28-year old Manchester United player Wayne Rooney has, for some time, been considered one of the best strikers in the world. In ten seasons with United, he has scored over 200 goals across competitions. He began his professional career with Everton at the age of 16, and after moving to Manchester, has since collected five Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy. When questioned about his typical pre-performance preparation, Rooney has noted the importance of visualization in his routine:
I always like to picture the game the night before: I’ll ask the kitman what kit we’re wearing, so I can visualize it. It’s something I’ve always done, from when I was a young boy. It helps to train your mind to situations that might happen the following day. I think about it as I’m lying in bed. What will I do if the ball gets crossed in the box this way? What movement will I have to make to get on the end of it? Just different things that might make you one percent sharper.
Wayne Rooney has established himself as one of the top players in the world, and is known for scoring big goals in big moments. The use of mental skills such as visualization to prepare for competition is arguably a large contributor to his success, and can be an essential tool in a player’s arsenal. Young soccer players aspiring to reach the heights of their professional heroes often look for ways to model the playing style and behavior of these players. Professional and amateur athletes use visualization to mentally prepare for situations they could encounter during competition by imagining themselves responding well and excelling on the field. Before a game (i.e., the night before, the morning of, or on the bus en route to the field), try integrating visualization into your pre-performance routine. Run through various circumstances or specific actions in your head that could arise during competition, paying attention to the sights, sounds, emotions, and even smells associated with these images. This is a way for you to mentally prepare for physical tasks and challenges you may encounter. Using visualization can be a great way to ensure that you are focused and ready to play, and to maintain a mental edge over your opponent.