The most powerful weapon a soccer player has is the mind. Great players are those who demonstrate total control of mind as well as body. To be successful in challenging situations, soccer players need to build strong self-identities as good players who can handle anything that comes along. Visualization, using all the senses to re-create or create an experience in the mind, is a process that can train the inner tape of the mind to build that self-identity. Through the use of imagery, players can re-create the demands of the game in the mind and develop a mental blueprint that prepares their confidence.
Visualization is a mental skill that requires the player to imagine him or herself playing soccer. This includes seeing, hearing, feeling, and even smelling the action. To avoid mental clutter, the player should combine visualization with a state of deep relaxation. It’s then that the player can focus sharply on the imagined action.
In scientific terms, the images become so alive that the subconscious fails to distinguish between a real or imagined event. The body responds to each in the same way. So, an athlete who pictures each move of an event correctly in advance will have a greater chance of repeating those moves, having a sense of actually practiced them before the event.
The player should strive to re-create the sight, physical sensation, sound, and smell of the soccer scene to achieve a more realistic simulation and greater benefit. The athlete will see him or herself in the scene, choosing the correct course of action, and hearing the approval of the crowd. The key to visualization is that a positive image of this particular situation now exists in the player’s memory. The player can then access it when a similar situation occurs in a match and won’t be caught completely off guard.
The more a player practices visualization, the more accurate the images will become. The memory trace will become stronger and the image more accessible, boosting both motivation and confidence. Players and coaches in all types of sports believe visualization helps them to
- see themselves as winners
- learn self control
- practice mentally what they experience in a game
- focus and shut out distractions
- improve relaxation
To maximize the benefits of visualization, players should relax, use all the senses, focus on the process and the outcome, be specific with details, and be patient with the results.
An example of a typical visualization script may include references to the situation such as other players, the ball, the feel of the shoes being worn, the noise of the crowd, the sense of movement all accompanied by the emotions. As the mind is exercised it grows stronger. The more the player pictures success, the more energy he or she creates to achieve it.