Football (or soccer as the ‘non-Brits’ refer to it as) is the most popular sport in the World. Millions of people play, at various levels, every single day. Most people play for fun, others professionally, however the aim of the game is almost always the same – WIN! During the course of the article I am going to suggest ways to becoming a better footballer (and thus increasing your and your teams chances of winning matches). All the suggestions made will result in improvements in your game, however some will take longer than others to ‘flourish’. Here goes:-
FITNESS: Watch the top footballers and you will notice that they produce a lot of movement during the 90 minutes, often running 10-15km in the process. To do this requires high levels of cardiovascular fitness. To gain such fitness requires dedication and discipline. Another sport where participants have very high levels of fitness, probably more so than footballers, is boxing (maybe not always the heavyweights!). Therefore, my suggestion to improve your fitness would be train like a boxer! Not in sparring etc, but by rising early (ideally between 5-6am) and putting in a session. This should ideally include a distance run followed by cardiovascular activities such as skipping, star jumps etc. Add to that push-ups, crunchies and sit-ups and your fitness will begin to improve significantly. Ideally I would suggest your session should be no less than 1 hour, at least 4-5 times a week. Training so early will kick-start your metabolism for the day plus psychologically it will give you a sense achievement which should motivate you day ahead.
GOAL! Rise at 5.30am, 5 times a week and complete a 4-5Km run followed by 5 x 20 push-ups, 5 x 20 crunchies, 5 x 40 star jumps, 5 x 20 burpees, then hold the PLANK POSITION for as long as possible. TIP: This will seem difficult at first, but once you are into a routine it becomes easy. Have training clothes next to your bed and focus your mind so that you get out of bed immediately when your alarm goes off. Don’t think about what your about to do, JUST DO IT!
DIET: You are what you eat / drink. You wouldn’t put the incorrect fuel into your car, so why put it into your body? Your performance will be affected by what you eat / drink – in the short term and in the long term. Therefore, your overall diet should be well balanced with large potions of green vegetables and salad. Avoid junk food which you know to be detrimental to you – I don’t need to list these foods, you know them already, but they just taste too good! Right? ‘Garbabge’ – they taste good at time of consumption, but how do you feel afterwards once your taste buds have returned to state – I’m guessing it’s not great! Improving at anything requires discipline and often sacrifice. Give up the junk food and the benefits which follow will be far in excess of the ‘quick fix’ pleasure these foods provide.
Your water intake should be high – you should never actually feel thirsty as this is an early sign of dehydration. Replace consumption of fizzy drinks, tea and coffee with water. Drink a minimum of 2 litres and maximum of 5 litres (dependent on body size and intensity of exercise(s) performed) each day. Carry water with you at all-times, don’t leave dehydration any invitations into your body!
GOAL! Drink 2-5 litres of water everyday, whilst avoiding fizzy drinks, tea and coffee. Eat portion(s) of green vegetables / salad or fruit with every meal. Snack every 2-4 hours on fruit / salad / vegetables or nuts. Eliminate junk food from your diet completely. TIP: Discipline and dedication are again the key. You don’t become an extraordinary footballer by doing ordinary things!
TEMPERAMENT AND FOCUS: Temperament and focus before, during and after a match is a key ingredient to making a footballer better. Before a match you should focus on what the overall aim is. That focus must remain strong and constant throughout. This should not make you fearful or nervous, but ultimately guide you towards achievement. If you make an error or wastes an opportunity, this should not affect your focus as your goal is still the same. It is unlikely that your overall aim was to score at that particular moment or not to make that error at that exact time. Therefore, concentrate on what you can achieve in the remaining time, there will be plenty of time to review performance after the match has finished.
Finally, once the match has ended focus on winning or losing with dignity. This will not just make you a better footballer, but a better person. GOAL!: Before a match spend 15-30 minutes focusing on what you actually want to achieve. Be clear of your outcome. So often people fail because they don’t know exactly what they are wanting to achieve.
DO THE SIMPLY THINGS WELL AND OFTEN: Not every footballer can do the things Cristiano Ronaldo, Zindine Zidane or Lionel Messi can do. But, all footballers can learn to do the simple skills often and well. I’m not trying to banish ‘flare’ and extravagant skill, rather dilute it. Learning to play short passes accurately and directly 100% of the time is an enormous advantage to any player. Great players, such as Paul Scholes and Claude Makele, are experts at doing the easy things well. This is something all players should adopt.
GOAL! Practice short passes, correct positioning, striking off the ball, tackling etc often and for a long period of time. Many players believe because they have mastered a technique they don’t have to practice it any more – when in fact mastery and improvement comes from repeatedly practising an already learned skill. This sort of dedication and commitment ensures that in the crucial moments of a game when performing a skill or technique is vital you will be prepared.
LEARN FROM THE BEST: Why re-invent the wheel? If you want to become a top footballer, benchmark a top footballer. They may have natural skill, but to get to the level they have achieved is not by chance. If you want to get to the level of a certain player(s) copy what they do on a regular basis (the beauty of benchmarking is you can take the positives and eliminate any negative routines the player may have!). With footballers living their life in the media spotlight and all sorts of data being openly available on the internet, it’s never been easier to benchmark.
GOAL! Chose a World Class player(s) you admire both on and off the pitch. Collect information regarding their diet, training methods and fitness ideas. Study their movement and all-round play in a number of games. Record games which they have played extremely well and analyse their qualities. Possibly contact them directly for advice and hints – if done elegantly, with your reasons for contacting them clearly stated, they should be more than happy to oblige.
Combine all the above with belief and you will most definitely become a better footballer.