Ultimate Pre-game Preparation - Part 2 - Composure, Focus And Intensity

by Spencer Wood - Date: 2009-02-07 - Word Count: 857 Share This!

In Part 1 of Ultimate Pre-game Preparation (published in the last issue of the WBCA Journal), we focused on pre-game preparation from the coach's perspective, and introduced the important differences between emotional arousal and intensity. Every coach's goal is to have each individual player and the collective team play at an optimal level of intensity from tip-off to the final whistle. However, in Part 1, we discussed the importance of separating elevated emotions from elevated intensity. We learned how some players are naturally very reserved, quiet and emotionally even keeled, yet they consistently play at a high intensity. These players are often hurt by the fiery pre-game speech and hype that pulls them out of their optimal emotional arousal level and hurts their ability to stay composed and focused. Other players need the fiery pre-game message and need a high level of pre-game emotional arousal to bring out their best level of focus and intensity. The take home message here is that smart coaches often restrict the collective team pre game speech to team strategy, individual tactical assignments and minor motivational messages, leaving the truly emotionally charged messages to one-on-one individual pre-game meetings. Phil Jackson is renowned for his ability to truly understand the connection between the emotional arousal and intensity of his players on an individual basis. He has often said that he never lets his heart rate get above 100 beats per minute and uses volume control in his voice very, very carefully. Here is a coach that knows how to motivate on an individual basis. His teams are typically highly motivated, intense, yet typically very composed and consistent.

Part 2 of Ultimate Pre-game Preparation discusses some key ways in which the athletes should prepare themselves to play at an optimal intensity level. To accomplish this, one of the first things we must develop is an understanding of why intensity, focus and motivation sometimes take a nose dive in certain games. The myriad of reasons why we play sports and relish competition lies deep within an emotional well commonly called 'commitment,' 'drive,' and 'motivation.' For most of us, this motivation stems from a deep passion and love we have for the sport we play. We very rarely ever fall 'out of love' with our sport, so why is it that our motivation levels sometime seem to dip a little or even remain very low for some games? The answer to this question is far from easy. It could relate to many different factors, including excessive stress, an excessive amount of self-imposed pressure, a negative shift in our self-perception and confidence or a combination of these things. Many different factors need to be examined including nutrition, rest levels, stress levels, and the list goes on. However, in my experience, the single biggest contributing factor that contributes to a reduction in composure, focus, intensity and commitment is excessive stress caused by excessive self-imposed pressure. Excessive self-imposed pressure from one game to the next can slowly drain the all important joy and fun components out of the game, so important for sustained motivation and intensity.

Excessive self-imposed pressure will also create fear and anxiety in the athlete; it can cause excessive and uncomfortable game time muscle tightness and nervousness, ruin touch, ruin shooting accuracy and ruin decision making ability. The sources of this pressure can relate to how the athlete feels they will be perceived by the media, the fans, their family, their teammates and themselves, should they not live up to certain expectations. The key to reducing this level of self-imposed pressure is three fold:
1. Realizing that not a single solitary person in the media, fan base, family or even the team can ultimately control their level of composure, focus, intensity, commitment or confidence.
2. The only expectations that matter are the expectations they have for themselves.
3. The expectations they have for themselves should always focus on the controllable elements of a game (i.e. clutch focus, composure, intensity, commitment and confidence, bouncing back very well from any mistakes) vs. statistical averages.

Peak performance is rarely attained with a focus on how hard you can grit your teeth, clench your fists and how determined you are to have a 20 and 10 night to keep your chances of an all-conference selection alive and well. There is nothing wrong with setting lofty individual all-Conference, all-Region, or all-American goals, in addition to lofty statistical goals that fit within the team concept. Those goals are very important goals that should be set and need to be set during the pre-season, but they should have ZERO relevance to pre-game preparation and game-time performance. Players that focus on these 'uncontrollable' goals during pre-game and during the actual game create unnecessary self-imposed pressure. The athletes that use the pre-game period to focus on the correct pre-game goals (i.e. the truly controllable goals of clutch focus, composure, intensity, commitment and confidence, bouncing back very well from any mistakes, etc) remain composed and focused on game time strategy execution. These athletes are prepared to bring optimal levels of intensity onto the floor and are prepared to play with an elite level of poise, focus and confidence.

Related Tags: sports psychology, speed training, mental focus training, speed agility quickness

www.iceboxathlete.com ">Spencer Wood M.S., C.S.C.S., P.E.S., Member A.A.S.P., is an internationally renowned speaker, author and trainer of athletes and coaches in the area of www.iceboxathlete.com ">Winning Mental Skills and Toughness Training.

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