As a footballer I always made sure I prepare for Football matches as it is essential in performance. There is nothing random in the world of Football. Every goal you see on the pitch has been crafted hundreds of times on the training ground. But even if a player trains well, it does not matter if the matchday performance is underwhelming. So professionals do everything in their power to give themselves a chance to succeed when it matters the most.
This includes having a full-proof pre-match prep routine. While this routine may be different from player to player, it remains a vital part of every player’s habit.
Read on to know more on how to prepare for football matches, like the greatest footballers and why its essential.
Why is preparing for a match important?
Football is an increasingly competitive sport. And every team is trying to dominate the other on and off the field. Due to the busy schedule, the onus is on fitness these days, and good physical condition has trumped skill in recent years, with workhorses being preferred to the maestros in several teams at the top.
Even the most skilled players are having to put the work in to help their team when defending. There are no weak links these days anymore. Players these days are covering more distance, have more significant leaps, and can play at the same physical level for weeks and weeks before any sign of fatigue.
And the reason for that, besides the training and workouts in the week, is the meticulous preparation on the day. The idea behind all this is to ensure optimal physical condition when the game is to be played. A player who has had appropriate preparation is much more likely to trump someone with similar skill and poor preparation.
Every single step of a pre-match prep routine is backed by scientific evidence. Following the right pre-match routine can have proven benefits on the pitch. The game these days is all about efficiency, and a routine helps with that massively.
How to Prepare for Football Matches?
The reality is that the pre-match prep starts right after the previous match ends. And one thing that tends to be popular with professionals to start off your pre-match prep is visualization. The following is crucial when it comes to prepare for football matches and even training.
Visualization Techniques and Mental Prep
According to Wayne Rooney, in the days leading up to a game, it helps to visualize what could happen during the match. Rooney often thinks about what he would do when the cutback comes to him from the flanks. This helps sharpness and gives him the clarity of mind when the actual scenario ends up happening.
Some players try to visualize what would the opposition be thinking. Example like scenarios where they dispossess that player or prevent him from scoring by a goal-saving tackle.
Other visualization techniques also help players as they try to outsmart opponents before the match even begins. One recommended technique is thinking positively. Visualizing positive outcomes and trusting one’s ability helps tremendously in build-up to any game, limiting the self-doubt.
Appropriate Amount of Sleep
The night before the game, getting the right amount of sleep is of paramount importance. Players, like Wayne Rooney, are encouraged to have at least 8 hours of sleep before the game. During sleep, the body releases the growth hormone, which helps to repair muscles damaged during previous games.
It is the natural healing process of the body, and it works best when you give the body enough downtime. Appropriate sleep gives players an extra amount of energy and ensures that their muscles are in the optimal condition before the game. This makes a massive difference during the game.
It is also encouraged to take a quick afternoon nap if the schedule allows so.
The importance of adequate hydration is tough to emphasize enough. Dehydration can have detrimental effects on the performance of players as fatigue sets in much earlier in dehydrated muscles. A minimum of 3L fluid intake on the day of the game is recommended, with about 500mL of the 3L taken an hour before kick-off.
Sugary drinks are discouraged in the lead up to the game, as they tend to have a significant period of exhaustion once the effect of the sugar wears out.
A day before the game, players tend to keep their food intake as light as possible so as to not interfere with their sleep due to indigestion. On the day of the game, players usually eat a carb-filled meal, which is generally 1 to 4 g per kg of body weight.
This meal helps recharge glycogen reserves in the muscles to be used during the strenuous competitive games. Cereal, bananas, energy bars, or even black coffee are the usual suspects when it comes to food intake before a game.
Superstitions and Routines
In the dugout and on the day of the game, many players lean towards having a specific routine. While others remain chill and take every game as it comes. Players that have superstitions tend to do the same thing over and over again because it puts them in a state of comfort and familiarity.
The warm-ups are a pivotal time to make the muscles ready for the ambush in front of them. Physios tend to take over this part, as they specialized on how to warm-up and prepare for football matches. Doing so ensures that no part of the body gets neglected and every single joint is ready to go.
The stretching done at this time helps players last the whole season, and experts recommend that stretching should be done on off days too. At this time, players like to talk to their managers as they describe their tactics and the role of each player in their plan.
The warm-up is a vital part of the process and is the best culmination to the long prep for the game. After the warm up, it is time to play the game by putting on the kit, preparing yourself mentally, and following the instructions of the manager.
The Pre Match Prep of Cristiano Ronaldo
Christian Ronaldo is one of the greatest footballers of all time. And while he was always a supremely gifted player, the reason he made it significant was his hard work. He was always motivated to work a little more than the rest and give every game the respect it deserves in preparation.
One of the best things Cristiano does is that he pushes himself a little extra in every department. Adhering to his nutrition, training, warm-up, or tactical awareness. Having said that, he knows the importance of pacing himself as his training is often light during the season as he saves his energy for the game.
The training is then focused more on tactics and simple conditioning. In terms of his nutrition, he avoids alcohol, fizzy drinks, and processed foods and keeps his diet simple with whole foods, fresh vegetables, and fruits.
Nutrition, Sleeping and relaxing
One of his favorite foods to eat is fish, as it is delicious and gives him the lean protein that helps him keep his muscular physique. Ronaldo often eats six small meals throughout the day, as it helps him keep his energy levels high throughout the day. Ronaldo keeps himself hydrated with a special drink that contains vitamins, electrolytes, and other nutrients that give strength and endurance to his body.
In terms of his sleep schedule, Cristiano likes to sleep and wake up early. The eight-hour sleep is enough to recover the sore muscles from previous games. Ronaldo usually does an early morning workout before eating breakfast and says that it becomes a habit after a while. He especially recommends doing an abs work out early in the morning and creating a habit of it.
Often players find it difficult to sleep before a crucial matchday. Ronaldo recommends creating a relaxed atmosphere at home, which should help with the sleep. The role of friends and family in creating a relaxed environment can not be undermined, and that is what keeps Cristiano sane too. Once Cristiano reaches the ground, he has a set routine of stretching, warming up, listening to his favorite tunes, and, according to ex-United teammate Rooney, looking at the mirror!
After all this prep, Cristiano concentrates on the game and stays in that focused mindset for the full 90 minutes. In this way, Cristiano Ronaldo adheres to a few basic principles but the key of course, is discipline. He does it week in week out, which ensures that he stays at the apex of the game for longer.
So by now, you must be aware of how to prepare for football matches. You must have noticed that there is not much rocket science in the whole process. If you ensure adequate balanced nutrition with carb loading before the game, sufficient hydration with electrolytes, adequate sleep, and the right warm-up, it increases the chances of achieving your targets on the field.
Cristiano Ronaldo does the basics right, and reaps the benefits of a prep routine with consistent performances on the field.