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Soccer Performance

I have read a book called "Inner Speed Secrets, Mental Strategies to Maximize Your Racing Performance" by Ross Bentley. This is some of his work which I picked apart and changed for football. Some of the sentences are straight from the book, and I do apologize for that. This book is amazing, and it has helped me with football and racing. It was mainly for use for my preparation on racedays, but I took this knowledge, and put it to work for football. Now after this, I expect all of you to go and buy a racing book, because it can help you for football!!! Ross will go more into detail then this... I got all the ideas from him, but I made them relate to football. So I hope this is alright, as it took a lot of my own work. Wink

Focus on your performance, not the result.

Performance is what caused the result. So first, we have to make a performance model. You look at your match's performance as a cause, then to get better, you define strategies. Example, it's like treating a headache with a pain reliever. It doesn't heal it (effects of bad performance), it only gets rid of symptoms.

You have to identify the cause, then find a solution. If you can identify what makes you perform well, you can make a strategy. If you can identify what makes you have a bad performance, you can develop a strategy to avoid to avoid those causes.

Things like "don't do that" do not help find a cause. Example, if you tried to shoot the ball and you missed horribly "a don't shoot anymore, look for a pass" by you coach would try to deal with the effect. This isn't right. You should try and approach training your shot to deal with this effect.

The goal is to get 100% out of yourself

So make a chart, and let say Ronaldinho's skill would be a benchmark of 100%. And you rate yourself 70% or something like that, with practice, you can overcome that skill level and go to 105% of his skill. But not just yet. Then a column beside put 0-100% scale for your performance. Your goal is to get 100% performance every match. Later on, you may wish to increase your scale. But this is not done by trying harder, wishful thinking, or more testosterone. It's about planning a strategy...

So telling a player that he must shoot less, pass the ball etc. might be accurate, but a player must know how to achieve these things and program it into their minds, for use in a game. There are many players who have tons of skill, but are lost when it comes to game time.

Getting into a subconscious state

Subconscious is auto-pilot in your brain. Our brain's are limitless, in a subconscious state, you use more of your capabilities then at a conscious state. So here is how you program your sub-conscious. When in a conscious state, if you think positive, your subconscious will make these things happen. The opposite is also true. If a situation triggers anxiety or fear, your performance will drop immediately. (ex.scared of going to tackle because you got knocked down.) Or thinking that the opponent has nice shoes, so he must be good. All of these things make your game better or worse!! That slight intimidation factor will subconsciously make you not play as well. Maybe only against that player, maybe against that whole team. But it does affect your play. Turn that into: "He thinks he has such nice shoes, but I'm going to take beat him every time." Or use it as fuel to start the fire so that makes you want to beat him even more. So make sure you program what you want to occur, and don't discourage over things that don't. You have to deprogram all the bad things in your head, and reprogramming what you want to do. It's a learning curve, but it has to be done to be very successful. Players must know what they are doing, what they need to change, what they need to do to change, how to change, and how that change will affect their resulting performance. It's not just wanting to do better.

This is whole new way of learning. It's not just knowing your basic skills. It includes what to execute, when to execute, how to execute them etc. After this is programmed into subconscious, you can go back and fine tune these skills even more. You can never be perfect!! For subconscious, here's an example for driving. Once you learn how to heel-toe downshift and practice it enough, you have developed a basic program for that psychomotor skill. In football, until every psychomotor skill becomes fully developed, you will not be able to play at your limit by yourself, let alone having sufficient brain resources left over to deal with everything else in the game.

This is why when learning a skill is so critical. Before moving to some insane amount of spin on the ball, you have to develop the basic striking pattern and how you adjust your foot to hit a ball normally. Then gradually with practice, you can start to try more advanced shots. so basically, before you can develop new versions of programs, you have to fully develop and de-bug the basic programs. The better developed your program is, the better you play, and it's easier make fine tuning to your program. For example, you should not be thinking of getting a first touch into space, it should come automatically with practice. So in a game, it just happens, without the anxiety of inner conflicts such as: "Am I going to mess this up" or "I have to play this touch there." This will already be programmed in your brain so you do not have to think about it. Hence less anxiety, hence less bad thoughts, hence a better performance . Without a precise and accurate program, you continue to do what you have before, never making improvements. The more variations of a basic program you have (ex. shooting), the more adaptable and flexible you will be to uniques situations.

