Letting your creativity flow is one of the pure beauties of the game. See how visualizing the game can help lead to psychological breakthroughs on the pitch.
Visualizing the game can also be referred to as “playing the game in your head”. What does this mean? For anybody has been lost in thought of themselves scoring the winning goal in the World Cup Final or clearing the ball off the goal line to save your team then you have an idea of what I am talking about. However, this imagination and visualization of yourself can also be used to improve your overall performance.
An example of this derives from a technique we used at Grimsby Town F.C in which we as a team would lay on an individual mat on the floor and visualize our last game. We were told to relax and to first think about all the good things that we did in the game such as scoring a goal, or making a decisive tackle and then to run through the whole scene. How did the move first materialize? What movement did I do to get in the correct position? What technique did I use to execute the skill? These questions helped us form positive memories of what we did.
At the next visualization session we were then asked to relax and concentrate on what we thought we could have done better at during the last performance. We were asked to reflect on questions such as; What was the mistake made? Why did the error occur? What was my reaction after making the mistake? All of these items helped us visualize and realize that mistakes happen all the time in soccer however the aim was to hone in on these errors work at reducing the amount of times the error occurred. This also gave us an idea of what we needed to work on which is very difficult for any player however self-evaluation is an invaluable element to growth in the game.
Another benefit of this visualization is to open the mind and to think creatively. In your mind, mistakes are not punished and therefore you are more likely to try something new. This is especially the case with young players who are lacking in confidence and do not want to make any mistakes for fear of letting down the manager and their teammates. However, by visualizing your success through creativity it also builds your confidence and will hopefully lead to performing the skill in real life.
My challenge to all youth soccer players is to spend some time alone or with your team visualizing your last performance and use the questions mentioned above to direct your thoughts. There is absolutely no risk involved in this activity and I strongly believe that with this visualization technique players will become more confident and start ‘playing the game in their head’. Meaning they will always be one step ahead because they have a better understanding and reading on what is going to happen next or how to respond to the next situation.