Recent studies show that mindfulness can help quicken recovery from injury, thanks to its ability to change one’s perception about pain and attitude about how to respond to it. In addition, mindfulness is fast emerging as a popular tool amongst soccer players for helping to establish the right mindset, day in, day out, and to improve their game in the process. Given that your mindset plays a pivotal role in your performance, these qualities are no doubt what makes mindfulness increasingly appealing to soccer players.
What is mindfulness, and why does it matter?
Mindfulness is a meditation-based technique that teaches you to acknowledge thoughts and feelings and not to try to push them away. Instead, mindfulness focuses on being open to these feelings and accepting them. It can be a powerful tool to invest the time recognizing more about yourself to improve as a person. Mindfulness encourages you to do this. By learning more about yourself, you can realize more about what you thrive on and what could be holding you back. When applying this to your game, the potential for improvement is huge. In fact, a study revealed improved awareness, calmness and focus in players in an American collegiate soccer team who practiced mindful meditation.
How might I practice mindfulness as a soccer player?
Like any muscle, the brain needs to be trained regularly in order to become more effective - in this case, at mindfulness. It is therefore important to practice mindfulness in training and during matches. Before each training session, make time (even just ten minutes) for some mindful meditation. Find a quiet space and practice some deep, slow breathing, focusing your attention on the sound and feel of each breath. This will help bring your thoughts to the present moment and enable you to put any pre-existing concerns out of your mind. It will also help you to remain calm if your training session doesn’t go as well as planned, or you experience any friction with teammates, for example. The more you practice mindfulness, the more effective you will become at blocking out ‘noise’ - whether that be fans, the whistle or internal anxieties - particularly in high-pressure situations during matches.
Mindfulness: a powerful tool for soccer players
Soccer presents many high-pressure situations for players. Not only do they need to perform well at every game in order to retain their place in the team, but they also have to maintain a good standard off the pitch. This includes keeping fit and recovering from injury, as well as training well. For professionals, there is also the potential invasion of your private life. Mindfulness can be used to help keep your mind and body in good shape, enabling you to improve as a player in the process.