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6 Ways to Be Mentally Prepared on Game Day

Posted: Nov 12 2015

6 Ways to Be Mentally Prepared on Game Day


Learning how to perform optimally for competition can be a challenge. There are often numerous distractions and unique circumstances surrounding most competition events, many of which come unexpectedly young athletes.

Shannon Miller, an Olympic Gold medalist in gymnastics, agrees that mental preparation is key to success.  She says there’s no way she would have gotten to the Olympics on physical ability alone.  “At the highest levels, everyone has the talent.  Everyone trains hard and does the work.  The mental aspect has to kick in especially when you’re talking about the best of the best.  What separates the gold medalists from the silver medalists is simply the mental game.”

In order to do this, athletes and their coaches should also learn to develop strategies in order to achieve top-level focus, with the aim of being prepared for challenging and unexpected events that can arise on race/game day.   In preparing, one can often facilitate the athletes' use of refocusing strategies by structuring challenges within the practice environment or by simulating competitive conditions. Being able to anticipate challenging situations as they happen is huge in being mentally ready and flexible before and while in the midst of competition.


Preparation before the Event

But how do you best prepare leading up to game day, an event or a competition?  Leading up to a competition, it is important to provide athletes with mental tools that can allow them to manage their own performance by being mentally ready. Strategies such as goal setting, imagery, thought management, and emotional control can be learned through practical exercises.  Athletes then need to tailor these to develop their personal routines and plans for achieving mental readiness for competition.

There are many approaches one can take in order to prepare yourself. But generally, there are 6 steps you need in order to get yourself ready for the big game/race.

1)  Anticipate and Plan for Distractions

An additional part of the preparing for competition/game day involves anticipating potential distractions and impediments to performance and focus. There is significant power in having anticipated an issue before it happens. 

 2) "Less is more"

Particularly in the final stages of preparation for competition, it is important to adhere to the "less is more" approach The tendency is to want to over-prepare for the event by squeezing in a number of competitions and intense practices as the "big event" approaches. Athletes need to be well rested physically and mentally relaxed in order to perform at their best.

3)  Preparation at the Competition

There are several things that young athletes and coaches can do to prepare while at the competition itself.  However, generally these are geared towards creating confidence and focus within an unfamiliar and potentially stressful setting.

4)  Come with a Clear Performance Goal in Mind 

5)  Get Familiar With Your Surroundings 

Visiting the competition venue prior to the event can also be beneficial. It helps athletes and coaches get used to the surroundings and any nuances surrounding the facility. If there is opportunity, it can also be beneficial to access the venue ) when there is no one else around. This opportunity can provide athletes with a chance to walk through or think about their pre-competition plans and preparation strategies within the physical setting.

6) Stick with Routines and Plans

It is also important to remember to stick with regular routines and plans. All too often, individuals will move away from the very elements that they have worked so hard to establish and then why their performance does not line up on game day.  


 To be the most mentally prepared you can be for an event, the key is to have a clear goal for the event, adhere to personal plans and preparation strategies, stay in the moment, and minimize the impact of distractions. Remaining positive and optimistic, even in the face of adversity, and managing daily stresses are additional strategies that can make a big difference once competition is in full swing.


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