Photos left to right by Katie Eberhart, Paul Rutherford for UltiPhotos, and Juna Dela Cruz
You and your team have been working towards this for months. All the hours scrimmaging and drilling, the effort you made in the gym and on the track.. it all comes down to this. After investing so much in your training, how do you ensure that you perform at your best when that first pull goes up?
We asked some of the athletes from our network what they do to prepare for a game come the day of the tournament itself. Stretching, throwing, visualization, even the pre-game hype song—it's all here!
This year playing with the Austin Torch, our coach Amy K asked us this same question:
“What is our pre-game routine?”
I didn’t really think I had one, but after some thought I realized I do the same thing before every game. On the way to the field, I have to have a Red Bull. I also need to listen to the song Beast by Rob Bailey & The Hustle. This isn’t a song that anyone that knows me would believe I like, but for some reason it really builds my confidence and gets me really hype.
Once I get to the fields, I don’t really like engaging with anyone, but I also don't like isolating myself with headphones (mainly because I hate headphones). I like to focus on the games ahead and not think about much else. As a captain, I do take this time to scan the team to make sure everyone seems okay. If anyone seems off, I do check in with them to see if they need anything. Once my cleats are on, I like to get some throws in until they feel good. And then comes team warm-ups.
I know I need it, but I’ve never really liked the stretching part of team warm-ups. I feel like we always do too much and stretch the same muscle group multiple times. I know a lot of thought is put into these warm-ups by better educated people than me, so I just do what I’m told. I used to do all of it to be part of the team but have learned that I can still do the warm-up and listen to my body to know when it’s getting over stretched. This has really helped me actually feel warm by the end of warm-ups and not tired with tight muscles.
I like following static/dynamic warm-ups with a drill we call Waterfall. In Waterfall, there are 4 lines of players spread across the field about 10 yards apart. The 2 outside lines are throwing lines and 2 inside lines are cutting lines. There is a series of 3 cuts—handler strike, under cut, and a deep cut. After you cut and receive a pass, you go in a throwing line. After you throw, you rotate to a cutting line.
This drill helps get my mind and body ready to play ultimate by actively throwing and cutting. Once I throw one good throw of each set and catch everything (or at least everything after I drop my first one) then I'm good to go.
The last thing I want to do before taking the field is put on my clean game jersey. Now I know it is game time.
My pre-game routine can vary widely. The only consistent part is that I try to check off three aspects before every game: being ready physically, mentally and throwing-wise.
If my body is feeling fine, the physical part is about just following the regular warm-up. Often this is not the case though and I try to give some extra attention to the parts that are bothering me so that I can start the match at 100%. This could be in the form of some extra stretches, rolling or exercises for the specific body parts that are bothering me.
The mental part is all about pushing my mind over the point where things feel like work. Where taking a sprint seems exhausting and making a layout feels like it might be painful. Some days I can just flip the switch in my head and that’s that. Other days I might get there by doing some extra sprints, doing a few layouts before the match, or even by doing some pushups. Sometimes taking a few minutes for myself to think things over can also get me there.
The throwing part is pretty straightforward. Although once again, there are days where I only need a few throws to feel comfortable, and others where it takes a bit longer.
I think the right pre-game routine is a bit different for everyone and it’s mostly about figuring out what works for you.
We all have our own pre-game routines. Some are typical, while some more unique. Given that we all are different, I believe there is no one correct way of dealing with things, and this includes how one prepares for a game. Sure, others may say that there’s a “general” way to prepare for a game, like warming up or visualizing, but as for the details that go into your preps, I’m sure we’ll see some interesting differences.
For the physical prep, I try to get enough sleep, have a heavy breakfast (since I don’t get to eat much during game days), put on sunscreen, and fill my bottle with cold water. The bigger chunk of my physical preparation though is the warm-up. I really believe in a good warm-up. I start with some mobility exercises on my own so I can have time to really work on the parts of my body that need more “help”. This will be followed by some dynamic stretches and drills with the team.
I know some people who prefer to stay on the more relaxed side while doing their dynamics and drills to avoid using up too much energy before for the game. I, personally, try to make sure I’m already bringing up my level of intensity here. It is at this point where I try to simulate game time, the intensity and focus, so come the first pull, my body (and mind) would already be at 100%. I gradually start to push myself to get my blood pumping, lungs expanding, and my muscles contracting until I reach a state wherein my body would be working with less effort.
I basically want to eliminate that sluggish start when in a game. This is why during warm-up, my teammates would always notice me catching my breath as if after a 20-min long point, but come game time, they could count on me to be one of the most energetic from start to finish. I remember telling one of my teammates who saw me out of breath after warm-up, “I’ll have my second wind come game time”.
Equally important, if not more so, is the mental preparation. because no matter how prepared your body is, if your mind is somewhere else or isn’t ready, you won’t be able to perform at your best. We have set offensive and defensive goals. Having these in mind, I do a lot of visualizations wherein I try to picture myself and the team executing our plans and achieving our goals. I visualize myself playing a perfect game. I try not to entertain any doubts, especially self-doubt. This is why I always focus on my strengths. I try to recall the great things I’ve done on the field. In this way, I get a boost of confidence in myself, in my game. I believe in the power of the mind, so yes, “what the mind can conceive and believe, the mind (and body) can achieve”!
Yes, I believe in the power of the mind, but our mind can only take so much at a time. To make sure I’m focused and effective, I only keep 3 things in mind the last few minutes before the game:
- Our main offensive goal
- Our main defensive goal
- The fact that I am going to do great
This works for me. Whatever floats your boat, right?
Looking for the right exercises to get your body ready as part of your pre-game routine? Try our simple dynamic warm-up!