Original Article: https://mastersoccermind.com/21-tips-to-prepare-for-a-soccer-game/
In this article you will not have any “hacks” that will magicaly make you a better player one day to the other, but you will find a series of steps and habits to follow that can significantly increase your performance during soccer matches.
To play the best you can in the weekend, you need to put in the work during the week. If you didn’t do anything from Monday to Thursday, there is nothing you can do on Friday to improve significantly for the soccer match in the weekend.
#1 Discipline is key
I believe this is one of the most important aspects, not only in soccer, but in your whole life. In order to achieve something, you need to be disciplined. There is always a debate in soccer saying that discipline is more important than talent or talent more important than discipline. What do you think? I think that to play soccer you need to have both. But, if you are little talented but a lot more disciplined than other players that are more talented than you, you will end up becoming a better player.
I can tell this by own experience from one of my soccer coaches throughout my life. I remember one time he told us that he used to play with Lucas Leiva and Anderson (from Mancheste United) at Brazil. He even said that they both were his bench or substitutes. They both ended playing at an extremely high level in European football and my coach ended being…well, a youth coach in Panama. Even though he was more talented than them, they were more disciplined and achieved more in their soccer careers.
I don’t know if its me, but I’ve always been unlucky and ended up in undisciplined teams. You know where these teams end? Nowhere. It has no point wanting to play better in the weekends if you are not willing to put the effort for it. Go to all your soccer practices on time, and train as you are told, and you will see better results.
#2 Know your why
As in everything you need to know why you are doing this? Why you are training hard every single day? It is not enough just by saying that you want to play better in the weekend, you need to want something that goes even further. What is that that you want to become in the future as a soccer player?
Visualizing your why is something that will keep you motivated. Most of the time when people loose their motivation to do something is because they forgot their why, they forgot why they started. If you want to play better in the weekends, this is something you need to get done since the very beginning.
#3 Organize your week
This is something that I do all the time. Sit for a moment and visualize your whole week from Monday to Friday and answer the following questions:
- What days and at what hours do I have soccer practice?
- What else I do besides practicing soccer?
- What schedule am I going to have for every single day?
- What can I do to organize my time better and get to the best possible conditions to training?
- Am I taking the time to eat and rest correctly?
#4 Take care of what you eat
I’m not a nutritionist and I’m not even close to be an expert in proper nutrition for athletes. But, what I have is common sense and I know what things are bad and what things I should be eating. For top athletes today having a proper nutrition is not something that will give you an advantage but it is a requisite. It’s something that if not managed correctly can position you in great disadvantage in comparison to other players that do take care of it.
Most times when we think about eating healthy we think about boring vegetables, salads, etc. That is not the case at all, you can make a significant step forward just by avoiding three things from now on: Fast food restaurants, Soda (just drink water instead), and sugar.
#5 Create good eating habits before and after training
For years I had problems at training with endurance. I usually started to feel dizzy and with nausea after a couple of minutes running. I remember one time I even fainted at practice I took the super smart decision to not eat breakfast.
After some time with this problems, I learned the hard way the importance of eating correctly before a training session or a game. I found out that I just wasn’t eating enough before going to play and that I needed to change that quick if I wanted to play better.
#6 Supplements to recover
Again, I’m not an expert, but I do like to drink a Protein shake or some kind of supplement after training. It helps me recover my muscles a lot faster from tough workouts, and it is something that will definitely help develop your muscles after a soccer training. I bought the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% whey protein (click to see on amazon) and I really like it. Always consult with a professional before consuming any supplement.
#7 Stay hydrated in practice
This is an extremely important part: Stay well hydrated at training and outside of it. If you make sure you are hydrated during soccer practice, you’ll train better, and training better means having a better performance in the weekend. Pretty simple equation.
What I like to do is take a full 32 oz bottle of water that I keep in the sideline while training in case I’m thirsty. Also I take either a full bottle of Gatorade, Powerade or whatever isotonic drink you like. If you are not willing to spend the money on big bottles of Gatorade, what I do is that I buy small tetra-pack sized packages of the drink. It’s more portable and practical.
#8 Granola bars at training
I don’t know if it’s only me, but usually, after a while running at practice, I tend to get hungry! I don’t know why, maybe that’s because I’m hungry every two to three hours. These are my favorite granola bars from amazon.
I usually take 1 or 2 granola bars to training with me and I eat them while we are resting. It helps me reduce my hunger, and also gives me lots of energy because of their high levels of sugar. A banana can work too.
That’s what is great about this article, you can start trying new things until you find something that works for you.
#9 Rest properly
The #1 activity that complements exercising is sleeping. Studies have found that the amount of hours you sleep, significantly impact your athletic performance. By getting the correct amount of rest you need, your reaction time, speed, and accuracy increase significantly in comparison to those not getting the amount of sleep they need.
Obesity is directly linked to lack of rest. Literally your body looses fat by sleeping. Also, the lack of rest affects directly the hormones of your body. Not sleeping correctly creates an unbalance of hormones in the body that directly affects the muscle growth and fat reduction. Finally, sleep deprivation can also lead you to depression, lack of productivity, and concentration.
