As coaches, we inspire our athletes to perform to their potential. And an enlightening, thought-provoking game-day speech is a must.
The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. – Hall of Fame NFL coach, Vince Lombardi.
As coaches, we inspire our athletes to perform to their
potential. And an enlightening, thought-provoking game-day speech is a must.
There are plenty of questions to consider before delivering
a pre-game speech. With only a few minutes to spare before athletes begin
competing, how can a coach convey an impactful message that mentally and emotionally
prepares our athletes for competition?
From my experiences as a university athlete, elite coach,
and graduate student in the area of sport psychology, I recommend coaches
consider three fundamental rules when delivering a pre-competition speech:
Reiterate the importance of team values
In the opening quotation, Lombardi identifies the values of hard work, dedication and determination as to the keys to success. As coaches, we should communicate the importance of similar values to our athletes. I recommend coaches address the importance of commitment, hustle, and respect to name a few.
Avoid last-minute instruction
It’s our job as coaches to offer technical and tactical instruction. However, with a few minutes before your athletes begin to compete, it is best to avoid any last-minute instruction, which may confuse your athletes or add additional stress. Remember, your athletes want to begin competing with a clear and calm mind. As a result, refrain from bombarding them with a list of instructions right before a competition. This information is most effectively communicated after the game or at practice.
Offer continuous support
Finally, support your athletes by complimenting and
reminding them how proud you are of them. Aside from being coaches, we are also
mentors and role models. Our athletes look up to us and value our opinions. We
must communicate with our athletes that we are proud of their efforts and
confident in their abilities to perform. This positive social support will
undeniably equate to a higher success rate, as our athletes enter the playing
field with increased self-efficacy.
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What do you say before a game to help your athletes/team perform at their best?
Share your tips and best practices!
Coach Juan – Soccer – Hamilton – 15 Years
“…I can not agree more with the importance of a positive,
and encouraging pregame speech. Three years ago, I was an assistant coach for a
U11 girls team. Our game was against the best team in our division, a team that
just didn’t lose to anyone. The parents knew what was coming, the players were
walking with their heads down, not wanting to even take the pitch.
I pulled the team away from everyone and sat them down, not having any idea on what I was going to say, to at least get them to play and have fun. I started by making sure I didn’t mention the words win or lose. I told my girls, in order to have success on the pitch, you have to work together as a team. You have to make sure you take care of each other. Trust your teammates, but more importantly, believe in your ability to play the game. Also that before they stepped on the pitch, to tell themselves that they were going to work harder than anyone on the pitch, including their teammates. Let’s face it, I didn’t tell these girls anything that coaches have not been saying for years and years, but for some reason this time it stayed with them, they understood what it would take to be successful.
The game ended 1-1. After the game, the girls said they were only able to do what they did, because of my pregame speech. We’ve had success since that game, but the reason I like to share that story is because of three years later and the girls still talk about that great game they played and the reason why they were able to achieve success.”
Coach Saajidh – Karate – Scarborough – 4 years
“…We will enjoy every moment. We Own the Win, We will play
to save it, We play to protect it.”
Coach Stuart M. – Multi-Sport – Sierra Leone – 10 years
“…Sometimes it’s what not to say. Don’t bring in any new
information, concepts, or strategy…despite what you see in movies. If you
didn’t do it last week at practice, it’s too late. Before a game, players often
think about the latest trick or play they learned thinking it will help them
get an edge. Instead, remind them to focus on fundamentals.
Keep things simple. Trying to execute something new
(complex) at the cost of previously mastered fundamental skills is a game day
mistake I’ve seen many times. You could mention ONE thing they should be
working on to improve, provided you have gone over it at practice the week
Close with something to reduce athlete pressure (lower the
stakes), or ramp it up, depending on what your athletes respond best to. Some
need help calming nerves, some need to be challenged.”
Coach Amanda Miles – Basketball – Markham – 13+ Years
“…I tend to just remind them how much work they have put in
and that they know their stuff. Just to trust themselves and they will be fine.
To play their game and not let the ref’s or other teams affect them.”
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