Once an action, movement, thought, or whatever is programmed in your brain, it is there forever. It's not always easy to access, but it's there. For example, you can't remember a person's name, but later it pops into your head. It was always there, you just couldn't access it.

Usually it is when your mind is relaxed that you most easily access deep rooted memories or programs. You remember the name when you weren't trying to, right? So the same when playing footy, you need to be relaxed. When you relax and trust your program-your subconscious-to play, and stop thinking, you will too. Program your mind through mental imagery so that in situations, you respond instinctively. "Analysis is paralysis" and "Act, don't think" always come into play when playing. And it even works for writing tests at school!! Believe me!!! Just don't stress and you will do fine.

Here are some ways to program:

Physical Programming
Physical programming occurs through experience. It's the practice of your skills. This is a major factor in playing well for football. This is why practicing all the different types of situations also makes a huge difference. Practicing shooting with a placed ball may only happen a few times a game, or never! You have to practice shooting all different ways to refine those skills and be able to automatically use them when playing. This is just refining your basic program, the shooting program for example.

Mental Programming

This speeds up the programming process. It also improves quality of programs developed through physical programming. Great athletes do this a lot! Mental programming is the deliberate control and use of thoughts , of taking charge of your beliefs, mental imagery, and the effectiveness of creating a virtual reality environment...

External Programming
This is the most negative. External programming results from words, actions, and emotions from outside sources, namely other people around you. A simple word or two can have a drastic impact on your play. It's a shame, because it will happen. From someone or another. Maybe a coach will send a negative comment, or a player who says the team you're playing is very good, all these things are just bad, bad, bad... Try to keep this out of your head!! It can really affect your play if youif you don't have a strategy to deal with it.

You can't just say you won't be affected by other people. You require an actual program to deal with external disruptions, distraction, negative emotions, energy, and dialogue. You must develop a program to block out all of these things, to keep you at peak performance, and blocks out the negatives. You may think you're mentally touch enough to block out things like this by saying to yourself, "Don't let it get to you." Unfortunately, when you are the slightest bit tires, or your confidence level has been tested, you won't be able to without a preconcieved program.

For example, Real Madrid has a seemingly unbeatable lineup, but don't live up to expectations. Often, one person will have a negative effect on another member. And this affects the whole team's play. So if you don't have a program to deal with this, your performance will suffer.

Using physical and mental programming, develop programs for certain situations. Create programs for all your skills. Use mental imagery to imagine what you would feel like, what you would see, and how you would act in these situations. It takes a lot of time and practice, but to become the best in the world, it is necessary.

Program your mind

Then you need to anchor your programs. Use a trigger word or movement to signal the beginning of the program. That way, then you are in the dressing room, or getting ready for a match, all you need to do is recall the trigger to activate the program. (I'm still trying to find mine... Rolling Eyes )

Practice getting into subconscious

Brain Waves:

Beta waves range between 13-40 Hz, or cycles per second, but are low amplitude, This is the brain state when we do most of our daily activities. this is the conscious state. It's associated with peak concentration, alertness, visual acuity, focus, and cognition.

Alpha waves are between 7-13 Hz. Alpha state is when you are is a state of deep relaxation. Where most we are most effective in activating creativity. (You know when ideas pop into your head when you're thinking about nothing) This is just below your conscious awareness, and is the link between conscious and subconscious.

Theta waves are between 4-7 Hz. This is when you are just drifting off to sleep, just waking up, and during light sleep. This also happens in meditation. This is subconscious. You are very receptive to information beyond your normal conscious awareness. Some researchers believe, the brain is in a superlearning state while producing theta waves.

Delta Waves are between 0-4 Hz, this is the highest amplitude. This sleeping, or an unconscious state.

Now how do you put yourself into the Alpha/Theta states of mind? By spending time relaxing, visualizing, and allowing yourself into a meditative state.

Here's an exercise:

Sit in a comfy chair. Close your eyes. Take 3 or 4 deep breaths. Let your body relax. Start at your toes and work your way up, until you are completely relaxed. Then start counting your breaths. Focus on your breathing as it slows down.

After doing this for a few minutes, most people are ready for mental programming-their mind is in a receptive state. If you're still not ready, keep focusing on breathing. If your almost falling asleep, 3 or 4 quick breaths will increase beta waves, waking you up a little bit. You should now know how to place yourself in a mental state ready to receive mental programming and imaging.

