Grand Final Preparation

Saturday, August 29, 2015

By Peter Schwab - Brisbane Lions Football Club

As we close in on the end of the season, the finals are a major focus. If your team makes it through to the Grand Final, appropriate preparation is critical to performance.

But there is no difference in the stress and pressure and meaning for any club who reaches a Grand Final. Be it the AFL or the lowest divisions of community football. It is about trying to win the ultimate game of the season with a group of people you have a great connection to.

Grand Final day means the players need to try and perform at their very best individually and collectively, as they do every week, except the difference being there is no next week to perform.

With performance comes expectation and with expectation comes pressure and pressure only ever comes from two sources Ė internal or external. You and your players can control internal pressure but you canít control external pressure. Therefore you need to remain focused on what you can control.

There really is no secret formula when it comes to winning a Grand Final, but there are some very basic and simple things you could follow.

1. Keep to your tried, true and tested routine

Obviously what you have been doing all season has worked otherwise you wouldnít be in a Grand Final. Make no major changes to the team or personal preparation and donít over prepare or over train.

2. Anticipate distractions

Think about what could challenge you and how can you prepare for that, donít get caught by surprises and have contingencies if injury occurs

3. Set goals for the game

Set team and individual goals and check against them every quarter as you would for any normal game. But I would really be encouraging the individual player to think about what they are going to do to help win the match and try not to make it too position specific or opponent specific. It may be around tackles, effective kicking or concentration.

4. Everything must be for the team

Players need to adopt a mindset that whatever is asked of them they will do. So if they have to change positions and perform a different role they are ready. Thatís why goals canít be so specific to a position on the ground or opponent. They need to be ready for any challenge.

Players should respect and adapt to the instructions of the coach. You have been entrusted to make decisions about how to win. The players need to remember that the decsions you make are what you think is best for the team.

5. Understand the ground you're playing at

How well do you know the ground you are playing at? Have you played there before? What are some of the unique aspects of the ground? And what is the best way to play it? Ask someone who plays there all the time, they may know which way the wind often blows or where they think the attacking side of the ground is.

If you havenít played on it before go out and walk around get a feel for it. Better still ask if you can have a light training run on it. Time how long it takes to get to the ground from where you live so you know on match day how long it will take you to arrive so you are not under time pressure on the day of the game.

6. Know your opponent

Of course a major factor in any match is your opponent. How have you played against them before? What worked well last time and what didnít? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What could they do differently? Conduct all the usual forward scouting information, but never underestimate or talk them up Ė just give an honest assessment of their capabilities and have a plan to beat them and convince the team how it can win.

7. Get touch at training

Some basics about training and preparation are that there is not much you can do this time of the season. You canít get fitter, stronger or faster in the time left. You can get plenty of touches of the football though without over training. Have someone kick it at players so they keep working their hands, or roll it along the ground to practice ground balls or encourage the players to just sit with it and flick it around every night while watching television.

8. Encourage players to maintain their normal pre-game routine

Encourage them to get plenty of sleep and rest - anything socially can tire players out. Encourage them to eat well and eat the right foods and donít eat anything they havenít eaten before and hydrate well and again donít drink anything they havenít tried before and certainly they shouldn't start taking supplements they havenít tried before. Definitely they should not drink alcohol Ė in essence limit risk.

Remember at the start I mentioned external factors are beyond your control, so when it comes to weather conditions and umpiring you just have to adapt to them as you canít control what they do. Donít let them impact negatively on you or the team.

Finally understand what you can control as it is critical in the level of pressure you will experience. The expectation of yourself is realising you can only give your best. Donít dwell on mistakes, they will occur, learn quickly and move on as the game moves on. You canít change whatís happened only whatís happening in the next moment of play.

Pressure will be reduced if you're prepared and have done the appropriate planning.

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