The Importance of Pre-Game Routines: By Dr. Rachel Hoeft

Hello and happy March, West-Mont Community! I hope you’ve been having a fantastic week and are doing well. It’s time again for another monthly newsletter on Mental Performance, but first – You’ve struck gold! 

Now’s your chance to get your athlete support to improve their mental game. Sign up here to get 3 30-minute sessions for only $50 each! In these sessions we can cover topics like:

  • Building Confidence

  • Leadership Skills

  • Performance Anxiety

  • Managing Mistakes

  • Team Dynamics

  • Goal Setting

  • Taking Risks

  • Decisions Under Pressure

And anything else that’s keeping your athlete from leveling up their performance!

And now, onto this month’s topic, the Importance of Pre-Game Routines!

Many of us have routines for some part of our lives or another. Completing tasks in a similar order or time frame each day helps us to remember all of the steps and feel comfortable in our abilities to make things happen. This is the same for athletes, who are among some of the most superstitious people in the world! Below I’ve laid out a few areas of pre-game routines where athletes have the most success in feeling prepared for their competitions. 

Sleep - Sleep hygiene is critical. With consistent bedtimes and getting close to 8 hours of sleep, your athlete is more likely to perform at the top of their game.

Sleep Routine Tip: create a series of events that lead up to bedtime. Doing this consistently will teach the brain it’s time to wind down. For example, this could be everyone putting their electronics on the table, reading for 15 minutes, drinking some chamomile tea, and brushing teeth before hitting the hay. 

Meals - Many athletes perform at their best when they have similar meals before competition. While it doesn’t need to be identical each time, make sure your child is getting enough carbohydrates to give them extra energy for the game. As a rule of thumb, eating an hour or more before exercise can include proteins and fats, but with less than an hour before playing, the focus should be on carbohydrates because they’re easier to digest and turn into energy more quickly. 

Meal Routine tip: keep meal times at a similar span before each game. Having a similar meal schedule or types of food can help your athlete’s brain switch to go-mode. 

Packing and Prep - The last thing any sports family needs on game day is to be rushing around searching for the necessary items for the day’s events. This often causes stress levels to spike and leads to being late which can put the athlete in a state of high performance anxiety, wondering if they’re going to be punished for tardiness or even have enough time to warm up. 

Packing and Prep Routine Tip : as a family, pack up as much as possible the night before. I recommend a checklist of items so your athlete remembers exactly what they need and you don’t forget the hand warmers or chairs! 

On the Drive - Being en route to the field is a huge time for athletes to get mentally prepared. Every athlete’s drive preference is unique, but they often include one or more of the following

  • Listening to “hype music”

  • Chatting about anything besides their sport

  • Chatting only about their sport and goals for the day

  • Complete silence

  • Sleeping

On the Drive Routine Tip: Let your athlete have control over this time and give them space to do what feels right for them. I’m not saying don’t talk to them or let them control the radio to blast their favorite song on repeat, but I am saying give them autonomy to be in their own head or avoid topics if they seem uninterested. If you’re looking for your athlete’s top performance, the last thing you want is for them to feel roped into talking or doing things that prevent them from feeling calm and relaxed upon arrival. 

Arrival - Warm ups are an athlete’s time to start locking in and get in the zone. Do your best to give them time to prepare and make sure they stay hydrated. 

Arrival Routine Tip: Have your athlete identify 2 or 3 exercises or activities that help them to feel most prepared. Then, each warm up have them give full effort to making sure these are completed with intention. Here are some favorites of the athletes I’ve worked with:

  • 2 full-speed sprints

  • Listen to the chorus of their favorite song

  • Ask a teammate how they’re doing

  • Finish a bottle of water

  • Time to be with their thoughts

  • List their goals for the game


I hope this helps you and your athlete create a pre-game routine that gets everyone in the mindset for go-time! If you are looking for custom support, don’t forget to take advantage of this discounted special– Click here to get you and your athlete on the right path.


-Dr. Rachel Hoeft