Everyone has his or her own pre-game preparations or rituals if you must. I had them and they helped me be ready for my performance on the field. In 1996 we were training in Florida for the ’96 Olympics. We were introduced to a Sports Psychologist, Colleen Hacker. She was just a sports psychologist to me in the beginning as I thought that I didn’t need her help. I didn’t have an open mind to it but I did sit and listen to her meetings. The more and more I listened; I started to buy into it. Not only to the mental side of training, but I loved hearing Colleen share something she loved and believed in.
That year I made a tape with her (yes, for you young kids – this was called a cassette tape). This tape included music and words that I wanted to feel when I was out there playing. For example, “I want the ball, run, first touch, take on….” – things that I wanted to do in the game and feel good about doing. My music choice for this may not be on the top of anyone else’s list but it was music from Enya. The combination of the words and music became part of my mental pre-game preparation every game.
1996 was the start of my mental training. 1996 was a year that I remember feeling overly confident. I believed in it and thought it was an important part of my training. It gave me more confidence and a place to fall back on when things weren’t going so well. Dr. Hacker became an important part of our staff for years and a friend that I am so grateful for.
So do I think that mental preparation is important? Yes! There is a place for it and you need to figure out what works best for you. My pregame rituals consisted of putting my imagery tape on while I got ready and one more time right before I got on the field. I would put my hair up in a ponytail last before we went out on the field. When I got out on the field I would pass with Julie Foudy at the center circle before our formal warm up started. (That changed to Abby Wambach as time passed.) When I was on the field before the game started I would do 3 jump headers and then high five my left back. Brandi Chastain, Kate Markgraf, Stephanie Lopez and Rachel Buehler were just a few I played in front of. After that I was ready to play.
These rituals, or preparations were important to me. It wasn’t something that was hard. I didn’t have to think about it, I just did it. It kept me calm and comfortable. Find your mental and physical rituals and feel good about them. It shouldn’t be something that is a struggle or forced, it should feel comfortable and part of you.
There is a quote that I love – “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson quote). You have the power within you to make things happen, feed that fire and make it stronger by feeling confident. Confidence makes us feel like we can do anything!
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