If you think visualisation is something fluffy or mystical think again!
Football players and indeed athletes in all sports have been visualising for many years. They knew it worked. They knew it had a brilliant impact on their performance. However, they might not have realised why.
Now we know exactly what is going on inside our brains when we visualise!
We know that there is a very real and very physical reaction that happens in our brain when we take the time to visualise.
Football psychology is often misunderstood and seen as something very different from football training. Football training makes physical improvements, yet working on your football mindset is seen as something that doesn’t produce tangible results.
Nothing could be further away from the truth
Visualisation Produces Physical Improvements
When you visualise, your brain strengthens itself in a very similar way as if you were physically performing the training drill.
For example. If you’re a football player, practicing going past a player in training you will make improvements to this part of your game. The more you practice, the greater these improvements will be.
The reason why you make these improvements is that each time you do them you strengthen the neuropathways in your brain that are responsible for doing each action.
The same goes with any football skill that you do. Whether it’s heading, shooting, passing dribbling or similar.
What most people do not realise is that these same neuropathways are strengthened when you simply visualise doing the skill.
The reason being is that the parts of the brain that are involved in this improvement cannot tell the difference between imagination and rality.
For example, if you imagine playing a through ball to the striker on your next match, the same neurons and neuropathways will fire as if you were actually physically doing it.
Not only this, but they are going to be strengthening in the same way also. This is going to mean that you are making physical improvements within your brain and physical improvements to your football.
Just like when you physically train a football skill, the more you do it the better you get at it, the same is true with visualisaing it. The more that you visualise doing it the better you will become.
Make sure that you combine physical practice with visualisation and see the accelerated improvements that you make.
Another Huge Advantage of Visualisation for a Footballer
Why do you train? Other than the obvious reason to improve?
You train to prepare for your next game.
Imagine you are a Liverpool player and the next match is a crunch game away against Manchester United.
You’re a Defender and you know that they will be threatening in a certain way in the game. All week you’ve practiced and drilled yourselves in defensive drills with the reset of your defence.
This is going to be brilliant way of getting yourself and the rest of your team prepared for the game. However, what are the disadvantages here?
You aren’t training in front of 70,000 fans at Old Trafford. The players that you are up against, practicing these drills are not the Manchester United players that you will be playing against at the weekend. However, we do our best to make it as real as possible on the training ground.
This is why visualisation can be absolutely phenomenal for you as a player, preparing for the game.
Your visualisation of the drill can be in front of 70,000 people at Old Trafford. Your visualisation can be against the exact players who are likely to be playing on Saturday.
Again, this might sound fluffy. Kind of like make believe for kids. However, it serves as a very important drill for so many reasons, which we will come onto now.
The Football Brain Doesn’t Like Uncertainty. Visualisation Can Help Here too!
The brain of a footballer, or anyone of that matter, does not like uncertainty. Uncertainty can negatively impact on performance if we allow it to.
Although we will not go too heavily into the reasons why, it all stems back to primitive times, when we would be close to a fight or flight state when uncertainty arose. In prehistoric times, uncertainty often meant that imminent attack from a rival tribe or a wild animal was a real and distinct possibility.
Despite this now being different times and this kind of uncertainty not being a threat to our lives, we still have this reaction to uncertainty wired into our brains. This is why the uncertainty then causes problems to footballers performance on the pitch.
However, once again this is another key reason why visualisation can be an asset to you as a footballer.
What if you’re a young Liverpool player who has never played at Old Trafford? You can watch Youtube clips of Manchester United playing, or get your analyst to send you clips. Then imagine being there, plying in the game, in front of this huge crowd.
Do this over and over again, familiarising yourself with what its like to play in front of the crowd and zoning into the game. Visualise playing against the traits of the Manchester United players and how you will dominate your opponent on the pitch.
As you do this over and over again it prepares you for the game. It makes physiological improvements to your brain… your football brain.
Then, when you step out onto the pitch, it isn’t the first time you’ve played there. As far as your brain is concerned you’ve played here hundreds of times. In all of these games you’ve been confident and focused. You’re used to playing against your opponents. You know how they play and more importantly you know how you’re going to play against them.
So I hope you can see just how important visualisation is going to be in your Arsenal to getting to the best levels you play at, as well as dominating your opponents in your next game.
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