AHU COACH’S CORNER: Game-day prep a necessary component during the season
We practice to learn new skills and prepare for games, but it is also important to make sure you have the right pre-game ritual to perform on game day.
This is especially important during tournaments, when you are likely to play at least two games in one day. A solid game-day routine is unique to each individual, but there are many consistent ways for every player to prepare for games. Pre-game routines include nutrition, physical and mental preparation. These three components work together to create high performance play.
Breakfast is a very important meal for young athletes and many of them really do not eat enough or eat the right things to start a game day. Eating the right foods, first thing, will give you energy to play your best on game day. The morning of a game, you should start the day with a good breakfast, but limit the fast-acting carbs. This means no sugary breakfasts as you will only crash as soon as an hour later. Make sure to consume lots of water in the morning, and keep up the hydration all day.
Eat a pre-game meal about an hour or two before the game, but don’t eat too much. Eat about half what you would eat for dinner and make sure to eat more slow-acting carbs like pasta or rice and include protein and as always, lots of water.
Your post-game meal is just as important, especially if you have a second game that day. A good post-game meal will replenish your energy and promote muscle growth and recovery. Choose a high carbohydrate, easy-to-digest food or fluid right after your game or intense practice. Your post-game meal should include food that is less processed, which is naturally anti-inflammatory and will decrease the possibility of swelling and inflammation that comes from the high intensity of a hockey game.
Mental preparation for a game should start long before the puck drops. The player who is well-prepared mentally is able to put everything else out of their mind and focus on being in game mode. For some, music works and for others it is a ritual – doing the same thing for every game.
It’s all about what works for you and puts you in the hockey mindset.
Spend some time thinking about how you will position yourself, challenge your opponents and maneuver the puck. When the game begins, you should already have visualized your performance, a personal strategy on how you intend to perform during the game. Warm-ups is a perfect time to put yourself in game mode, use the time to warm up your muscles and your mind. You may find it surprising how taking even a few moments to set your intentions will improve your performance.
We cover a lot of different things in practice to prepare for the physical aspects of the game, but one of the most important aspects of any pre-game physical preparation should be getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for game day. Strive for a minimum of seven to ten hours of sleep a night.
A study conducted at Stanford University demonstrated that increasing sleep to 10 hours per night for a period of time improved athletic performance. Additionally, banking extra sleep ahead of time will reduce the impact of restricted sleep the night before the big game or competition.
Kurt Goar is Arizona Hockey Union’s coach-in-chief.