For many, the highlight of the week is the 90-minute period between the first and last whistle. However, few realise that the average ‘effective playing time’ (the time the ball is actually in play) for a match of this length is 55 minutes. On an individual basis, a player is lucky to have the ball at their feet for between 2 and 3 minutes. The shorter the game time, the lower these figures are. With actual game time being as precious as a Liverpool FC Premier League Title, how do we ensure we get the most out of ourselves?
Perhaps the best way to explain it is to use the 5 P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
Much is made of game day performance and rightly so, but what are players doing to make sure they are in the right frame of mind, and physically ready to perform at their best?
- Are you the type of player who has a game day routine?
- Are you dedicated to your teammates and coach?
- Are you punctual and organised?
- Does your body need to follow a certain regime before a game?
- Do you use visualisation techniques?
- What ‘game’ do you play to ensure you play your game well?
These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself but ultimately, it is about finding what works for you, as there is not a ‘one-size fits all’ answer.
What does it mean?
Preparation is defined as the act of being ready for something. To each individual, the idea of being prepared may differ, but to understand some key characteristics involved we should consider diet, sleep, hydration, stress levels, physical condition, mental state and many more. Each component has an effect on our performance and we have greater control over some than others.
Do not be disheartened if you have not found your balance just yet. The funny thing about experience is that it gives you the test first, and the lesson afterwards.
Discover the repeatable activities that prepare you.
Your routine may change over time, so be confident in what works for you and be open minded about trying new things, such as:
- A different pre-match meal,
- Listening to music or not,
- Going for a morning walk,
- A particular stretching routine etc.
My advice, my non-negotiables
Make sure you get to the game early. There is nothing worse for your preparation than being late, stressing about finding the field or finding a parking spot.
Keep hydrated. Hydration begins well in advance of the game. Maintain hydration levels and ensure you always have a bottle of water with you on game day.
One thing I find useful is to use visualisation techniques. This might include:
- Visualising something from training,
- Specific instructions from your coach,
- Your own personal goals and ambitions for the match,
- Past positive experiences at the same ground, or against the same opposition,
- Actions such as scoring a goal, playing a quality pass, or making a great tackle.
Focus on what you do well, how you can contribute to the team’s success and why you will play well that day.
In order to be at your best – make sure you play and win the game, before The Game.
Written by Paul Orgad