How do you know you’re ready for a game? In sports psychology, practitioners refer to the arousal curve. Broken down into simple language, this is how hyped an athlete needs to be to perform at his or her best. At one end of the curve is calm bordering on sleepy and at the other end is one step away from pure rage. As with most things, extremes rarely produce the best results. So where do you fit?
Think back to a great performance where you were in “the zone.” I’m not going to try and define it, but its the time when you knew before the game you were going to play well and then you went out and executed. Before that game how did you feel? Compare and contrast this with a game that you played poorly and you felt like crap before you started and then continued to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Take a solid look at your mental state before each match and you’ll see where on the arousal curve you need to lie.
For a few years as a new player to senior rugby, I tried to get really hyped up and angry before a game. I saw great players do this and I tried to copy them. However, the more excited and into the pre-match I was, the worse that I played. Then before one game I sat with friends, ate some lunch and thought very little about rugby. I came in very relaxed and happy and I played awesome. So where do I fit? I need to be happy before a game, but I need to come with a purpose. If I miss either one of those, I have a hard time playing rugby the way I want to play. So before a game, I assess where I am: too calm or too hyped. Then I take steps to calm myself or increase my excitement until I’m in that happy with a purpose spot.
It takes time, but find your arousal spot. It’ll help bring consistency to your game and increase your confidence before kick-off.