Everyone knows its important to work on mental toughness before a game but its importance extends beyond the final whistle. This is especially so if you had a bad game or your team lost but also applies to analysing the game and footage watching. It can also help prevent the dreaded derby comedown!
Remember the good stuff
A lot of shit can go down during a game which can leave you feeling like you didn’t do a good job. You might have racked up lots of penalties or fouled out, you might not have scored many points or felt like you were always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even if your team win, it can still feel like you were useless. And when you’re new, these feelings can be even more exaggerated as the vets make it look easy.
But I guarantee you did have good moments, probably lots of them. You just have to think really hard and put the negative images out of your mind. Remember when you held the jammer back on your own until your blocker friend caught up and knocked her off? Remember those jams where you got out right behind the other jammer and forced her to call it off? What about the times you communicated clearly where the jammer was so that your entire wall knew exactly where she was? And that time you did some really good offence and got your jammer out.
Pick out these moments and relive and celebrate them!
Allow yourself 5 minutes of cringe when reviewing footage
What you think happened and what actually happened can be two very different things, so footage watching is the best way of becoming aware of how you and your team really performed. But footage watching can be painful.
Fren, I know those feels. In your head, you were Scald Eagle or Smarty pants – quick, nimble, agile and bendy. But on screen you look slow, unsteady lumbering and MY GOD WHY DON’T MY KNEES BEND??! All you see is the stuff you did wrong and nothing you did right because you’re too busy cringing at yourself.
But you need to get over that, asap. Allow yourself 5 minutes of cringe and then start looking at your performance more objectively. Imagine you’re watching a friend or a stranger if it helps. Try and actively look for the good things you did – there are lots, I promise – and make a note of them. Make a note of the not-so-successful stuff too but in an objective, constructive way e.g. “I need to work on covering the inside line” rather than “Oh god, why am I so shit at covering the inside, I am so useless!”
Try to also look at the bigger picture – did you really just do something stupid or did something happen before that meant you were unable to do the thing you wanted to do? Maybe the other team’s offence was super good. Maybe your teammates were all in the penalty box and they left you on your own. Maybe something happened which you’ve never practiced or experienced before.
The more you watch footage of yourself, the less full-body-cringe it will feel and the more useful information you can gather from it, so just keep doing it and one day it’ll be easy.
Celebrate every tiny win
So you might have lost. You might have lost big. But a loss isn’t the whole story. Did you and your team give 100% from start to finish? Did you achieve your objectives? (You set objectives for each game, right?) Did you all keep your head in the game? Did you make the other team fight for every point?
Odds are, even the most disastrous game had moments of brilliance, and its after those kind of games where focussing on the small wins is especially important. Yes, of course you need to look at what went wrong, why it went wrong and what you need to do to fix it, but in the aftermath, it can be far too easy to catastrophize and blow the whole game out proportion. That leaves everyone feeling bad and not particularly motivated to work on fixing things.
So before you start looking at the bad stuff, put yourself and your team in a positive and constructive mindset by looking at the little wins first. Saying, “do more of this good stuff” is far more beneficial than saying, “don’t do this bad stuff”.
Every game is another chance to improve
No single game is the be-all and end-all. You might have been working hard specifically for this moment but that doesn’t mean this will be your only chance to prove yourself. So if things don’t go to plan, don’t panic, there will always be another chance. Even if the game was catastrophically bad, it’s ok. That game doesn’t define you. It’s a moment and it’s now in the past. You need to dust yourself off and try again.
And even if you did play awesomely, there are still lessons to be learnt, there are always ways you can improve. Games give you the platform to show what you can really do but they also reveal your unknown strengths and weak areas. Your job is to learn from this game so you can play even better in the next one.
So try to think of every game as a learning experience, whether it went well or not; an important part of the journey but not the final destination.
I hope you’ve found this series helpful. What are your game day mental toughness top tips? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook!