7 Tips for Getting in the Right Mindset Before a Big Game

When did Lionel Messi begin to win the final of the Qatar 2022 World Cup? With the penalty he converted to make it 1-0 against France? With that magical pass that opened the 2-0 lead? Or thanks to the shot from 11 yards that, of course, he converted in the final shootout, when the ghosts had already appeared at the door of the Argentine national team, whispering to him, to all his teammates and fans, that they were going to miss out on the World Cup?

Well, in reality, none of these statements are entirely true. Because Lionel Messi started to beat France in the final of the World Cup in Qatar just before taking the field, as taught in our online soccer courses, Messi won the final with the mentalization he carried out before the game, there, together with his teammates, together with Lionel Scaloni’s coaching staff. That’s what allowed them to come out of the locker room with a bang and make it 2-0 on the scoreboard before halftime.

7 Tips for Getting in the Right Mindset Before a Big Game

Because, and this is a reality that every professional soccer team has already assumed, the performance of any athlete is directly related to his mental state: with the ability to concentrate, to manage emotions, or to keep calm in stressful situations. Through numerous studies and analyses, sports psychology has shown how important the mentalization process is before a match or a championship, and the latest proof of this was that Argentina – France match in front of half the world’s eyes. In soccer, and this is demonstrated every weekend, the one who has the easiest time to win is the one who is the most mentally prepared.

So if you want to know what are the tricks of the most famous athletes or if you are looking for some tricks that will allow you to go out on the field a gear ahead of your rivals, you’ve come to the right place. Because here are seven tips on how to psyche yourself up before a sporting event.

1. Find a routine

There is nothing that relaxes and combats invasive and negative thoughts better, those images about everything that can go wrong in a game, in a test, in a training session, than routines. Because routines are just that: a float, a lifeline to hold on to when anxiety, uncertainty, doubts attack us. A series of rituals, or movements, or ways of doing things that, in short, allow us to relax.

There are all kinds of routines. For example, Messi usually takes a walk, alone, before and after each training session. Both he and Cristiano Ronaldo always want to be the last to enter the field after leaving the locker room. Iker Casillas, who was a teammate of the latter at Real Madrid, used to surpass both of them in terms of manias: he had to cut his shirts, turn his socks inside out and trace a furrow from the halfway line to the goal line with his foot before the game started. And in other sports, such as basketball, there are the most eccentric rituals: from LeBron James throwing chalk in the air, to Jorge Garbajosa and all his superstitions.

7 Tips for Getting in the Right Mindset Before a Big Game

Whether in a group or individually, these pre-match routines help the player to calm down, to find the necessary motivation, or to go out with 100% concentration. In short, they allow him to get in the right frame of mind before a big match.

2. Think success

Montiel, the Argentine winger who, with his goal, gave the 2022 World Cup to his country, had two options when he was on his way to the penalty spot. The first would be to think that he was going to miss it, in all the people who were going to end up crying, lost, disconsolate for a World Cup they had been so close to; that he was going to be the protagonist of the failure. The second, on the other hand, would be to walk, with a firm step, firmly believing that he was going to score it. Visualizing that he was going to score the penalty. That Argentina was finally going to win a World Cup.

We were not in Montiel’s head that day, but we are sure that something more similar to the latter than the former was going through his mind. Not for nothing, he put it in. And mind you, this is pure science: a study conducted by professors at the University of Tennessee showed that positive visual exercises performed in the moments leading up to the game had a positive impact, on the field, on the performance of the players. If you control the images you let into your head before and during a key moment, you will have a lot to gain.

7 Tips for Getting in the Right Mindset Before a Big Game

3. Listen to someone who motivates you

Before a match, in order to go out motivated, plugged in, relaxed, it is always a good idea to listen to the words of someone who motivates you, who helps you when it comes to psyching yourself up. But, of course, who is that person, who has the ability to say the right word at the right time?

