It doesn’t matter whether you play a team or individual sport; you always want to get off to a flying start in a new season.
I have been a professional squash player since the age of 18. I am now 35 so I have done 17 pre-seasons so I know what it’s like. You can do all the training in the world but nothing replicates a match situation.
That first game is almost reminding yourself of your little pre-match ritual. You try to get back into a tried and trusted routine.
What works for me when I get ready for an event is remembering the basics. I focus on the constants in my preparation like what I do the night before every match or what I have for a pre-match meal. They are the things that you can control.
Through the course of a season, you might tweak one or two things to mix things up and keep it fresh. It could be you listen to a different song before your game or try a different exercise in the pre-match warm-up.
Once you’ve got two or three games under your belt, then everything happens quite naturally and you get into the swing of things. Everything is accentuated in the first game because you’ve not done it for a few months and it is what you have been building up to.
Where football is different to squash is that you sometimes have to bed in lots of new players, manager and support staff during the off season.
At my club, Sheffield Wednesday, a lot has changed in a short period of time. The club have got a relatively new chairman, players, manager, pitch and scoreboard.
There will be an extra buzz and nervous energy when Wednesday play Bristol City on the opening day this weekend. The team have got to channel that excitement in the right way.
If you are a new signing at a club, you want to come in and impress. You want to show that you’ve put the work in over the summer and show that you have improved from last year. If you’re not careful, you can try a little too hard.
But, at the same, you know it might take you a few games to find your feet. When Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge of Manchester United, they always did just enough in the first few games but would hit top gear around Christmas. You don’t want to start too slow but you don’t want to peak too early either. It’s a long season so it’s all about trying to get the right balance.