Only you can decide whether you're in a alpha/theta frame of mind. As you do this exercise more and more, you will learn to recognize when your brain is producing alpha waves. When you are-you will know, your mind will be calm and still; the outside world will fall away. In a Theta state you may get some uninvited, and random images pop into your head. This is the state of a daydream, or just waking up from sleep.

Practice Relaxation

If you do this before a game, it gives your brain something to do, other then get nervous. the relaxed, calm mind of athletes prior to great performances is a perfect example of the benefit.

Mental Imagery

Your mind does not know the difference between a real, and imagined, or visualized, experience. This is even better when you can learn to involve all of your senses in the imagines experience. So you can program your mind to make that perfect pass, of that great touch, or that low-hard shot before anything has even happened.

Mental imagery is a very efficient substitute for real experience. Visualization is placing a picture, or visual representation of something into the mind. It's sensory input to the brain. And the brain accepts it as being real. Visualizing negatively is worrying!! Worrying is visualization about something that has been, is, or will be negative. This makes the brain slow down its speed of processing and so on. It dis-integrates the brain's connection to the reciprocal side of the body; we become less balanced/less centered.

For example, visualize a lemon, cutting the lemon in half and seeing the juice drip from the lemon. And then, in your mind, lick the lemon. When most people do this, their mouth begins to salivate, because the brain believes that the citric acid is on it's way to the mouth, and it sends saliva to counteract the citric acid.

Create a mental image exactly the way you want to do something is very effective. Sometimes it's even better then doing it, because you can do it perfectly, and many times in a short period of time. You mind doesn't know the difference. It is establishing the situation, and programming, as if you were actually doing it.

There was a study about basketball players. there were 3 groups of players. One was to practice shooting free throws 20 minutes a day. the second was to do none at all. And the third to visualize getting baskets for 20 minutes a day. The group that practiced improved 23% the group that did nothing, did not improve at all. And the group that visualized showed a 23% improvement.

Make sure you include all of your senses, as it will be more effective. Try using all senses and you will create a virtual reality. With practice, you will become better at it. If you are making mistakes when visualizing, STOP!!! Program errors will result in being good at making real errors.

Make some sort of a trigger to get into this state of mind when playing. Use a word, an action or something that gets you into that state of mind. For football, I use a sentence. "These guys are just prima donna's, they don't have it all, I do..." This is just like when you see Maria Sharapova putting her hair to the side before every serve. That's her mental trigger. Wink

Here are a few more things:

'Try' is a negative word. The brain doesn't understand 'try'. The brain either does something, or does nothing. Trying dis-integrates the brain. It suggests a chance of failing.

What you think is what you get
You cannot not think about something. Don't think about blue elephants. Stop!! Stop thinking about blue elephants.

What happened? You thought about the blue elephant, right? You can't not think about something. You have to implement a a strategy to make you think about what you want. So if you put a strategy in that when you hear about blue elephants, you think about a solid strike on the ball going right into the back of the net, it's a trigger which you could use. It's all about the strategy...

Always have a preplanned thought or program-always on standby, ready to kick in when an unwanted thought comes into your mind. The blue elephant is an example. But I would suggest a thought about striking the ball, or how much fun it is playing football instead. This automatically should kick in whenever a bad thought enters your mind.

The Belief System

Maybe the single most important system in the body!!! There was a study by scientists. Some people were given coffee to go to bed, and the others were given milk. The next morning the people who drank coffee complained of a bad night's sleep. And the people who drank milk said they had a very good night's sleep. Unknown to the subjects, the caffeine had been removed from the coffee and added to the milk! the subjects believed that caffeine would keep them awake and the milk would help them sleep. The belief system is so strong, that it overpowers even chemical reactions of a drug!!

It's like asking can you walk on water, no you say. But is it possible to walk on burning coals without getting burnt? Yes, because you have seen it somewhere. Can you do it? Most people say no. Some believe that is can be done, but they can't do it. Some may think that they can do it, but they're not sure. Why? Because they haven't tried it, so they don't know.

Your limitations are are based on what you believe you are capable of doing. And what you are capable of doing is based on your experience. so you may think you can do something, but you don't really know that you can do it. After doing it a few times, you start believing that you can do it. You have to believe you can play well before you play well. This plays in with confidence. If you have beaten a team every time you played, you believe you can win. But if you have lost to them a few times, you might start to program that you can't beat that team. The more fun you have in an experience, the more effective the programming.

