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Game Day Prep - Follow a Routine and Get Mentally Prepared

Mental preparation is one of the most important, yet underutilized, skills a player can use to get ready for a game. As a former outfielder at Arizona State University, I learned the importance of mental preparation for both the individual and the team. The best players all have a daily regimen, which they consistently follow. Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn said this of his preparation, “I’ve been doing it so long, I can’t stop.”

Below is a specific regimen that I followed to prepare me both physically and mentally for game day.

Develop a routine before each game, and you will find yourself getting into the zone more easily.

Night Before a Game

7:00 p.m. -Arrive home from practice or game.

7:30 p.m. - Eat a healthy well-balanced meal to get you going for the next day.

8:00-10:00 p.m. - Finish your schoolwork for the next day. Socialize with friends on the phone and/or computer.

10:00-10:30 p.m. - Reflect on how your practice or game went and think about what you could do to improve. Visualize in your mind certain situations you might face in your next game and think about your plan of attack.

10:30-11:00 p.m. - Unwind and get into bed. You should get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. This will enable your body to recover from the previous day and help you feel rejuvenated for the next day.

Game Day 7:00 a.m. - Try to wake up at the same time everyday and eat a good breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. At ASU, we had a team breakfast every morning. By getting up at the same time everyday you will fall into a daily routine, which helps you enter “the zone.”

8:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. - Go to all of your classes. Try to maintain your focus on school rather than the game.

2:30 p.m. - Begin to concentrate on the day’s game. Double check your equipment bag before you load the bus. Nothing is more frustrating than not having the proper equipment to compete at your best.

2:45 p.m. - Bus leaves for the game. While on the bus you should gather your thoughts and relax. Some players listen to music, while others sit quietly and visualize their performance.

3:15 p.m. - Bus arrives at the field. Some key elements you should now do: check out the field - what are the dimensions? How will the ball play off the wall? If you’re a pitcher, check the mound. Are there any unique obstacles on the field (rocks, sprinkler heads, or an uneven playing surface)? Will the sun and wind be a factor today? After you’re done, get a good stretch in.

3:30 p.m. - Play catch. Don’t just go through the motions. You can do spot catches to improve your accuracy. Pick a target on your partner’s body and try to hit it.

3:45 p.m. - Most teams do batting practice now. If you don’t have time you can work off a tee or get a partner and do soft toss. Take your batting practice with a purpose. Remember those thoughts you had last night about what you needed to improve on.

4:15 p.m. - Game time is approaching. When I was in high school, I wish I had taken a few pitches when my team’s pitcher was warming up in the bullpen. Doing so enables you to work on tracking the ball and it is also good for the pitcher. The pitcher can warm up with a batter in the box just like in the game. By doing this as a hitter, you will feel like you have had a couple of at bats because of the pitches you have seen.

4:30 p.m. - Now you’re ready! It’s game time. Relax, have fun. Your preparation will give you the confidence to excel in any situation.

Author Ryan McKenna was a 3-year varsity player for Arizona State University from 2001-2004, hitting .286 for his college career.

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