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Process of Preparing for a Soccer Game

Soccer is the world's most popular sport. Transcending continents and cultures, soccer--or futbol--is a universal pastime that has the potential to unify people. Playing soccer requires skill, agility, speed and mental focus. Soccer victories require an unselfish, team-oriented attitude among players. Preparing for a soccer game begins with the first practice and ends at kickoff. Individual and team preparations may vary, but the following five factors are universal to successful performance on the field.

Physical Conditioning
Soccer players can run as many as 5 miles during a 90-minute soccer match. Some of this distance will be covered at a moderate jog, and a significant portion is likely to be at a sprint. Soccer players must possess the fitness and stamina to adjust their speed to the needs of the game. For optimum performance, they should train for several weeks before playing their first match. Speed, distance, strength and agility drills will support players' development in this area.

Mental Preparation
Nervousness is typical before the beginning of a game. Players fret over their potential performance, agonizing over mistakes they may make or have made in the past. Some players may worry that they will forget the corner kick or in-bounds plays that the team has practiced over and over again. Coaches can support their players' mental preparation by practicing visualizing techniques the day before a game and during the team warm-up. Visualizing exercises allow coaches and players to encounter various game-time scenarios in their imaginations. According to sport psychologists, coaches should lead players through short, focused visualization exercises. By picturing themselves successfully winning the ball, scoring or defending their goal, players are more likely to repeat the desired behaviors during the game.

You Are What You Eat
Physical nourishment should be at the top of every serious athlete's list of important performance factors. Fueling properly before a game can help players maintain the physical and mental focus necessary to win. The day before a big game, players can eat larger meals of pasta or rice with a portion of lean meat. On game day they should focus on a high-protein, high-fiber breakfast. Pregame snacks should include natural food sources like granola bars or a multigrain bagel with peanut butter. Players should drink significant fluids during the 24 hours leading up to a game to ensure adequate hydration.

Warming Up

Players must warm up conscientiously, focusing on both individual and group preparations. The team should begin by jogging a half mile or so to warm their muscles, followed by 10 minutes of stretching. Players can then focus on position-specific ball handling skills for 5 minutes. This should be followed by a passing/shooting combination drill to bring the focus to scoring during the game. Players should run this drill for approximately 10 minutes, leaving 5 to 10 minutes for a team talk and visualization, led by the coach or captain.

Working Together

Soccer is a team sport. Coaches know how valuable team-building exercises can be for their clubs. Team building can happen both on and off the field. If teammates are also schoolmates, players can elect to work on academic projects together during the school day. If the players attend many schools or play on an adult club team, a coach can design activities that build trust to create a positive team attitude. Another option is encouraging teammates to socialize together outside of practice and games. Players who enjoy spending time together are more likely to support one another during a tough match against a strong rival.