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Want to make sure you show your potential when competing? It is important to be able to handle the pressure and show your hard work. To do this you need to stay calm and composed. If you get too nervous or too excited on game day you will get distracted, lose confidence, perform tight or hold back and make more mistakes. You will not perform at your best.

To stay calm and composed and avoid out of control emotions, follow the 6 game day mental tips below:

1. Have a Pre-Game Routine: This should be used before every game and the goal is to get in the zone and maintain your winning mindset. If you can get in the zone consistently you will perform consistently, stay focused on what you have to do and manage the pressure. The most important benefit is that you will perform the same in games as you do in practice. You will be ready to compete from the start and show your potential.

A pre-game routine can include mental strategies such as relaxation, visualization, reviewing your goals, listening to music and positive thinking. A lot of athletes have a physical routine but often forget to add a mental routine. You need a plan for the night before, the morning of, traveling to the game, warm-up and right before you start. For each step write down what you are doing physically and mentally. You want to decide what you are going to think about and focus on at each stage. As you get closer to game time you want to have less and less thoughts and be very focused on a few specific points.

2. Build Confidence: Confidence is a key factor in achieving peak performance. In order to perform at your best you need the optimum level of belief in your skills. On game day you need to focus on maintaining your own optimum level of confidence. You can increase and maintain confidence in many ways including: positive thinking, focusing on what you are doing well and, remembering your strengths.

One great exercise you can do is to remember past successful performances. Think of 3 past performances where you overcame a difficult situation and were still able to perform to your best. It is also great to have images in your head of what you achieved. You will believe you can overcome anything and perform your best in any situation. You can bounce back quickly from mistakes and you will make less mistakes overall.

3. Avoid Overthinking: Don’t psych yourself out right before you are going to compete. It is common to start worrying about what will happen and second guess your game plan. This can make you feel unprepared and nervous. Your warm-up may not feel right or something seems “off” and this gets stuck in your head. It is important to stay calm and to trust in the preparation you have done in practice. It doesn’t help to continue to work on or master your skills just before a game.

Don’t worry about how your performance looks or feels. Empty your mind of everything except for a few key points and your game plan. This is what we call a quiet mind and often leads to being in the zone where athletes experience most of their best performances. You can achieve this with mental training techniques such as using helpful thoughts, deep breathing and visualization. You will be focused on what you need to do and will feel calm and composed.

4. Stay focused on the present: Our minds can only focus on so much. When you focus on something not happening right then it means you will not be fully focused on the current play and can’t perform your best. Thinking about the past or future is a distraction.

Refocus quickly when you realize you are worried about the future or frustrated about the past. If you can train your mind on what to do in the present moment you will perform your best more often. You need to focus on how to play well in the current point and your game plan. This will help you to control the nerves and manage the pressure.

5. Have Fun: You play your best when you’re having fun and feeling happy. Don’t take it too seriously or put too much pressure on yourself. When you put pressure on yourself it makes you doubt your skills and can cause nerves and choking. Focus on why you started in your sport and why you play now. You will be more motivated.

If you can embrace the pressure and challenges you will enjoy competing. When you encounter a tough situation challenge yourself to see how well you can do. Don’t lose sight of the big picture and remember you can always learn something no matter what happens. You will have more fun if you focus on what you are doing well and your strengths. Don’t hold on to what is going wrong, make corrections and use your strengths to perform better.

6. Focus on Process Foals: During game day it is easy to get caught up in the score or how much you want to win. This can be common especially during difficult situations such as when you are behind during a game or if you are trying to close out a match. To play your best you need to focus on the process of playing well. For example this could be specific technical points, your goals or your game plan.

Set process not outcome goals to focus on while playing. Refocus on these when you recognize you are distracted by the score. Remember you can’t control the score or your opponent, you can only control you. Focusing on the process means you are focusing on things in your control. This will prevent you from putting pressure on yourself and getting too nervous. You will be calm and confident. You will be able to overcome nerves and reach peak performance.

Important to Remember:

You can be in control of you. This includes your thoughts, emotions and behaviors. And mostly importantly your performance!

It’s not what is happening around you that makes you too nervous or too excited. It is what is happening inside you that is the real cause. For example it is what you say to yourself that causes the nerves, the holding back and the decrease in performance. But what is important to know is that you can change this and you can calm yourself down and have the correct thoughts that will help you perform well.

Key points:

  • Staying calm and composed is key to performing your best on game day

  • Use a pre-game routine to get in the zone consistently

  • Maintain your confidence at its optimum level by using various positive thinking techniques

  • Staying in the present helps to manage your emotions and embrace the pressure

  • Trust in your preparation and keep a quiet mind

  • When playing, focusing on the process rather than the outcome improves performance

  • Have fun!

If you want to get more tips and exercises, sign up for my free newsletter here. You will receive my free e-book: Top Ten Mental Mistakes Athletes Make In Competition: What Every Athlete, Coach and Parent Need To Avoid To Improve Mental Toughness. Plus you get the strategies top athletes use to become mentally tough and get an edge over their opponents.

If you would like more customized tips and an individualized mental training plan you can Contact Me here. You can also find out more about my services and why you should work with me on my Services Page here.

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Zoe Littlewood, M.A. -
Sport Psychology Consultant & Mental Skills Coach

Zoe specializes in working with individuals, teams, parents and coaches to produce performance enhancement, mental toughness and a winning mindset.

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