Pre Game preparation is the most underestimated and neglected part of a soccer player’s life. Not enough athletes know how to prepare for a game. To me it is a huge part of being an athlete because it’s what prepares your mind to battle, to execute, and to perform. It is what prepares your body to work tirelessly for the entire game. Without the right mental preparation you will underperform. There is no doubt about that.
Most athletes think that preparing for the game means warming up your body and stretching prior to the game, waking up and eating a good meal and sipping some water, or having a good night’s sleep the day before the game. But preparing for your next game starts after the previous game. Preparing for your next game never starts and never ends. You need to always be preparing and always mentally thinking of your next challenge.
Mentally, your mind needs an abundant amount of time focusing on the upcoming game; visualizing the events that can take place in the upcoming game, telling your mind it will focus and work its hardest, telling yourself that you will not give up no matter what and telling yourself you will win.
I always tell my elite students to find time in each day to put themselves in a quiet room and think about the game ahead; to think about the different scenarios that could come up in their next game. For example, if you’re a midfielder, visualize winning tackles, distributing passes, taking on players, etc. If you’re a striker, visualize getting on the end of crosses, shooting at goal, making runs, etc. When you take the time to visualize these plays during the week you will execute them with instinct during the game.
Our brain is a muscle that not only needs to be fed with visualization and positive thinking, but also with sleep in order to perform. Consistently getting the proper amount of sleep gives your brain the rest it needs to be sharp come game time. When your brain has not rested it will react to plays rather than anticipate plays. A tired brain means slow decisions, and slow decisions means second to the ball and second at reading what will happen next.
As we say at the Academy “the fastest player on the field is not the fastest runner but the fastest thinker”.
Director of Soccer Operations
Universal Soccer Academy