Basketball is a game that requires you to not only be physically prepared but also mentally ready. You can spend hours working on technique and fundamentals, but if you do not prepare yourself to compete from all angles, you will have a hard time being successful. Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden once said that failing to prepare was preparing to fail. The habits you form before an important game will affect how well you perform.
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Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
Showing up at practice and going through the motions without effort will only hurt your chances of being successful. You have probably heard your coach tell you to execute drills at game speed. Practicing your fundamentals correctly and aggressively not only makes you better but also simulates what you will face in game situations.
Execute the Strategy
An effective coach will have spent time preparing your team for a game by teaching you plays that you will run during a game. Memorize these plays so that you do not spend game time worrying about where you need to be on the floor. Doing so will allow you to focus on other aspects of the game.
We Before Me
A good teammate makes the players around him better. An important game may entice you to try to take over and do too much. Be unselfish by setting screens, sharing the ball and moving to get open. Each of these attributes will make it easier for your team to score baskets and, in most cases, you will be rewarded.
Even if you are ready to go, your body won't be cooperate if you do not provide the right fuel. As an athlete, you should strive to maintain a healthy diet every day and not just on the days you have a big game. Eat a meal high in carbohydrates two hours before game time to give your food time to digest and provide calories for energy.
Get Some Rest
It can be hard to sleep the night before a big game, but being well-rested means that you will be mentally and physically sharp, which will make it easier to concentrate. DeMatha High School strength-training coach Alan Stein suggests eight hours of sleep the night before a workout or a big game.
Grab Your Gear
Although it sounds obvious, remember to pack your shoes, your uniform and whatever gear you may need the night before your big game. This will eliminate an unnecessary distraction and allow you to mentally prepare for the game.
Stretch and Warm-Up
Pre-game warm-ups should be used to get a good sweat going and loosen up your muscles so that you are limber when the game starts. Do not just walk through warm-ups without preparing yourself. Push yourself so that you are ready to go by the time the buzzer sounds to start the game.
Many players end up choking in big-game situations because they are scared and overthink. This generally happens because players have not prepared for the game and think in negative terms instead of with confidence. If you have done everything else to prepare, let the game come to you.
Playing an important basketball game in front of a crowd is not something many people get to do. Use the time in the locker room before the game to psyche yourself up with music or through other outlets.
Enjoy the Ride
If you have done everything you possibly can to ensure that you are ready, the game itself should be the easy part. Basketball is meant to be fun, but often players let the pressure consume them. Relax and have confidence that the work you have put into preparing for the big game will pay off.
- The Coach's Clipboard: Basketball Coaching - Pre-Game Preparation
- The Official Youth Basketball Website of USA Basketball: 4 Ways to Improve Your Mental Game
- The Coach's Clipboard: Basketball Nutrition
- The Official Youth Basketball Website of USA Basketball: 13 Summer Training Tips for Basketball Players