Visualization for Soccer Players
Do you struggle to compete after a significant time away from the pitch?
Returning from a layoff is challenging for even the most experienced soccer players. Although a long layoff can rest your body, some soccer players feel a bit “rusty” when they return to competition. Some athletes refer to this experience as ring rust
“Ring rust” refers to a lack of intensity or focus due to inactivity, usually early in a contest.
Ring rust is primarily a mental phenomenon. You can run miles each practice, go full speed during drills, and play scrimmages, but none of those thoroughly prepare you for competing.
In other words, if you are not mentally prepared to play, then you are not ready to compete
Without mental preparation, you will overthink each decision, be a step behind, and feel sluggish.
Just because you may be physically inactive does not mean you should be mentally inactive. One of the most effective ways to avoid “ring rust” is to maintain a high level of mental preparation.
Visualization is a valuable mental tool to experience soccer performance at game speed without stepping on the field.
You can visualize many scenarios that will maintain your game readiness.
* You can visualize feeling a build-up of excitement and energy during warmup.
* You can visualize feeling confident and getting into the game’s flow quickly.
* You can visualize yourself making quick and intelligent decisions.
* You can visualize yourself making successful runs downfield and seeing the whole field.
* You can visualize yourself making crisp passes or finding an open teammate in the box.
Mentally experiencing the game shapes how you play the game. For instance, many players have been on a hiatus from their MSL clubs due to representing their national teams as they prepare for the FIFA men’s World Cup.
After the World Cup qualifiers, players needed to shift gears and refocus on their MLS teams.
In their first game back to MSL action, the Seattle Sounders (1-2-1) were looking to make a strong midseason push. Since the Sounders were 11th in the 14-team Western Conference, the team couldn’t afford to have ring rust.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer understands the importance of overcoming ring rust for the team to gain momentum in the next stretch of games.
SCHMETZER: “We want to have a good performance against Minnesota because that kind of steamrolls into a good performance against New York City. We can’t just lay an egg against Minnesota and expect the team is going to snap out of any funk. After a two-week delay, there is some rust that kind of ruins a little bit of your mojo.“
You can shake off the rust when you are mentally prepared to compete. That is why the importance of mental training cannot be overstated.
Tip for Preventing Ring Rust:
Take 10 minutes before and after each practice to visualize competing at game speed. When you combine mental preparation with physical preparation, you will be able to quickly get into the flow of the game and play at your peak from the starting whistle.
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