On many occasions, it will be the coaches who have the exact word, the perfect speech to find a balance between relaxation and maximum concentration. And here, like no other, the example of Luis Aragones comes to mind, whose talks before Euro 2008 are now legendary. A mixture of laughter to relax, technical talk and a dose of motivation.

But if your coach’s specialty is not motivational talks, or you are alone and unaccompanied before a race, you can always find other references. Jonas Vingegaard, winner of the Tour de France 2022, the first thing he did when he crossed the finish line after each stage was to call his wife. Others, before going out onto the pitch, watch videos of players or coaches they admire.

Everyone is different, but what is clear is that words have the ability to heal, to scare away our deepest fears. And also, of course, to make us mentally prepared to go out onto the field at 200%.

4. Dialogue with yourself in a positive way, talk to yourself well

But there are many moments before an important event – a match, a first training session with your new team, or, why not, one of our tryouts for semi-professional soccer teams – when you will have to learn to live with yourself, with your head. And, there, there is no coach or motivational talk that is worth. So, what can you do there to maintain a good mentality?

The main thing, we believe, is to talk to yourself well, to respect yourself, to believe in yourself. It may seem obvious, but the player who chooses this way – by telling himself what he has done well in the last game, correcting himself in a positive way and believing that he is there on his own merit – is much more likely to come out mentally prepared and self-confident for the challenge ahead.

In the lonely moments before the game, there is nothing like trying to be the best possible partner for yourself. A basic rule for every soccer player.

5. Stay active

After the 2022 Roland Garros final between Rafa Nadal and Casper Ruud, in which the Spaniard won his fourteenth Roland Garros trophy -six more than the second in history, that’s nothing-, a video went viral with both players waiting to be given the entrance to the court. And in it, while Ruud waited quietly, static, you could see a Nadal who did not stop: sprints, balances, warm-up, a lot of activity.

After his defeat, when questioned about the video images, Casper Ruud acknowledged that, perhaps, his master had already begun to win the final before the first point with that psychological warfare. With that unbeatable way of staying active before going out on court.

So keep this in mind: if one of the best athletes in history mentally keeps himself active before a big event, it might be a good idea to learn from him.

7 Tips for Getting in the Right Mindset Before a Big Game

6. Create your own playlist

This one is obvious, isn’t it, because what soccer player or professional in any other sport doesn’t already have his own songs, either to listen to alone and concentrate, or to play on the team bus?

What you have to do is choose your own style, whatever transmits what you need before going out on the field: reggae to relax, a bit of rock or punk to get you going, electronic music to focus, cumbia or reggaeton to dance and have a few laughs.

Marca already told us a few years ago: every soccer star has his own particular style, and none of them have done badly at all.

7. Find your role model

After all these tips, we leave for the end the most important of all: that you look for your own role model, the athlete whose routines and ways of acting before an appointment to which you have to go out 100% mentally fit you best. One whose work ethic, his commitment to the sport, his way of doing things transmits to you the strength and focus you need.

For many, that figure has been Kobe Bryant, probably one of the most committed athletes to his sport so far this century. His stories are many: other stars who find him training at four in the morning and then again at eight; not a single day of rest; a constant and never-ending motivation to be the best.

Kobe’s figure doesn’t have to be the best fit for you, but just as he has inspired many, it would be a good idea for you to find your own role model. At least, until you can fly solo.

7 Tips for Getting in the Right Mindset Before a Big Game

Conclusion: mentalization, a key aspect for the most important appointments

Of course, beyond these seven points, experience will allow you to know what are the most important aspects to take into account when preparing for a match or an important sporting event. What is clear, however, is the importance of sports psychology in the mentalization for a match.

Partly for this reason, we have created our own online sports psychology course. Because we believe that, without a correct process of mentalization and psychological work, any other technical or tactical aspect of soccer will not be complete. You can be very good with the ball at your feet and know every detail of every tactic that comes into play in a match, but if your head is not focused and mentally prepared to face the challenge, all that skill remains in the background.