Can you think back to a soccer game when you were totally in the zone? – Everything came effortlessly and you were unstoppable. How great would it be to feel that way in EVERY single soccer game you play? All soccer players love the intense, sought after mindset known as ‘the zone.’ This state of supreme focus helps soccer players become totally immersed into their performance and perform at their peak. It’s those moments where you’re just playing soccer and not even thinking about what you have to do next – it just flows.
Many soccer players who want to perform to their potential are always in search of secrets to hop into the ‘zone.’ But the zone is really not that complicated or mystical. We will confess… it is difficult to enter a “zone” state every time you compete, no one is perfect, but you can learn the mental strategies that will help you get there more often!
What really is the zone for soccer athletes? The zone is simply a mental state of total involvement in the present moment. We like to use the word “immersed” to describe the feeling of losing yourself or your sense of self in your performance. You become totally focused and block out all distractions.
A zone focus is a state of total involvement in a task without worry, doubt, or fear about results. You have no fears, anxiety, or doubts when you are performing in the zone. You feel like you can out run and out perform every other player on the field. So, if the zone is that simple, why can’t soccer players achieve this mindset for every game?
Some soccer players are blocked from entering the zone because they are overtaken by massive distractions such as fear of failure and worry. Entering the zone may sound zen-like and magical, but actually achieving this level of immersion is simplistic…
When your mind fully connects with achieving a goal, such as getting into the passing lanes for your teammates, putting pressure on the defense, and attacking the goal with speed, attention is absorbed into the present – the here and now only. You aren’t worrying about the score or making mistakes. Your mind is riveted to the thoughts and images that help you pass and shoot with precision.
With pinpoint focus, fear of failure, worry, doubt, indecision, and other mental traps are forbidden from entering your conscious mind. In this state of concentration, mental distractions struggle to compete for your attention, but lose the battle.
You CAN capture this state of immersion to enhance your performance and maximize your athletic potential and ability on the soccer pitch! One way to do this is to think back to when you were performing in the zone and what you were focused on. What did it feel like for you? To recreate this, imagine yourself in your next game playing at the same level of confidence and focus.
Essentially, the idea is to focus on what you can control, don’t worry if you’ve made a mistake, instead try to focus on winning the ball back or working hard to help your teammates. Move on to the next play, the next pass, the next opportunity.
Try not to put so much pressure on yourself. Even world class strikers miss goal scoring chances, the difference is the great ones move on to the next one and score that chance.
When you imagine yourself performing at your very best, you activate the neurons that would fire if you were to physically perform the skill. You are programing your mind so that when you do perform, your mind has already practiced what you want your body to do.
This is one way to achieve zone focus more often and play at your highest level!
About the Authors:
Dr. Patrick Cohn is a leading Mental Game Coach and Jaki Hitzelberger, M.A. is a former Division 1 collegiate soccer player and a Soccer Mental Game Specialist. Pickup their free soccer psychology e-book, 7 Costly Mental Game Mistakes that Block Soccer Player’s Success and visit www.SoccerPsychologyTips.com for more tips on how to improve your mental game in soccer.
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