Relaxation, Better Breathing and Performance-Enhancing Methods

Sport psychology preformance-enhancing techniques in football are increasingly well recognised for their value. Having discovered what motivates you ( volition ), found a mission or creed, and set goals, there are several perfomance-enhancing techniques to help achieve these goals. These include relaxation and breathing techniques, mental imagery, concentration and focus, positive self-talk, and confidence building.

Better breathing increases blood flow, improves the circulation, reduces risk of injury, and decreases the recovery time after a match or training session. Two useful techniques are circle breathing and progressive relaxation. Clear the mind of all distractions, and relax. Then, breathe slowly in through the nose from the centre of the body, which is behind the belly button, drawing air upwards to fill the lungs. Breathe in for about four seconds, hold for about two seconds, and then breathe slowly out for four seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.

Progressive relaxation involves tensing and relaxing each muscle from the neck to the ankles. Tense the muscle whilst breathing in, hold, and relax on exhaling. The aim is to gradually relax each muscle, and so relax the whole body. There are other relaxation methods, such as meditation, and also methods of controlling the circulation and heart rate.

Imagery involves imagining a particular action in your mind before actually doing it. For example, before attempting to take a penalty, imagine yourself scoring by kicking the ball exactly where you want it to go. This method can also be used in learning new skills, such as a dribbling trick.

Concentration is all about being focused on the task in hand, and not having your mind cluttered with other thoughts. Footballers, who are focused, are concentrating only on the game to the extent that they might not know what the time is or what the crowd is doing.

Confidence in your ability is an important psychological quality, and can be built up by positive self-talk and team building . Optimism is important. Linked to this topic is the idea of cohesion. The Western Samoan rugby team is famous for their “war dance” prior to matches, and in industry, many companies now have group outings to build cohesion and team spirit. A team that criticses each other and contains personalities that dislike each other never plays at its best.

The next section concerns peak performance , and those factors that cause a sportsman or woman to play at his/her best. Sports psychology is also covered in our soccer coaching programme , Soccer Academy . Before finishing, I want to mention time management. This is the skill of getting the most out of your time. Creating a timetable and writing down a plan is the best way to approach this problem, but above all, football should be fun, and it’s essential not to take the enjoyment out of the game.