Visualization in Soccer
While visualization might not be one of the things that pops into mind when you think about soccer training, it’s an excellent way to get your mind focused on achieving a certain goal.
And visualization is especially good in helping you manage difficult situations that might present themselves in a soccer game or when you're trying to improve upon a certain soccer skill. Whether that's scoring goals with your weaker foot or taking players on and beating them on the dribble.
When doing visualization don’t be afraid to picture tough situations that might arise. It’s not all about seeing everything go exactly right, there are bumps in the road, but in the end you get there. Think about those things and think about ways to adjust or overcome those difficult situations. If the defender forces me to use my weaker foot, what will I do? If I see space behind the defender, can I dribble past them and what move will I use?
Visualization is like creating a map or pattern to follow when you're trying to achieve a goal. As in when you’re trying to score a goal let’s say. Better yet, visualization is like cooking a meal with a recipe to follow. If you're going to cook a meal, what steps do you take to fix the meal? What ingredients do you need, do you have to cut things up, turn on the oven or stove to what temperature, stir things for a period of time, and so on. Can you see in your mind what you would need to make spaghetti and meatballs? Can you see what steps you need to take and what it will smell like and taste like when it’s done? That’s what visualization is all about.
So, while your listening to music or just before you go to bed, while you're relaxing, think about what you want to accomplish in the game the next day. Picture yourself going through those motions. Putting your cleats on and your jersey. Picture in your mind where the game is going to take place the next day. What the field is like? Who you will be playing? What's the weather going to be like? The more details the better. The details help create markers for your mind to remember and re-enact the goal you want to accomplish. The more details the more real it becomes in your mind.
In a way, with visualization, you’re training your mind to do a certain task.
If want to score a goal with your weaker foot, then imagine yourself controlling the ball with that foot, pushing the ball past a defender, and shooting the ball low and into the corner past the keeper with that weaker foot. If you're trying to work on beating players on the dribble, then imagine yourself dribbling the ball at the defender, faking like you're going to go down the line and cutting the ball inside with a burst of speed. Picture the defender falling back to the outside and see slicing towards goal. If you can see it in your mind then you can do it on the soccer field.
Scoring the Game Winner
Whether it’s scoring a game winning goal or dribbling past a defender, try to picture yourself making that play and imagine how your body will move when you are faking out the opponent or taking the shot. Picture and walk through all the steps that lead up to that play. Envision clearly and in detail the things you want to accomplish, from receiving the ball, to shielding the ball away from the opponent to the final striking of the ball - and see the ball go past the keeper and into the net. And even think about what kind of goal celebration are you going to do.
The Steps Are Key
Just think to yourself: I receive the ball on the right side, and then I act like I'm going to dribble hard down the line to get a cross in. Next, I take a few dribbles towards the defender and when the defender's on their heels, I cut inside for a shot and bend the ball to the far upper corner with the inside of my left foot...the keeper can't reach it.
Often you are doing this kind of visualization on your own and don't even realize it. What soccer player doesn’t fantasize about scoring the game-winning goal? All you’re doing with visualization is making a conscious effort to imagine every detail, thus increasing your chances of realizing your fantasy when you’re out in the field.
If you get into the habit of walking through what you want to do in the game in your mind before you go to bed, slowly but surely it will get easier and you'll find yourself naturally thinking about moves, plays, and things you want to do in the game.
Wayne Rooney On Visualization
“I always like to picture the game the night before: I’ll ask the kitman what kit we’re wearing, so I can visualize it. It’s something I’ve always done, from when I was a young boy. It helps to train your mind to situations that might happen the following day. I think about it as I’m lying in bed. What will I do if the ball gets crossed in the box this way? What movement will I have to make to get on the end of it? Just different things that might make you one per cent sharper.”
Learn more about Wayne Rooney pre-game routine here.
However, visualization isn't some magic trick, no, you have to practice the shots, the passes and moves you want to do on a daily basis. Then, once you have mastered the techniques is where visualization can help you mentally prepare yourself for going those things in a game.
The next step is trying it on the field. If you want to score the game-winning goal you have to practice taking that shot on your own. Then, when the opportunity arises, you take the responsibility upon yourself to make it happen by asking for the ball in those pressure situations.
For instance, maybe you work on free kicks after practice until you feel confident you can score from different areas on the field. Then, you picture yourself taking those important free kicks or a big penalty kick during a game. First it’s physically doing the action and then picturing yourself doing it. If you can see yourself doing it then you can do it.
Keep it Fun
Visualization isn’t a routine that should become a chore. No, think about some of the great players of the game. Imagine you’re Lionel Messi and playing for Barcelona at the Camp Nou, with 90,000 fans screaming your name. Imagine yourself playing a give and go with Andres Iniesta and then scoring the goal that clinches the La Liga title.
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