff".
It might sound crazy, but Howard is a six-time NBA All-Star and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, so maybe there's something to it?
Whatever you come up with, the most important thing is to be as calm and comfortable as possible prior to the match. You never know, your pre-game routine might just make the difference between victory and defeat the next time you head out to battle.
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