How to Form a Mental Game Plan

The best athletes don't just have a strategic game plan for each game, they also have a mental game plan. A mental game plan is simply a plan for how you're going to play your best mentally. The best athletes don't just wait until things happen and hope for the best. They prepare beforehand to make sure they will react in the best way possible so they can perform their best in games.

The first step of mental game planning is asking yourself how you plan to prepare your mindset during the hours and minutes before a game. There are many components to this question, such as:
How are you going to conserve your mental/emotional energy during the day of a game?
How are you going to relieve unnecessary stress during the day of a game?
How are you going to motivate and pump yourself up as the start of the game approaches?
How are you going to relax and calm your nerves as the start of the game approaches?
How are you going to focus your mind on your mission and strategic game plan as the game approaches?
How are you going to lead and help your teammates improve their mindsets as the start of the game approaches?

All of this mental game planning will greatly help you settle into games and enter the zone as soon as possible. However, this is not enough. Once a game begins, there's a variety of stresses and adverse events that can disrupt your peak performance mindset. To help maintain a peak performance mindset, you must prepare for all contingencies so you can cope with them effectively. Here are some questions that can help you prepare for the obstacles of competition:
How are you going to maintain your effort once fatigue, pain, and the perception of effort kicks in?
How are you going to maintain your confidence and motivation if you start losing?
How are you going to maintain a positive mindset after making mistakes?
How are you going to control your emotions after adverse events?
How are you going to maintain your focus and composure when the pressure increases?
How are you going to maintain your focus when the crowd tries to distract you?
How are you going to maintain your focus and composure when your opponent talks trash and tries to get inside your head?
How are you going to maintain your effort and avoid complacency when you're winning?
How are you going to help your teammates stay mentally tough when adversity is affecting them?
How are you going to keep your ego in check to help you be an unselfish teammate?
In other words, how are you going to cope with the stress, discomfort, distractions, and other obstacles of competition so you can maintain maximum effort, concentration, confidence, composure, intelligence, and teamwork throughout the entirety of a game?

All of these things need to be prepared for in advance. If you're not prepared for these things, then you're more likely to react poorly once they happen in games. But if you're prepared, you'll be more likely to react properly since you'll remember what you need to do to stay mentally strong. In other words, forewarned is forearmed. However, you can't just plan proper responses to each situation and expect to respond the right way every time. You also have to train yourself to react the right way in practice. You have to purposely place yourself in adverse situations and practice staying mentally tough and reacting the right way. The more you do this in practice, the easier it'll be in games. For certain situations that are hard to replicate in practice, you can visualize yourself reacting properly to help prepare yourself for games.

All of this is very similar to cognitive behavioral therapy. Taking the time to think about your thinking, and planning your responses on paper can be very helpful. It helps improve your mindset and change your behavior for the better. I highly recommend that you become more sophisticated and systematic with your mental game planning. To do this, you can use a notebook to organize your answers to the questions listed above. Over time, you can tweak your mental preparation process and find what works best for you. Hopefully you develop a great routine that you can use before every game to help you reach and maintain peak performance as much as possible.

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