Why is it that some teams play great all season long, but can’t seem to pull out a victory when it matters most? Most teams fail to win the big game because of expectation and pressure.
You tell yourself, “This is the Championship game; the biggest game of the year.” The pressure builds. You have never played in a more meaningful game. By the time the game starts, you feel an overwhelming amount of pressure to win. Throughout the game, you just can’t seem to get into a groove and you play well below expectations.
After the game you wonder, “What happened?”
Well, you changed your mental approach to the game. You tried harder to tried to have the perfect game. The big game for the championship is the same game as you played all regular season. By labeling it, the “BIG game,” the importance increases and you feel more pressure and this can affect your performance.
The best way to approach championship games is to stick to what you have done all season long. You need to prepare for championship moments all season, practice championship scenarios and imagine those moments so when you are in those situations, you feel like you have been there before. Of course you will feel some degree of pressure — you played all season for the opportunity to advance to the championship game.
The key to winning prime time games is to consistently prepare for those big moments. When you feel like you have been there before, you feel less overwhelmed and you can focus on playing your game.
When you set your goals in the beginning of the season, ask yourself, “What do I need to do to, not only get to that point, but to succeed in that moment?”
Maybe, it’s staying loose when you are playing game point. Then create little mental scenarios during practice games.
Tell yourself, “This is game point, stay loose and relaxed.” By rehearsing big time moments, you will place less pressure on yourself and increase your chances of succeeding.