Since I arrived in Ireland, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on football psychology. I even tried to take a course on Attention, Perception, and Performance that was offered at NUI Galway because I thought it would have something I could use, but then I realized it was for psychology majors and I was in way over my head! Anyways, I was recommended to read “Soccer Tough” by Dan Abrahams from my good friend, Tiffany Weimer. In the book, (seriously check it out, it’s fantastic!) Abrahams talks about the techniques and thought process he used to help struggling players recapture their form and play to the best of their ability. I won’t summarize the book for you, but Abrahams talks about how football is played in seconds, but the brain thinks in milliseconds. Every time you divert your attention to something you can’t control, like the weather, the state of the pitch, your manager’s opinion of you, you risk missing a crucial opportunity for your team, something that could decide the match.
I think one of the big things I was lacking when I played for Fairfield in the past season was my mental game was completely off. I always felt like I was on the outside of the team even when I was starting, I didn’t trust myself on the ball, I was too concerned about making a mistake, and then never getting back into the team. Looking back to the fall, I can honestly say that with the exception of 3 or 4 matches, I played scared. It became blatantly obvious to me when I read “Soccer Tough” and began to apply it to training sessions. Every day for training I give myself a mental assignment and then evaluate myself at the end to see how I did. These range from “Play without worry” to “Ooze confidence” to “Play in the present moment”. I am trying to slowly add all of these mental things to my game, and especially visualization.
I was reading an article on CNN.com yesterday about Novak Djokovic called “Visualizing Greatness: How Novak Djokovic Rose to the Top” which talked about how Novak visualized being the best tennis player in the world, from the age of 6!
"Somebody asked him: 'Hey, boy! What do you want to be when you grow up?' (And he would reply): 'Be the first in pro-tennis.' He was six years old."
This is the end of my fourth week here, and I think I’m finally beginning to adjust to everything. There is a gym with a racquetball court that is a 10-minute walk from my apartment. I have training every other day at 7 after all my lectures are done at the university, and I’ve even found a small turf field about 15 minutes away where I can go and work on my technical skill when I’m not at training. I’ve begun to visualize playing my “dream game” every night before I go to bed, and I fall asleep thinking about it. I can’t tell you the wonders it has done for my confidence. Even though I can’t go travelling around Europe on the weekends like the rest of my American friends here, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being on the pitch for 2 hours beats going to Paris for a weekend any day for me. Anyways, we have a friendly on Saturday vs Sligo Rovers, who won the Irish Premier League last season and will be in the 2013/2014 Champions League. I will hopefully give you all an update after that next week!
Take care, and God Bless!