1 Visualise regularly
“To perform at your best you need to be pumping two key hormones: dopamine and noradrenaline. Visualisation releases both, so the more you do it the better equipped you’ll be for terrorising opponents. Improving your mental skills is the same as improving your physical ones – it takes repetition and focused practice.”
2 Use all your senses
“If you want that goal poacher’s sixth sense for a tap-in you’re going to have to engage your body’s sensory system. Visualise a vivid picture so real you can almost touch it. Not just what would you see, but what you would hear and feel. Close your eyes, relax and imagine how you’re going to evade the booze fumes oozing off the 18-stone centre-back marking you after a 10-hour bender.”
3 Visualise in real-time
“Visualisation isn’t just about imagining the glorious end product – you have to see yourself living and feeling the build-up to the decisive moment. A penalty is a perfect example of this. Visualise the long walk from the halfway line, placing the ball down, taking a few steps back, pausing for three seconds, waiting for the referee’s whistle, and only then picture yourself hammering the ball into the back of the net.”
4 Do it at every opportunity
“The great thing about this is you can practise it anywhere. Stuck in traffic for five minutes? Visualise yourself commanding the game. On a bus to training? Visualise what a great session would look like. Strapped into the dentist’s chair? Visualise squeezing up a high line. Build up a picture of what you want to do out there on the pitch, like a personal DVD of your greatest moments that you can watch over and over.”
5 No substitute for training
“Don’t think this stuff counts as a substitute for training. Yes, it does strengthen the pathway in your brain, but it should be used as well as training, not instead of it. Each technical skill has its own chain in your brain. The more you do a skill, the bigger the chain gets. Bigger chains help your brain send your body more messages, and quicker. The latest neuroscientific research found that visualising a skill also increases this chain.”
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