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High-Performance Mindfulness: Pre-Game Work – The Holistic Approach

Pre-game routines are key in priming players for optimal in-game performance. Jake Rauchbach breaks down integrated player development methods for accomplishing this.

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Creating the momentum required to produce consistently high-level performance is a delicate process. It’s something that must be cultivated and nurtured daily through disciplined adherence to one’s craft. Doing so ensures the proper velocity needed for a player to instinctually perform at the highest possible level during a game.

Employing holistic pre-game routines may present one of the more efficient ways of doing this. Systematic to the point, integrated player development routines that prime the player may increase the probability of cultivating improved in-game results. Performance momentum is the rate at which a player accesses higher-level flow/production output. In-game production is the byproduct of a player’s consistent focus on his/her craft.

That being said, approaching pre-game prep from this holistic vantage point is about efficiency and aims to find the fastest way possible to help the player produce come game time.

One of the most effective ways to do this is through a multi-level pre-game player development approach that primes the mind in a position-specific skill-development way. Pairing these approaches has been shown to influence in-game production upwards. Here is how.

Pre-Game Holistic Player Development

The Start

Priming the mind for the game is a way that many high-performers can leverage to gain an edge. Many Olympians who compete in individualized sports such as track and field and swimming employ this methodology to facilitate fast starts.

Employing a pre-game routine that prepares the mind can reap dividends come game time. Whether driven by the player or implemented by the player development coach, or coaching staff, leveraging mental performance techniques to reset performance fast is a great way to give a team an edge.

The time period directly before the on-court skill work begins is a great time to do this. Integrating the technique within on-court skill work helps the player begin to learn how to pair their mental focus game and with their basketball game. Making this a component of the pre-game routine gives the player extra repetition for how to do it in a game.

On the Court

Once an athlete is mentally prepared, getting right into player specific skill development should come next. The goal here is to help the player find a rhythm, performance flow, and good feeling; basically, a skill-development routine that grooves the player.

Players went to find their groove or rhythm before the game. All mental skills and on-court work should allow for this aspect to unfold.

This being said, each player generally has a routine that they like to employ pre-game. For wings, it may be a combination of spot-shooting, off-ball cuts, and short clock pick and roll action. For bigs, it maybe a finishing around the rim package, mid-range catch and shoot and pick and roll action. For point guards, PNRs, spot-shooting, and their favorite move, and counter-series could help facilitate the desired rhythm.

The intensity to which players go through their pre-game work is another intriguing piece.

Each player is different, and not all players need to go 100% pre-game to be at their best in-game. Priming performance for the goal of producing maximum level production during the game is an inexact science and is player specific.

However, when there is an absolute focus in pre-game, many times you will see the player touch-into peak-performance states. The player’s pace could look to be game-speed, and the execution rate could mirror that of a late-game situation. This sort of pre-game intensity is generally ideal and is a reflection of the player’s emotional clarity and mental focus, both of which help to build performance momentum into the game.

Mental Focus

The next layer of this process is mental, and priming mental focus is all about consistency. During pre-game, it is good to have a pre-established mental focus routine in place. Once honed, the player can internally perform the mental cue in under five seconds.

Deliberately working mental focus repetitions into pre-game further prepares players. Employing one or two repetitions is effective. On free throws, or in between drills, players who can knock out mental focus cues before the game are priming mental acuity for in-game action.
Players with pre-existing internal processes like this can proactively read and attack in-game situations as they arise. This helps to increase their probability of success. Greater confidence and cleaner execution are all byproducts of mental primers in action.

Priming the physical and mental systems in this fashion is a great way to integrate into player and team concepts. Synthesizing these levels of player development before the game helps facilitate greater execution during the game.

A proactive hybrid approach such as this can create openings for players. As players continue to report the benefits of integrated approaches such as these, expect pre-game quick-hitting visualizations, and meditations to become a valued and common component of pre-game player development.

Jake Rauchbach is an Integrated Player Development Coach, specializing in High-Performance Mindfulness. He has coached professional and Division-1 basketball. He is the founder of The MindRight Pro® Program and consults on the Olympic, collegiate and professional levels. Follow him on Instagram @mindright_pro and twitter @mindrightpro

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