Is that enough facts for you? I can’t tell you how much the lack of sleep has affected me in my life. In order to rest correctly, try this tips:
- Creating a sleeping routine before going to bed. Something like reading a book, and brushing your teeth. In this way, the brain will know that it is time to rest.
- Try to prevent any light from outside to come into your room. The brain tends to confuse it with sunlight, reducing the quality of sleep. Buy dark curtains or do whatever it takes to make your room darker.
- Don’t do anything in your bed besides sleeping, so when you lay on your bed the brain knows that it’s time for the one and only thing you do in that place: sleep.
#10 Heavy weight Training
Weight lifting is an activity that needs to be regulated. Try going to the weight room only 2 times a week to do heavy weight lifting exercises and maybe once a week to do regular exercise. Always remember this rule: The harder the work you’ll do in the gym, the further it has to be from gameday.
If you play your games on the weekend, probably the best thing to do is making weight lifting workouts on Mondays and Wednesdays. By doing this, you give your muscles enough time to recover from those heavy workouts. If you go to play with post-workout muscle ache, you’ll probably not perform at the level you would like to. Get lots of rest during the week and your muscles will be just fine for the weekend.
#11 Regulate extra physical activity
What I mean with this point is to reduce to the minimum every physical activity that is not making you a better soccer player. Especially for young amateur players like me, we like to play other sports, like basketball, in those days that we don’t have soccer training. I’m not saying this is bad, but it can bring you unwanted problems like injuries or muscle fatigue.
#12 Not everything is playing, increase stamina
At training not everything is having a nice relaxed time kicking the ball around and playing with it. You’ve got to train your endurance and make yourself feel tired. If you don’t work on your stamina, then on weekends don’t ask yourself why you feel so tired.
What makes a soccer player a good player is not that he can make one good play in a game, is that he can maintain a steady performance during the whole 90 minutes.
I believe the article I wrote about How to Increase Stamina and Endurance for Soccer in a Month is the best guide online to help soccer players better their physical conditions.
Endurance is one of the most important aspects of the game. Soccer is a sport where players tend to make quick sprints and changes of direction. Jugging around might not be enough, you need to make endurance exercises that simulate real movements that you make in a soccer game.
#13 Quality over quantity
I remember one coach told me: It’s not how much you train but about training better. It’s not about running for 2 hours a straight forward line when you can make an intense 10 minute sprint exercise that might bring you better results. The success each one will have depends solely on the effort and the quality of your training session.
#14 Train like its a game
“How you train, you play”. Absolutely true! You want to play intense in a soccer game, then start doing it at your training session. Obviously be careful not to be to intense and injure your own teammates, but try to play as similar as you would in the real game.
#15 Always go one step further
You want to be the best player on your team? Then you will always want to do something that goes one step further than what everyone else does. In your free time, search for some drills you can do by yourself at home. Drills specific to increase stamina, ball control, technique, shooting, positioning, etc. In fact, I wrote an article called: The Key to improve as a soccer player by yourself. Definitely check that out.
#16 DON’T party the night before
Obviously. I just told you above how important it is to get a good rest, the worst thing you can do is to party and drink the night before. You’ll be slower, less accurate, and have slower reaction, affecting directly your athletic performance.
#17 Build strong relationships with teammates
I watched a video of an interview to Antoine Griezmann were he was asked what he did before matches to play better. He said that nothing, the only thing he did was to hang out, laugh, and relax with his teammates before the game even starts.
This tells the importance of having a good relationship with your teammates. Seeing teammates as if they were your friends gives you a lot more confidence while playing in the pitch. Friends will always support you even when you do things wrong.
#18 Learn from mistakes
It is a totally misconception among people that making mistakes is BAD. If you make a mistake you HAVE to be punished, when that is not the case at all. I think this happens mostly because at schools we are taught in this way. The kid that makes mistakes at exams is a looser and is tag with a C or D, while the ones that don’t make mistakes are the good ones.
In the real world it’s the opposite from this. The people who make the most mistakes tend to be the most successful. The worst thing you can do is to keep thinking about the things you did wrong at a soccer match. Instead, learn from them and keep making mistakes so you become a better player. If you never make mistakes, then how will you know what you are doing wrong? How will you become better?
#19 Visualize the game and field
A great tip to do is try to visualize how absolutely the whole game will be. Imagine you having the best game you will ever have. Imagine making great passes, moving to the space quickly, making great shots, etc. Visualize how the field you’ll play at is, look for pictures of it online.
This will give you a better idea of what the game will be like, and make you feel more confident and secure.
#20 Plan your game day the day before
At what time is the game? When do I have to be at the field? At what time should I eat then? What should I pack in my bag? What do I need to buy to stay hydrated? At what hour should I go to sleep to be well rested?
This are all questions you need to answer the day before of the game to be prepared the best way possible.
#21 Confidence is everything
- Self talking is key: What you say to yourself matters, it truly matters more than everything. The most important person you talk to everyday is yourself. So, in soccer games and practice talk to yourself motivating to become better: “I can do this”, ” Get that ball”, “Your strong and fast”. Saying things like this to yourself can make a major impact than you might think.
- Body Language: This is more important than you think, the way you stand up, communicates more than actual words. Having a confident posture will make you feel more confident and also show the opponents the same thing.