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Match day routines: 5 essential tips to team success

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Posted by Neil B under Football (Soccer), Rugby Union, Cricket, Field Hockey, Basketball on 9 February 2013 at 12:00 AM

Australian Hockey TeamWhile much focus is put on pre-match preparation in terms of training and tactics during the week before a match, relatively less emphasis is placed on actual match day routines. You wouldn’t slack off in training before a match, so why should you have a slack attitude to match day routines. It should be common knowledge that turning up with 10 minutes till kick off, straight out of bed and with no nutrition in you is not an effective match day routine. However, the amount this can be seen occurring before games is remarkable. Professional teams don’t have strict pre-match routines for the sake of it, they have real benefits that can aid your teams’ performance and ultimately increase your chances of winning.

Here I will run through five essential tips for your teams’ Match Day Routine:

1: Sufficient sleep the night before

It is vitally important that as part of your Pre-Match day routines that you get sufficient sleep the night before a game. This will have an effect on both your physical and your mental performance, and so is critical in setting the right tone for your match day routine. During sleep your muscles are in repair mode. As such, if you fail to get sufficient sleep the night before a game, you can leave your muscles feeling lethargic and lacking energy.

Indeed research shows that if you fail to get between 7-8 hours of sleep the night before a match, it can have a negative influence on your performance. Lack of sleep will also have an impact on your mental alertness. It will affect your ability to concentrate fully the next day. Given that full concentration throughout a game is crucial in order to perform to the best of your ability, sleep is vitally important.

2:  Pre-Match Nutrition

Consuming an appropriate pre-match meal at the correct time is crucial in your preparation as a team pre-match. If you do not consume the correct nutrition before a match, you will not be able to reach your optimal performance levels.

It is generally recommended that for the purpose of team sports such as football, rugby, hockey etc., a high carbohydrate meal should be consumed around 3-4 hours before a match. Research has shown that the consumption of a high carbohydrate meal 3-4 hours before a match has significant positive effects on endurance. Sports such as these rely heavily on your carbohydrate stores. Between 3-4 hours prior to a game is regarded as the optimal time to eat pre-game, because the food is out of your stomach, but still in your system. This allows the sustained release of glycogen throughout the match.

It is important to eat the correct type of Carbohydrates at this point. Slow release Carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and cereal are perfect here, so long as they are consumed in moderation so as not to cause bloating. They will facilitate the slow release of energy throughout a game, ultimately allowing you to perform for longer. While sugary carbohydrates may succeed in providing you with a short burst of energy immediately before a game, or during half time, if an effective and high carbohydrate meal has not been consumed 3-4 hours before the match, you will quickly feel your energy levels dropping.Pre Game Team Meal

While clearly it may not be possible for your whole team to eat together 3-4 hours before a match, players should be under instructions to consume a high carbohydrate meal within this time frame before the game. This should be accompanied by sufficient fluids like water, so as to keep hydration and salt levels up.

For further information check out this quick guide to Match Day nutrition

3: Pre-Match Rituals 

It can be beneficial for some players to have a routine that they have developed over time, which they do the same every time they are preparing for a match. While as a team you will be preparing, it can also be important for some to have their own rituals. Having the same routine before a match can help begin your mental preparation for the match ahead. It focuses your mind on the task at hand, and begins to put you in the correct mental state for the game, as the routine will act as a mental notification that it is almost game time.

Clearly everyone will have their own routines and rituals. They can be as mundane as always listening to the same music pre-game, to the ridiculous and downright smelly, such as Serena Williams who insists on wearing the same pair of socks throughout each tournament, or LeBron James who throws chalk into the air before every game. Of course this is all personal preference and what works for you. For some people simply relaxing before a game will be the perfect pre-game ritual. Do whatever suits you, no matter how strange it may seem.

Have a watch of what a few Manchester United players had to say about their pre-game rituals:

4: Sufficient Warm-Up 

Leaving enough time pre-match for a sufficient warm up is very important, as a full and active warm up is a crucial part of any pre exercise routine. The warm up should commence with around 30 minutes to go until kick off. It should begin with 10 minutes worth of running. This will loosen off the muscles and raise their core temperatures in preparation for more strenuous movements. Start off with light jogging and gradually build the pace to around 70% of maximum. By the end of this section, the players should be lightly sweating.

Once the muscles have been warmed, static stretches should be carried out for all major muscles groups. This should be done for 5 minutes. After these static stretches, a series of dynamic stretches such as walking lunges, high knees, air squats, heel flicks and leg lifts should be performed. These develop the stretching by beginning to mimic the movements the players may perform on the pitch. 

For the last 10 minutes of the warm up, a sport specific routine or drill should be performed. These can include possession games, passing drills, defensive drills etc. These directly mimic the situations that the players will experience during the game. By this point muscles should be fully loose and stretched off, ready to begin the match.

Possession Drill

An effective warm-up is often over-looked and neglected during pre match routines. Not only will not carrying out an effective warm up as part of your match day routine limit how well you will perform, but can also directly lead to an increased chance of getting injured. It is crucial that you raise the core temperature of your muscles and stretch them sufficiently before playing.

5: Don’t Complicate the Pre-Game Team Talk Team Talk

The pre-match team talk is the last thing the players will hear before they go out onto the pitch. Now is not the time to be adding new information into the player’s heads. This will only serve to confuse them and negatively impact their performance. Instead, emphasise the things that the team have been working on in training during the week, reinforce the style you always play and tell them what they are good at. It is crucial to keep this short team talk positive and reinforce the good things that you have been doing on the training pitch. Now is the time to be inspirational and motivational, not clever. Ensure everyone walks onto the pitch fired up but under control, with an understanding of what is expected of them.

While for many people, game day doesn’t really start until the referees' whistle blows, in reality it starts long before this. In order to perform to the maximum of your abilities as a team, both mental and physical preparation must start considerably before you are out on the pitch. As a team, if you can develop a consistent and effective match day routine, you will give yourself the maximum chance to perform to the best of your abilities.

Ultimately, if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail!

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