How Soccer Players Can Block Distractions on the Pitch
Sep 21, 2023
Like any other athlete, a soccer player can get distracted on the pitch for any number of reasons. Poorly fitting gear, extreme heat, negative thoughts—whatever it may be, a distraction can take even the best performers out of their element. This post will give some practical tips on how to block out distractions.
Visualization/Mental Imagery Before Game
Visualization involves imagining a scenario, and playing it in your head like a movie. You can do it in first-person as if you’re living the moment, or third-person view where you’re watching yourself. This technique can help you enhance your skills, rehearse your strategies, and imagine yourself succeeding in the game. It can also increase your self-efficacy, concentration, and emotional control.
For example, if you’re a striker, visualize yourself scoring a goal from different angles and distances, using different techniques and skills, and feeling the joy and satisfaction of scoring. If you’re a goalkeeper, visualize yourself making a save from a penalty kick, diving to the right direction, catching the ball firmly, and feeling the relief and pride of saving.
Breathing and Relaxation Before Game
Breathing and relaxation has a resetting effect on the body and brain. They can help you calm your nerves, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and relax your muscles. They also improve your focus, mood, and energy levels, so you’re more centered to give your all on the pitch.
For example, you could use deep breathing exercises to calm your nerves before a big game. Just inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, while counting to four for each breath.
Positive Self-Talk Before Game
You’re not weird for talking to yourself. In fact, positive self-talk can help you overcome negative thoughts, doubts, and fears that can interfere with your performance. Not only can it motivate you, it being your best fan can boost your confidence and resilience.
For example, you can tell yourself positive affirmations before a game, such as “I am strong and skilled”, “I can do this”, or “I am ready and prepared”. A player could also use positive feedback to reinforce their strengths and achievements, such as “I have trained hard for this”, “I have improved a lot”, “I have scored before”, or “I have helped my team”.
Wear Comfortable Gear and Clothing
Your gear can make or break your comfort, which, in turn, can boost or hinder your performance. Wearing the right soccer gear eliminates discomfort, irritation, and overheating, so you can direct your focus on what matters—the game.
Wear cleats that fit well and provide enough support and cushioning for the feet, to prevent blisters, injuries, or discomfort. Also, wear breathable and lightweight soccer jerseys, legwear and other gear so your temperature stays balanced. A player should also wear protective gear such as shin guards, and headgear to reduce injury risk.
Develop/Stick to a Pre-Game Ritual
A routine or ritual may seem superstitious, but they can put you in the zone for even the toughest matches. Establish a consistent routine to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the game. It can also reduce distractions, increase focus, and build confidence.
You could develop a pre-game ritual that consists of listening to your favorite music, saying a prayer or mantra, or even just high-fiving teammates. Whatever it is that motivates you, go for it.
Set Goals for Each Game
Goal-setting in sport has a powerful anti-self doubting effect. When you define what you want to achieve, it’s easier to focus on getting there, measure your progress, and adjust your strategies. It can also increase your motivation, commitment, and satisfaction.
Let's say, you’re a defender. You could set goals such as clearing at least 10 balls per game (if appropriate of course). On the other hand, a midfielder could set a goal such as trying to create at least five chances per game. You may not reach these goals every game, but focusing on them takes your mind off of negative thoughts and doubt.
Get Out Your Head, Get in the Game
Blocking distractions on the pitch is a vital skill for all soccer players. Distractions can come from various sources, such as the crowd, the opponents, the media, or even from one’s own thoughts and emotions. Distractions can interfere with your’ concentration, confidence, motivation, and decision-making, leading to poor performance and dissatisfaction.
Learning to block distractions can help soccer players improve their mental focus, and enjoyment of the game. By using the various mental strategies and techniques listed above, you can block distractions and achieve your full potential on the pitch.
Looking for more tips and tricks to master your game? Check out our blog to learn more about performance, safety and other topics to level up.