The stresses and pressures found in team sports can lead good players to underperform. In modern sport, mental preparation has become a key part of pre-game rituals. Soccer is no exception. There are several steps players can take to try and minimise the risk of buckling under pressure. They are as applicable at grassroots levels as they are in the biggest European leagues.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Soccer kit
- Soccer cleats
- Video of previous games
- High-energy snack
Develop a routine. This will ensure that you make all practical preparations in the least chaotic way. Routines can involve putting a uniform on in the same order, eating the same pre-game snack or even listening to the same music. This gives players some control over their environment and distracts them from the pressures of the match.
Clear your head of all unnecessary thoughts and concentrate on the performance at hand. Find a quiet place to sit or lie and breathe deeply and slowly. Concentrate on breathing and the thoughts will melt away. Then concentrate your empty mind on necessary thoughts relevant to the game.
Visualise certain events likely to happen during the game. Mental rehearsal can significantly reduce the likelihood that a player will crumble under pressure should a similar situation occur during the game. The visualisation must be positive and will help train the mind and body to repeat the task under pressure. The player can then go through high pressure situations with the required technique established in the mind.
Use videotape to evaluate previous performances the night before a game. Use negative footage to reinforce how you need to improve but also positive footage to highlight how well you can perform. Think about areas of improvement and establish in your mind how you will deal with situations differently during the next game.
Maintain confidence in your ability and do not force things. Confidence and nervous energy can both improve performance and pre-match preparation should focus on relaxation and eliminating uncertainty. In his book "Bounce," retired table tennis champion Matthew Syed makes the point that thinking too much will negatively affect performance. Players must be confident that the work has been done in training to allow them to play well and then let it happen without thinking too much.
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