Shift Focus to Soccer
Life is hard as it is without the added pressure of performing well on the pitch. It’s important, however, to try to minimize the effects of stresses of life when preparing for a match.
A good technique to shift the focus inwards and onto soccer is meditation. Meditation has been scientifically proven to improve endurance, sense of self-awareness of the body, improved sleeping patterns, recovery, and stress management. All of these benefits are key to perform at your best, but it is important to note that meditation must be done habitually in order to see any long-term benefits.
The following mini-meditation session by Headspace (not sponsored or affiliated) is a great example of a quick way to find your focus before games and training sessions.
Visualize Your Role
After any and all distractions are out of the way, it is time to shift your focus on the upcoming match. Try to imagine and visualize how:
- The ball feels in your feet
- To trap a ball from the air
- To take a good first touch into space
- Pass and shoot
- You are supposed to be positioned in your role
- The space between you and your teammates looks like
And anything you’ve been working on, including any tactical instructions the coach gave you in preparation for the match. If you are a goalkeeper, you should imagine your positioning in the goal, the weight, and texture of the ball in your hand, how it feels to stretch your body to dive and make a great save.
Develop a Ritual
Some athletes swear by pre-game routines. Some soccer players believe rituals like putting on their left sock before their right or touching the grass when stepping on the field will give them that extra boost on the field. Whether or not you are superstitious, one thing is certain: humans are habitual creatures. A ritual before a game can be used as a psychological grounding technique to shift the focus to the now and subconsciously provide the comfort that this is just another game.
According to Dr. Sarah Allen, a cognitive-behavioral therapist with more than 25 years of experience, grounding techniques bring your focus to the "here-and-now." Also, grounding techniques help manage any anxious feelings or nerves before a game.
Headphones are sometimes just as important as the right soccer boots or goalie gloves, and it’s not just for show. Music has been proven to prepare athletes for competition, but getting them pumped up for the upcoming competition. Additionally, listening to music activates parts of the brain associated with increased concentration and memory retention.
In conclusion, habitual meditation, visualization of the upcoming game, a ritual that feels right for you, and pregame music will improve your performance and focus in any game or training session. These techniques have been scientifically proven to improve endurance, self-awareness, sleep patterns, recovery, stress management, concentration, and focus.
It’s also important to not neglect the physical aspect of the game. Even if you are mentally prepared correctly, it needs to be backed by physical preparation as well.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), water comprises 55-75% of our bodies. Water is essential in our daily life. Athletes, especially soccer players, have more strenuous demands on their bodies than the average person. A soccer player of any level must prioritize hydration in his or her training regiment.