Pregame Preparation – Part 1 – Mastering the Pregame Speech
Coaches and athletes alike are well aware of the individual differences that exist in skill levels on any given team. Some players are better athletes than others, while others are better defensively, better rebounders, or have better individual offensive skills or passing ability than others. Because of these differences, smart coaches build offenses and defenses and assign roles based on the respective skill levels of the athletes currently in their program. However, as many differences in physical traits exist within a given team, there are an equal number of extremely important differences in mental traits between players.
Unlike differences in physical traits and ability between players that are typically well understood and used effectively, differences in mental traits between players are not as well understood or used. When athletes and coaches don’t pay attention to these differences in mental traits, the team often loses some of its potential. The result is a team that lacks consistency, often underperforms, and ends the season with a win-loss column that doesn’t reflect its true potential and ability. Nowhere is this inattention to mental trait differences more evident than in coaches’ pregame speech and in each athlete’s pregame preparation.
Part 1 of this two-part series on pregame preparation will focus on the pregame speech, while part 2 (to be published in the upcoming Journal of the WBCA) will discuss how to maximize your pregame preparation. an athlete.
The difference between intensity and emotional arousal
Some athletes perform extremely well when emotionally high, while others are at their best when emotionally relatively low. On a scale of emotional arousal from 1 to 10 (with 1 equaling a near-comatose state prior to the game and 10 equaling the athlete who regularly high-fives teammates so hard their hands itch for 10 minutes) and a performance scale of 1-10 (with 1 being worst performance ever and 10 being best performance ever), I have played with athletes who needed to have an emotional arousal level around 2-4 ( too low) in order to perform consistently. a level 8-10 (very high).
I also played with athletes who needed to have an emotional arousal level of around 8-10 in order to consistently perform at an 8-10 level. One of the biggest mistakes inexperienced players and coaches make is believing that the entire team should be at the same level of emotional arousal. Keep in mind that the level of emotional arousal has NOTHING to do with intensity. Athletes don’t always have to be ‘high’, ‘excited’ or highly emotionally aroused to perform at 100% intensity. However, many coaches and athletes push themselves and many of their players away from their optimum level of arousal, and find themselves on a knife edge of heightened emotions, poor shooting percentages, defensive mistakes, and mistakes under pressure. Unfortunately, Hollywood-caliber sports movies have done an excellent job of spreading the traditional sports fallacy that the team that seems to ‘want more’ and comes out of the locker room the most fired up and ‘excited to the gills’ will win. victory. Some trainers even count their fiery emotionally charged pre-game verbal skills among their most useful skill sets.
However, experience teaches us that while high intensity is essential for most of the game of basketball (rebounding and defense, for example), lower intensity is needed for certain types of offensive execution and fine motor skill coordination. (try to shoot a high percentage from the free throw line or take a jump shot while ‘flying’ with maximum intensity…your percentage will look like a minor league baseball batting average). This isn’t to say there isn’t a time and place for the emotionally charged percussion of a big pregame speech.
But great coaches and athletes understand that basketball is like a grand symphony, made up of much more than raw percussion. Varied volume control creates grand symphonic music that balances emotional percussion with timing and the skillful execution and concert of the string, wind, and brass sections. A team that understands how to consistently run a beautifully executed flexible offense that results in a perfect, smooth, open 12-foot jump shot, and then quickly go into an aggressive full-run, jump defense that consistently results in turnovers from the opponent, understand how to make this music.
Athletes and coaches need to know their own optimal levels of arousal and stay at the level that allows them to perform at their best. This means that pre-game speeches sometimes need to focus almost entirely on game strategy, while emotionally charged messages need to be delivered on an as-needed and more individual basis. Most athletes know how to get up for a game.
Take some time to sit back and watch your players work during your next pre-match. Some players will sit quietly, some will talk, some will find it distracting and deflect their nervousness with humor, while others will love letting their mp3 players shape their game. A fiery pre-game speech is just what some of your players want and need, while that same speech will just as effectively drive some of your other players out of the game and lead to poor performance (although, of course, the most would never dare admit that to you!).
Truly great coaches and athletes understand that the purpose of a great pregame session is to achieve an optimal level of composure, focus, confidence, and commitment for each individual on the field of play. These traits of strength and mental ability are called the 4 Cs of peak performance, and each athlete will need to arrive at this optimal state of mind through a slightly different route during pre-game. Coaches who use the pre-game session and speaking to achieve this will start the game with a clear advantage over their opponent.