As a soccer player, it can often feel as though your life is an endless cycle of training, eating, playing and sleeping.
Obviously, these are core aspects of the life you have chosen and contribute in a huge way toward you being the best player you can possibly be.
But, are you truly maximising each hour of your day?
You finish training, you chill for half an hour and watch some YouTube videos, have a quick look at how your Ultimate Team is getting on and watch your new favourite show on Netflix (we recommend this, by the way). Sound familiar?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s very easy to slip into this type of cyclical routine without realising and, admittedly, there are certainly much worse cycle’s to be stuck in.
But if you have grand aspirations to go the distance in soccer, you must ask yourself a difficult question:
“Am I maximising every hour of my day to make sure I progress toward my goals?“
The typical soccer player’s cycle
If your answer is “yes.” then, kudos! Continue on your path to success through absolute maximisation of every hour of your day. However, should your answer be closer to “I work hard but perhaps I could be a bit more effective with my spare time.”, then the following 6 suggestions are for you.
Be mindful, though, that these are just a few suggestions for effective ways to spend your spare time as an aspiring soccer player, not hard and fast rules. So, take what you want or need and ignore that which you feel would not bring you value in your soccer-playing pursuits.
You may be thinking “mediation is just a fleeting trend”, and you may be correct.
In fact, by all accounts, it’s definitely a trend. However, it’s by no means, fleeting and the multiple potential benefits of mindfulness meditation are clear and backed-up by rigorous scientific testing. For instance, mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce stress , increase focused attention  and greatly improve emotional regulation and self-control . Some early research has also identified a possible link between mindfulness meditation and the strengthening of the immune system .
“But, I’m a soccer player, how would meditation improve my game?”
Well, in response to the above question you may or may not have asked, we would say: it can improve your game in many ways. Actually, a recent study on Division 1 female soccer players suggests that a consistent programme of mindfulness meditation can increase soccer players’ mindfulness and awareness on the pitch  leading to, ultimately, more goals, more tackles and more W’s.
If you aren’t ready to take our word for it, that’s fine. But, there’s no harm in following the practice that Lionel Messi, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carli Lloyd and Derek Jeter credit as integral to their success both on and off the field of play.
If you’re looking for a simple way into meditation, we recommend the Headspace app or even this quick step-by-step guide to your first meditation session. Which can be as little as 2 minutes long!
It’s somewhat alarming that, allegedly, some college athletes read at a 5th grade level.
On the other hand, take a look at some of the world’s most successful individuals, and you’ll likely find that they are avid readers. In addition, they often read across various topics. From health & fitness to self-development, to personal finance, to biographies, to philosophy. The list goes on.
Reading is a great way to take your mind off soccer in a positive manner and allow you some time off from a season-long grind of intense concentration and stimulation. In addition, Dan Grunfeld, claims that reading on game-day is a great way to improve focus on your task:
“The process of zoning out with a book for a few minutes before a high-powered moment of competition offers a sense of tranquillity, and that feeling can translate into a state of relaxation and focus come game time.”
If you’re looking for a good place to start, check out ex-pro and head RIASA coach, Rob Jones’, top 5 books that changed his life and can make you a better soccer player.
LeBron James cũng đọc sách trước ngày thi đấu
Believe it or not, we humans need sleep and, in your case, as an athlete, you really need sleep.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s vital that the sleep you do get is of the upmost highest quality possible. In fact, the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sport recently found that poor quality of sleep can negatively affect an athletes’ athletic performance, neurocognitive functioning, and physical health .
Don’t feel any shame if you’ve found yourself neglecting the importance of sleep. One of the best players on the planet, Cristiano Ronaldo, even found himself in need of some serious guidance when it comes to optimizing his sleep schedule. As strange as it may sound, he has a personal sleep coach to advise him on his sleeping routine. From the temperature of the room to the reduction of harmful light before dozing off.
Here are some tips from the man himself on getting a good night’s sleep and optimising your performance:
Don’t drink alcohol before sleeping
Break your 8 hours into blocks throughout the day
View sleep as physical and mental recovery time
Try sleeping without a pillow
Limit screen time 30 minutes before sleeping
4. Work on your mobility
Boring? Yes. Painful? Yes. Vital? Absolutely.
Mobility work often isn’t at the top of an athletes’ list of priorities, regularly passed on in favour of playing soccer, hitting the weight room and doing cardio. However, neglecting that extra time commitment to mobility work could well be what’s holding you back from reaching that next level in your game.
Mobility is the degree to which an individual can control their movement through a complete range of motion and a lack of it can result in career-ending injuries as a result of a catastrophic impact on the kinetic chain.
A great way to ensure that you stay on top of your mobility is to develop a simple, quick and memorable daily routine that is easy to commit too. Here are some actionable steps to getting started with mobility work if you’re new to the practice:
Use a foam roller daily, you can make good progress with just 10 minutes per day
As a soccer player, focus on your ankle and hip mobility
YouTube is your friend, use it to follow along with mobility routines
5. Analyse your performance
Some of the greatest athletes in history spend an outrageous portion of their spare time watching footage of themselves in an effort to hone their craft. And unsurprisingly, a commitment to analysing one’s performance can improve technique, prevent injury, help to identify leading patterns of play and demonstrate progress over time [7,8].
Any athlete worth their salt is watching their performance and the performance of others, analysing every detail of their technique, movement and positioning. For instance, world-class athletes such as Kobe Bryant watch game film in incredible detail to ensure that they are picking up on aspects of their performance that can give them an edge.
You may not have access to high-tech equipment and a team of video analysers but that’s no excuse for neglecting video analysis. As John McGuigan suggests over on Hudl, you can simply use smartphones and tablets with fisheye lens attachments like this one to capture more of the action.
If you want to take your game to that next level, you must optimize your daily schedule to ensure that your actions are in line with your long-term goals. It’s those extra minutes taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing that will ultimately put you ahead of the competition.
Because let’s be honest, not many soccer players are going home and working on the things we’ve discussed here day in, day out.
So, take advantage.
That means spending your spare time doing these things every single day, not every once in a while.
You must realise just how committed the top athletes in the world are to their development in all aspects of their being and do your very best to replicate that if you’re serious about improving.
Now, go away and meditate, read, sleep, stretch or analyse.
Your career in soccer could depend on it.