As the season is coming to an end and cup finals or relegation battles might be around the corner, we take a look at how to best approach these big games.
It can feel like there is a lot resting on just one game including the success of an entire season. These crunch games can be mentally challenging and therefore it's important to prepare mentally as well as physically.
Be in the best shape physically
It can be difficult to get this spot on. The last thing you want to do is go into the game not feeling 100% fit! So it is tempting to hold off in training and maybe run a light session. The downside to this is that it can be argued that an intense training session in the build up to the game can ensure your players are at peak sharpness. I would sway more to lighter sessions as players will be coming in off the back of playing week in week out so therefore should be going into the game feeling sharp.
Treat it like any other game
There are some excellent cliches knocking around when it comes to how teams should mentally approach a big game. Every team and player is different, teams will find certain things work for them whilst others won't.
Think back to your previous successes or wins over the course of your season. What did you do in preparation for that day? Can you replicate this in the lead up to your crunch game? Literally changing nothing might be the best way to approach it. If you've had regular success, why change anything!? Consistency is key!
Getting every player in your team on a level playing field in terms of motivation can be tricky. It can be difficult to contain over-exuberant players, but you should look to harness this to rub off on those players who might need a nudge in the right direction.
Do you have knowledge on the opposition?
If you know how the opponent sets-up tactically or where their strengths and weaknesses lie, you can prepare your team to either exploit the weaknesses or nullify the strengths. This might mean changing away from your normal tactics but if this gives you a better chance of coming out on top in a one off, winning takes all showdown then it's a no brainer right!
If you don't have any knowledge of the opposition, have a look at their previous results. This might tell you whether they are a team who scores more goals or points and is therefore dangerous in attack or a team conceding fewer goals or points will likely be tougher to break down defensively.
There can only be one winner on the day and no doubt the result will leave emotions either on a high or in the gutter, but this is why we play sport! So whatever the outcome on the day, try to reflect on the positives!