Last week we dug into why the pregame routine is so important to athletes young and old. Yes, it warms up the body, but it’s the effect on a hockey player or tennis player’s mind that truly resonates once the game begins.
In short, the better we are at calming our mind and eliminating distractions, the easier we’ll enter our flow state, a state in which we’re just playing, not thinking.
Sounds incredible, right?
Right. You don’t need to read the article if you haven’t already, since I just summed it up for you. But here it is just in case.
What we didn’t get into last week though is what a pregame routine actually looks like. So here we go!
A local legend by the name of Luca Grabas who plays hockey at the North Shore Winter Club taught me a lot about pregame routines over the past few years. Even though he’s a couple decades younger than me, Luca’s pregame routine has actually rubbed off on me. If you know Luca, then you probably know what I’m talking about.
The potions. Accompanying Luca for every single game over the three or so years I coached him were two green water bottles filled with special mixtures. The funny thing is that while Luca is fairly serious in the dressing room, a lot of his close friends are anything but. But no matter what, in the middle of all those chaotic dressing rooms, Luca never forgets his potions.
I still don’t actually know what they’re made of.
Back to Luca, the other constant for him with every game is the organization of his equipment. Before every game he removes his hockey equipment from his bag and hangs it up, always in the same pattern. Now, there’s nothing physically advantageous about organizing your equipment, but if it helps to clear the mind then it’s worth it.
Again, imagine the noise and laughter and general tomfoolery in an atom or peewee dressing room - Luca even caught his fair share of teasing and taunting.
But that didn’t matter to Luca. Nor should it.
Another crucial aspect of a pregame routine is the timing at which each pregame event occurs. From arrival to time spent on taping sticks to the physical warmup, nothing throws a team off more than the disruption of a schedule.
I’ll admit, this one is at the top of my priority list. I always needed the same amount of time to tape my sticks and get dressed. Anything less and I felt rushed, which would always result in anxiety. It’s the same now as a coach, and I’m sure as a parent as well. There’s nothing sweeter than checking items off your pregame routine checklist on time - or even slightly ahead of schedule.
Wow, dare to dream, eh?
When was the last time you saw your son or daughter block a shot? Take a hit? Sell out and leap to swat a puck out of the danger zone?
A lot of us believe our children sacrifice like this because they just want to win oh so bad. Sure, that’s part of it, but the real reason players put their body on the line is because it will make their teammates happy. Hockey players are creatures of peer pressure. Thankfully this pressure is more positive than it’s ever been, but it still results in bruised feet and broken hands, all because hockey players would do anything to earn the admiration of their teammates.
It’s why the dressing room culture before a game is so important. A couple words of encouragement are all it takes to help a hockey player, tennis player, or any player, dig deep into their inner reserves of loyalty and dedication in order to help the team.
After that, the only thing left to do is drop the puck.