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8 Critical Factors for Road Game Success

1) Familiarize yourself with the environment. We want the players to be comfortable. All road environments are different. Every rim in a basketball arena is different. Every hockey surface is different. Time permitting, athletes should familiarize themselves with the new environment. The goal is to get to a comfort level that results in productive play.

2) Make routines as close as possible to what you do at home. If your team gets to the ball field an hour early at home, do the same thing on the road. Dress the same way. Develop a sense of sameness, so the athletes experience a feeling of control. If you read or watch movies before going to sleep, do the same. If you play sports video games at home, bring the system with you.

3) Take the crowd out of the game. Try to get an edge early in the game. If you can score quickly, all the better. A hostile crowd can affect an athlete’s confidence. A trick that works for some athletes is to pretend the booing is actually cheering. They can say to themselves, “Hey, I must doing well for them to boo that loud.” They can view this as a positive reinforcement that says, “We have their respect. We’re good at what we do.”

4) Bring along some good luck charms or other items that make the road feel like home. Bring those favorite pair of socks or shirts. Unpack quickly and put your clothes in the drawer, so it feels a little like the chest back home. Put up a picture of family or friends on a table. Have athletes do whatever they want to feel more comfortable, within reason. Lighten the mood with a game or joke the night before.

5) Avoid major changes in diet, especially foods that your athletes’ bodies aren’t used to. For example, a Bostonian raised on clam chowder should not load up on Tex/Mex food the night before a game played in the southwest. Food poisoning can rear its ugly head more often than you might think.

6) Don’t deviate from the normal routine. If the team goes to bed before 11 on home games, then don’t stay up until 1 am for road games.

Key: Making sure athletes feel a sense of control. For example, if an athlete rides in the front of the bus or plane, stick with it and don’t move to the back.

Don’t all of the sudden change roommates during a road trip. The road is not a time to experiment with new behaviors or new routines. Don’t switch equipment, i.e. try out a new bat or hockey stick. Stick with what you know and stay with what got you there.

7) Don’t wait until the last minute to pack. Get ready in advance. Some people have even left behind equipment and freaked out when they discovered what they needed was missing, causing extra stress.

8) Don’t force things. Play your game and don’t let a hostile crowd intimidate you by making strategic changes too quickly because things are not going your team’s way early.

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