Mental Preparation for Sports Articles

Pregame Questions Every Athlete Needs to Ask Themselves

Eli Straw
Pregame Questions Every Athlete Needs to Ask Themselves

Going into a game, you want to have the best mindset you can. You want to be prepared and you want to make sure you are in the optimal state to perform at your peak.

One of the ways you can make sure you are going into a game with the best mindset is by asking yourself a series of questions.

These five questions are some of the ones I have the athletes I work with ask themselves to get them into their peak performance mindset before competition.

You don't have to ask yourself the questions in order and you don't even have to ask yourself every one of these questions before a game. Even just one or two will help.

The main goal of these questions is to get yourself into the best state to perform. So choose the questions that work for you!

Pregame Question #1: What am I Thinking About Right Now?

The way that you're thinking going into a game will have a huge impact on how you feel. And the way that you feel is either going to help you perform, or it's going to hold you back.

When you are feeling anxious or fearful before a game, it's because you are having anxious or fearful thoughts. If you are confident before a game, it's because your thoughts are centered around what you can do and the trust you have in yourself.

The reason you want to ask yourself what you're thinking is so that you can take control of your thoughts as the game begins.

Whenever I work with an athlete, one of the very first things we do is implement a self-talk routine.

A self-talk routine is a way for the athlete to begin to reprogram the way that they think, as well as give them a strong list of statements they can repeat going into a game and while they compete.

I recommend you create a self-talk list. That way, when you ask yourself, what am I thinking right now, if you realize it's unhelpful thoughts, then you can replace those thoughts with your self-talk statements.

Pregame Question #2: Am I Thinking Too Much About the Outcome?

Outcome-oriented thinking is a leading cause of sports performance anxiety and fear of failure.

When you are too worried about what's going to happen, that makes you anxious and causes you to fear making a mistake. When you start a game with fear and anxiety, it's a lot easier to underperform.

Athletes with performance anxiety tend to play timidly and too tense.

A swimmer I'm working with was dealing with a lot of performance anxiety before races. What we figured out was that he was worried about the race being over before it even started.

Do you do the same? Are you worried about the game being over before you've even given yourself a chance to play?

This is a great question to ask yourself if you are one who deals with a lot of anxiety and fear of failure. Because it will force you to realize the true cause of those feelings in the moment.

Once you realize that you are thinking too much about the outcome, you want to turn your attention more onto the present moment. The next two questions can really help with that.

Pregame Question #3: What are My Performance Objectives?

To focus more in the present moment, you need something to focus on. Performance objectives serve as a way for athletes to center their attention during games.

The way that performance objectives work is that we identify what will help you play well. You know that the goal is to play your best, win, and keep improving each game. However, thinking too much about all of that tends to only make you play worse.

Instead, you want to be focusing on the things that will help you play your best and put you in the best position to win. That's where performance objectives come into play.

Performance objectives are things that are part of the process and 100% in your control.

When you set objectives before a game, it's a good idea to set one on the physical side and one on the mental side. The physical side will include your mechanics and the mental side will include your mindset.

But even though you set performance objectives doesn't mean you're going to remember them. That's why you want to ask yourself what your objectives are for that day.

That way, you remind yourself right before the game of what you want to be focused on. And that helps you let go of the outcome and be more present.

Pregame Question #4: How's My Breathing?

The way you breathe can either help you relax and focus, or lead to more anxiety and cause your body to tighten up.

When you ask yourself, how's my breathing, you bring your attention onto your breath. This is good because it's easy to overlook something as simple as your breathing.

But you don't want to overlook your breathing before a game starts. You want to make sure you are in control of your breath to be sure you are as relaxed and focused as you want to be going into the game.

Now, what should you be looking for when you ask yourself this question? Well, first things first, you want to make sure you are not breathing too shallow or quick. You want to be taking nice deep breaths.

So, if you realize that your breathing isn't how you want it to be, pause, bring your awareness onto your breath, and take a few nice deep breaths. This will calm you down and center your attention in the present moment.

Pregame Question #5: Why Should I Be Confident?

Going into a game, you want to be confident. However, confidence isn't always the easiest thing for you to feel. There are many doubts that can come creeping into your mind.

You can use this question to quiet those doubts and increase the trust you have in yourself.

When you ask yourself, why should I be confident, you don't want to answer with - I shouldn't be. You want to begin searching for reasons why you should feel confident!

What you can do is start listing off all your strengths. Or maybe you begin to think about some good games you've had recently or some really great practices.

When I'm working with an athlete who struggles with self-confidence, one of the tools I like to use is remembering past successes. This is where they think of good games they've played and good plays they've made in the past. This question can help you do the same.

It forces you to really begin thinking about why you should be confident. And when you look for something, you're bound to find it.

So before a game, get to thinking about all the reasons why you should trust in yourself. If you do, that will increase your confidence as you start the competition.

Mental Coaching for Athletes

The five questions listed above are a great way for you to get into a better mindset going into a game. I encourage you to choose a few of them, or use all five, and begin asking them to yourself before every game.

Now, if you're interested in a more personalized approach to getting into the right mindset, and figuring out what that mindset looks like for you, then you need one-on-one mental coaching.

In mental coaching, I will work with you to identify your current strengths and challenges, and work to build positive mental skills that will increase your performance.

To learn more about mental coaching and to see how you can get started, please fill out the form below.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

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Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

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