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Mental Preparation – Are you preparing before you get to the game?

“If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right” 

– Henry Ford

Many of you are now a few weeks into your seasons and hopefully realizing success.

Over the recent weeks,  I have had some discussions with coaches and parents who have approached me about how their keeper/child performed in a game.  They have said things like;

  • “she just didn’t seem to be focused”
  • “he knows what to do but it seems like it all goes out the window when he steps on the field.”
  • “he played timid (nervous)”

This is not uncommon and particularly in the start of the season when players have had significant down time or perhaps are anxious over their role with the team, it is likely that the preseason has only prepared them physically for the season. Which leads me to the main topic of this blog. Mental Preparation.

Preparation for all players, but in particular Keepers, starts long before you ever arrive at the field.

Keepers can spend hours on end, on the field mastering their craft, working on proper catching and diving techniques, enhancing their ability to read crosses, improving their distribution and yet without mentally preparing for a game, this could all be wasted time.  If your “head” is not in the game, technical mastery can be overshadowed by mental mistakes.  Take a moment and search youtube for keeper gaffs, you will see a majority of these gaffs were not about technical issues but rather mental focus and concentration.

One of the best way to mentally prepare for a game is to visualize the events that commonly occur in a game and how you will handle them.  Imagine what you will do in coming for a cross or perhaps in saving a shot from the top of the box.  If you have played the opponent before, begin thinking about the players on that team and how they do things. Paint a vivid picture of you being successful doing the things you have learned how to do. Always visualize in the positive.

Visualization is also a great way to help eliminate some of the nerves that keepers can get before games.  Nervousness is a bi-product of the unknown.  How will we play?  Am I good enough to play at this level?  Have I prepared enough?  Positively visualizing your success in the game well help to build that confidence and eliminate the doubts, questions, and uncertainties.

Many high level athletes will will tell you that they have played the entire game in their head before they have ever set foot on the field.

Another way to get yourself mentally prepared for the game is create pregame routines or “rituals”.  These routines will help to trigger the mind that it is time to get ready for the game.  Routines and rituals can start days before you ever set foot on the field, some keepers will end their last practice before a game with the same drill.  Some athletes will eat a certain meal, watch a certain show, or listen to certain songs or music.  Regardless of what you setup as a pregame routine, the importance is that you do it to trigger the mind to begin to prepare for the game.

Finally, mental preparedness is also about having those moments to let the brain rest. Make sure you are getting a good night sleep before a game.

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