Soccer is just as much a mental game as it is a physical game. Even if players have the best grasp of fundamentals and the best soccer training, it's worth nothing if they crack under pressure, or if they have mental, emotional and lifestyle issues outside of soccer that mess with their head in-game.
Bouncing back from a poor performance or handling negative emotions is something that comes from having your head on right, not just practicing drills up and down the field. If you want to get ahead of the game, you should spend as much time training your mind as you do your body.
By learning to manage stress, anxiety and other psychological aspects of the game, you can excel faster than your peers who just focus on the mechanics of soccer. Here are a few soccer training tips to help you do just that.
Visualize the Ball
Sure, you kick the ball around every day. But do you imagine yourself doing it? Even when you're not on the field, use mental imagery to practice your soccer training.
There are two ways you can do it: external visualization, where you imagine watching a movie of yourself playing soccer, or internal visualization, where you imagine playing as though you are actually doing it. This concept will help familiarize you with your task until you could do it half-asleep, with both hands tied behind your back.
We've seen players with inconsistent technique utilize visualization to become more dependable players. They simply needed to discipline their mind to perform at the level their body was capable of. It's a great way to get in more practice time for your brain.
Relax, Chill out, Calm Down
Everybody gets nervous before a game or a performance. Unfortunately, anxiety can also muddle your thinking, which can cause you to make bad judgments on the field. If you're alert, but relaxed, you can make decisions better and faster when you're under pressure.
Controlling your anxiety will go a long way to making you feel more confident in your game, because you'll know that it won't affect your performance. Take some time to relax before each game and you'll find yourself a lot less stressed.
We've seen several players come to us with great technical skill but an overdose of adrenaline. Their technique was great in practice, but they would get worked up and make mistakes when the pressure was on. Indecision and hesitation led to missed shots and botched plays.
Over the course of their training, they learned to relax and focus before the game and during their breaks to help offset their usual tension level. They were still able to harness that energy, but they also reacted coolly under pressure, putting that great technique to use on the field.
Focus on Your Goals
Having both short-term and long-term goals for your soccer training will motivate you and give you something to strive for. If things don't seem to be improving and you don't have any goals, it's easy to get discouraged and consider quitting.
The goals shouldn't be impossible, but they should definitely challenge you and force you to step up your game. Challenging yourself is the only way to consistently improve.
We're constantly pushing our players to advance their skills and become better players. The students with high internal drive and motivation respond well to this kind of pressure and set high goals for themselves. We've see this pay off time and time again as they advance more quickly than their peers.
Concentrate, Concentrate, Concentrate
Yes, it's easy to get distracted during a game. However, part of being a good player is overcoming that. Concentration drills can help you to improve your focus during a game. But not every drill works the same for every player. Some people are visual learners, while others are audial learners. Find a drill or a pre-game ritual that works best for you.
By mastering your mental game, you can reduce your anxiety, overcome negative emotions, bounce back from a bad mistake and make playing soccer a more enjoyable experience all around. The mental soccer training is just as important as the physical, so don't neglect it. You may be surprised at how much you improve.
Joey Bilotta is the vice president of EduKick, a cultural immersion soccer training program. Every EduKick soccer training program puts an emphasis on sports psychology to help their players get the most out of their camps. For more information on EduKick programs and how a top-notch mental game can help you, visit www.EduKick.com today.