How Routines Help You Get into the Flow

Athletic Focus

Mastering The Pregame Routine

Do you have a pregame routine? Not just a warm up routine, but also a mental preparation routine?

Is your routine consistent? In other words, do you perform the same pregame routine prior to every competition?

Haphazard pregame preparation leads to inconsistent play or difficulty getting into the flow of a game. Take for instance a high school hockey player who recently reached out to us:

“I always seem to get off to a slow start in games. It takes me several shifts before I feel comfortable on the ice.  Is there anything I can do to help me get into the flow of a game more quickly?”

One way get going early in a competition is to develop a consistent pregame routine. Imagine if you didn’t practice for a week prior to a game, you would feel unprepared and lack confidence when the puck drops.

The same happens when you don’t have a pregame routine. You are not prepared mentally and physically. When you hit the ice it takes time to warm up physically. Mentally, you are not ready to compete, and it may take you a full period to feel ready.

When you feel unprepared, you will be hesitant and reactive on the ice. When you skip your pregame routine, you feel uncomfortable in the beginning of the game.

A pregame routine is important for all sports, not just hockey. It is a purposeful design to prepare yourself mentally and physically for each game.

A consistent pregame routine drastically increases consistent performance in competitions.

Being a slow starter may be that you are not clicked in before each competition. A slow starter may eat a candy bar or what’s handy for a pregame snack. Instead, you want a pre-game snack, water, or energy drink before arriving to the competition to help fuel you.

A pregame routine keeps you focused on your preparation, preventing distractions and negative thoughts from flooding your mind. A consistent pregame routine signals your mind and body that you are ready to compete from the start of the competition.

Even though Penn State University men’s hockey had a losing record heading into the 2021 Big Ten Tournament, goaltender Oskar Autio maintains a consistent pregame routine. Autio relies heavily on his mental preparation and pre-game routine.

AUTIO: “For me, [the mental game] has been something that I’ve always worked on, and I know it’s been really important. A lot of it is about your mindset, but I also focus on relaxation and mental preparation before the games. Things like not putting too much pressure on yourself. It’s something I think I can keep getting better at, and I think every goalie works a lot on.”

How you prepare before competition is under your direct control. When you prepare in a consistent manner, you are setting yourself up for success.  

Develop a Consistent Pregame Routine:

Write out a pregame routine to help you prepare.

1. Arrive an hour before the competition.
2. Stretch for 10 minutes.
3. Get dressed.
4. Warm up, “My warm-up will consist of:”
5. Prepare mentally (focus, rehearsal, self-talk, etc.)
6. Pregame snack.

Know what pregame routine that works for you to help you get the right intensity before the game.

Related Articles on Mental Game:

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