You don't just program your mistakes. They can be changed, because, as human beings, we can learn from mistakes. We learn what not to do and determine what we can do that will make a change to the program.
So don't listen to you suck at passing, shooting etc. You can't accept that. You can't make it part of your belief system. And if you don't you will do just fine.

There is also confidence that comes with knowledge. If you believe that your teammate will make a good pass. You have a tendency to have more confidence. Doubt has a way of exponentially expanding limitations.

Knowledge is key, because you can't fool yourself. You don't know what you don't know. Too much of this is false confidence.

Superstition is an effect. If you really believe that your ability to play well is affected by your lucky underwear, you will almost never play well without it. So it's important to be confident in yourself, and try to leave superstitions...

But don't forget, you are what you believe. If you believe you are a great player, you will play great. You can reprogram your system everyday. Write down your beliefs, both positive and negative. Then make a chart, one side positive beliefs the other negative beliefs. Be honest with yourself. The goal is to strengthen your strengths and change your negatives to positives. Just like when training your shooting for example. If you want it to become better, you train it. And to help with this, write down your beliefs. After a season it is good to update your belief sheet.

If you act like someone, you will increase your chances of performing like them. If you mimic Zidane, chances are, you will program your belief system to be more like Zidane.

State of Mind

Your state of mind actually has a functional, physiological impact upon your body. Your body communicates to your muscles through bioelectric energy and therefore decrease the communication from the brain to the muscles. Your emotional response can cause you to contract muscles and hold your breath. Negative emotions restrict the bio-electrical communication between your brain and body.

There are only few exceptions to this. Very rarely anger is the state of mind which allows the athlete to perform. aka. John McEnroe from tennis.

Your state of mind will directly affect your ability to perform, and also the ability to learn. Keeping positive will ultimately impact you in a positive way. So make sure no negative thoughts, or angers come into your mind. Use a trigger to block these bad thoughts out as soon as they come to you. So you can focus on positive thoughts, and having a good game.

When we are in high pressure situations, stress builds up. And sometimes we think it's good to get the adrenaline going, but that's not the objective. Adrenaline can kill neurons used for thinking and memory. The net result is triggering the fight or flight mechanism we are born with, which is not what we want. When under pressure, the goal is to be relaxed and focused. If you feel under pressure or of any sort of negative thought, use a trigger to get that positive state of mind again.

Recall past feelings of success

Instead of thinking about all the bad things that could happen, think about what good has come before. Thinking of good experiences can help you feel better, and hence the better play.

Breathing is critical in our performance as humans. Holding your breathe will cause you to perform at a lower level when you need to perform at a high level.

Courtesy of Francis: You need to program yourself to breathe, especially in these situations. When you breath through your nose, the air is warmed, so the oxygen is used more efficiently. If you breathe through your mouth then the lining of your throat will dry up and cause irritation. So, breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth. By the way, A "side stitch" is a sharp, intense pain under the lower edge of the ribcage caused by a muscle spasm of the diaphragm. Pain can occur during exercise, and occurs more commonly in beginners who have not yet understood proper pacing and breathe more quickly and shallow. When we inhale, we take air into the lungs, pressing the diaphragm downward. When we exhale, the diaphragm moves up. If the body has some trapped air/gas below the diaphragm, if we've eaten too close to exercise, or if we start exercising too vigorously, the diaphragm may cramp, causing pain under the rib cage on the right side.

Setting Goals and Keeping Them

This is important to motivate yourself. If you want to challenge yourself by scoring goals, create a tally and compare the amounts of goals you score throughout the seasons. Or set goals for the amount of goals you want to score. It can keep you focused on the task you want to do, it will come with the proper state of mind. You can even use this as a "goal scoring" state of mind trigger. This could be your on switch to have a great game.
This with all the proper preparation can devastate your opponents!!

Water is a critical ingredient for the function of the body. Many people today know the importance of drinking water, but they don't drink enough. Water is key to conducting bioelectrical current from your brain to your body and back again. Just by drinking enough water, you will increase your concentration levels, you will be more physically coordinated, you will think more quickly, and you'll be more energized. Researchers have found that anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times more oxygen binds to your blood when your body is fully hydrated. This reduces stress, helps remove waste and toxins from the body, and is essential for proper lymphatic function.

It is recommended that you drink at least one 10-ounce glass of water per day for every 30 pounds that you weigh; more if you are physically active. Add another glass for a glass of coffee or soft drink you have.

Tags: Soccer Performance, soccer performance training, soccer player performance

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