Performance Rituals for Soccer Players
Powerful Pre-Event Routines Help You Perform to Your Potential
Soccer players, teachers, public speakers, media people and anyone else who "officially performs" successfully uses pre-performance routines or rituals.
Even if you don't view what you do as a performance, you can use routines to help you relax, focus and prepare mentally and physically for an upcoming event. A ritual is a systematic series of steps undertaken prior to the execution of a task designed to help you sharpen mentally, emotionally and physically.
If you are an athlete or a soccer player, you may have things you like to do ahead of your event that make you feel optimistic, confident and energized. This is your ritual. If you are a businessperson making a presentation, you probably perform tasks ahead of time that contribute to your focus and organization. If you have to make an important, difficult phone call, you should have a routine you use to keep you calm, in the proper mood and frame of mind.
Choose Your Ritual Style
There are two times to use your rituals. One is used for mental preparation just prior to the start of your event, say a big soccer game, and the other is used during the event or actual game, but during breaks in the action, to re-focus or re-energize. In addition, there are two broad styles of rituals. If you enjoy focusing specifically on the upcoming event and organizing details, thinking about it, imagining yourself performing well and can see yourself completing the event successfully, you use an associative style of preparation.
If doing all that makes you nervous, and you'd rather not focus on what is about to happen, and instead prefer to distract yourself by listening to music, reading, viewing television or the like, then you use a dissociative style of preparation. Both styles are valid and appropriate. The key is to know which one works best for you and to consistently apply that ritual. Remember that even not thinking about the upcoming event is a legitimate style of preparing if you use it consistently across all your performances. This is your customized way of preparing to perform your best.
Ultimately, it may be best to work with a mental game coach to be able to purposively focus on the upcoming event so you can iron out any performance issues and to prepare as fully as possible using the associative approach.
Having a ritual does not mean you are obsessed with its completion. Your ritual exists to serve you, not the other way around. We hear about professional soccer players who have superstitious, elaborate rituals they must perform to feel ready to play. We hear of soccer pros who may not shave the week of a big event, may eat the same meal at the same restaurant and may wear the same clothes for each match. This is extreme, but it does make them feel secure and confident. Even for professional soccer players, the ritual should be easy to perform, take no longer than a few minutes, always be under your control and not require any special equipment. This way you can always perform your ritual.
Ritual Success Strategies
Here are twenty practical items you may use as a menu for designing your own pre-performance rituals as a soccer player:
1. eat specific meals at specific times
2. make an overall game plan
3. make back-up and emergency contingency plans
4. check all equipment you will use
5. stretch and exercise to burn off excess nervous energy
6. visualize your success in the event
7. warm-up everything you will use in your performance
8. seek a coach or confidant who will listen to you
9. wear clothes that make you feel confident
10. provide some quiet time for yourself
11. check out the venue where you will perform
12. use positive self-talk and positive imagery
13. watch your best performances on video tape
14. be around people who support you and make you feel confident
15. be around people who are excellent models of mental toughness
16. know your opening tactics cold so they are automatic
17. read your mental training journal for evidence of past successes
18. maintain a consistent, organized schedule so there is no
19. seek support staff to reduce pressure on yourself
20. stay tuned to any last minute time or program changes for your
Rituals are perhaps the most misunderstood and most under-used mental training tools in a performer's tool kit. If you have experienced hypnosis, relaxation training, autogenics, meditation, prayer, long retreats, yoga or other mind-body disciplines, you can attest to the deep focused relaxation and feelings of well-being that accrue. If you spend time with any top performers you will observe their rituals and routines that propel them out of ordinary consciousness into the hyper-state of intense focus that is required to reach the flow state--the peak performance state. Begin building your custom rituals for personal power now.
Copyright © 2005 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.
Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of Procoach Systems, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is a Wall Of Fame Honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.
Learn more about pre-game rituals and how to improve your performance on the soccer pitch: Fitness & Nutrition Guide