You are now here. You have made it to the Championship game, something you have worked all season towards. Now what do you have to do? You have to install a game-plan for your opponent, you have to install scheme, and you have to practice your offensive plays, practice your defensive calls, and maybe even practice some new plays that you have kept just for this specific game. All of these things are important to your success when preparing for a big game, any game really. However a good coach must never overlook the fact that both the players and the coaches themselves must spend time to get mentally prepared for the game as well. I will be touching upon mental preparation for both players and coaches for a big game.
Psychology of Youth Football: Mental Preparation for a Big Game
Let us start with the players first and foremost, and how we as coaches can help mentally prepare our players for a big game. The first thing we need to make sure we do as coaches is calm the players down because as I have experienced, the players are overly excited for this opportunity. As they should be, because they have put the hard work in but being humble is an important factor in youth sports as well. Next, we as coaches must make sure that our players approach this big game just like any other. You cannot allow the players to get too overwhelmed or full of themselves. An important piece to mental preparation is that you make sure the players embrace the moment they are in and do not allow this moment to consume or alter their preparation. Lastly, remind the players what it took to get where they are. The hard work in practice, the film work, the extra work in the spring. All valid points to be touched upon throughout that game-week. I also find personally as a coach that players respond well to pep talks, but it may be best to save that to pre-game.
Next, mental preparation as a coach during what is or what could be a championship game week is important as well. Some of the same rules that apply to the players, you as a coach must make sure that you do as well throughout the week. Keep a calm, cool even-keel and make sure that reflects on your players. Embrace the moment, because you worked hard to get here as well. Mental preparation for coaches during this time usually means a lot of film work, studying the other team and trying to put your players in the best position possible to succeed. Also, getting on the same page with your entire coaching staff in regards to the calls on both sides of the ball and how to best manage your players in game action.
In conclusion, for me personally as a coach I found it best to prepare for a big game just as you would any other game of the season. Yes you know it is big but as I said above, do not let that overtake you. It is important that no matter what that everyone has fun and that everyone sticks together. Mental preparation is just as important as all the other preparation throughout game-week and it is imperative that both players and coaches realize this. A mentality is all you need sometimes, keep that in “mind”.
(See Also) Motivating Young Players