Five things your players need to hear from you before a game
Luke Olson, MGCP
“Make aggressive mistakes!”John Wooden was quoted as saying that the team that makes the most mistakes will likely win the game. This was his approach to encourage his teams to be the aggressor. By encouraging aggressive mistakes, you can take the pressure of playing perfect and any fear of failure away. Players that start a game knowing that aggressive mistakes are encouraged allow themselves to move on from mistakes quicker. This allows them to play more freely and gives them a better chance of reaching the zone. Encouraging mistakes also removes strict expectations that some players place on themselves during games, allowing them to play with a clearer mind, free from the fear of making mistakes.
“Trust yourself – I do!”Practice is when coaches and players analyze, adjust, learn, and prepare. Games are for letting go and just playing. Players need to start the game with a clear mind and rely strictly on the habits they formed during the practices leading up to competition. Trust is the ability to play freely and let it flow, put your mind on “autopilot” and become immersed in the game. Allowing the habits from practice to take over is a skill that can be crucial to performance. A coach that trusts his players understands how crucial, and works to prepare his players during the week and then encourages a trusting mindset during games. Players that play with trust play more confidently, have a better chance of reaching “the zone”, and let go of mistakes easier.
“Stay Focused in each moment.”Thinking about an entire game before it takes place can be overwhelming. Players that get caught up in the end result play timid and tend to make more mistakes. Encourage them to stay focused in each moment with cue words that bring athletes back to the present moment during games. Sayings like “Next-Play” or “W.I.N.” (What’s Important Now), and others are quick ways to refocus your athletes during the course of a game. Staying focused in each moment helps athletes try to win each possession, breaking the entire game into smaller, manageable parts and focuses their energy on something they can control (their effort on thispossession) rather than the outcome of the game.
“I’m excited for you – can’t wait to watch you compete.”Every game is an opportunity for your team to compete, to improve, and to enjoy playing with their teammates. The game is not do-or-die, regardless of when the game takes place or what level it takes place at. Players that play with an excitement and a joy to be out there have a better chance of playing games in the trusting mindset. Players that compete in the trusting mindset have a better chance of finding the flow and playing in the zone. Approaching the game with an excited energy rather than a tense anxiety allows your players to play at a higher level.
“Just Play!”The last thing a player needs to hear is to just roll the ball out and go compete. Allow your instincts and habits to take over and just play. Most teams will play like they’ve practiced, so the skills you’ve taught in practice will be on display during the game. We all want our players to play at a high level, the easiest route to get there is to quiet their mind and allow them to compete. Encourage them to just play!
Luke Olson, MGCP