During pre-match preparation (90 minutes prior to competition), one of your goals is to help players achieve the right frame of mind. You want players "psyched up" to meet the physical demands of the game, but also mentally attuned to the complexities of the match.
Athletes preparing for a match are under real pressure. As game time approaches, pressures increase resulting in certain physiological changes (e.g. increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilation of pupils, muscle tension, etc.)
In conjunction with these physical changes are mental changes. Players tend to narrow their attention involuntarily, focusing on fewer cues. As attention narrows, players become increasingly aware of physical changes. This causes athletes to think about their bodies instead of the game. The end result: choking.
Recommendation: Here are four strategies to help players break this destructive cycle and regain control.
1. Start by letting athletes (particularly newer players) that these feelings are normal. They are necessary to go through to prepare for a competition.
For night games, dilation of the pupils lets more light in, thereby improving vision. The increase in heart rate will help meet the demands placed on the cardiovascular system. Tell players that anyone in their situation would feel the same way.
2. Because of their narrowing focus, athletes are frequently unable to absorb numerous last-minute details. This information overload only strengthens the choking loop, therefore give simple directions.
3. Make sure all team members are operating under a common philosophy. Successful teams have a common "orienting" philosophy. This provides players with a decisional basis compatible with teammates, bringing about effective cooperation.
4. Develop a pre-game routine with the flexibility that will permit you to prepare the team as a whole and also allow individual players to reach their optimal arousal level.