As coaches, it often feels as if we are in pursuit of perfection by our players. The status rarely is attainable except for glimpses during the many games they play during a season.

In reality, we are looking to teach our players a combination of technical and tactical skills that will lead them and the team to success on the field.

How many times have you scratched your head, thinking to yourself: “What do I have to do to get through to these kids?” At times, I swear that my players have a learning disability because I have trained them in a particular skill or tactic so many times, and yet they seem unable to execute it consistently.

Assuming our expectations are realistic, we have all seen these types of brain lapses on the field regardless of the age group. How many of you regard these struggles as more mental than a result of training or training techniques? How often do you wish there was an answer to this age-old struggle of players learning and executing effectively on the pitch?

There are training methods to address these struggles, and they are based on neuromuscular science. It is not some sort of hocus-pocus thinking. Neuromuscular science, using brain-imagery data, finds that when we visualize ourselves performing a physical action, our neurons transmits that information to our body. Our body then interprets the information being transmitted as equivalent to a real-life action even though no motion is occurring. As these neurons communicate, pathways are stimulated and strengthened, and blood flow is directed to that area. This neural activity creates memories and learned behaviors that can be replicated in a real-world, future context.

When we visualize or imagine ourselves performing a technical skill or a tactical movement, and we see our muscles making those movements correctly, we are building strong neuron pathways. The pathways, in turn, will support repetition in future activities that require those skills. This means that success begins in the brain, with all its processing and imaginings, before it actually manifests itself in performance. Brilliant moments on the pitch occur when the brain and body are working in tandem on the pitch.

In short, we are building mental muscle by stimulating the neural highways that will support and strengthen our physical training efforts. We are connecting the brain and multiplying the number of times we are training a particular skill without ever touching the ball. We are engaging the brain as a partner in the process of learning and strengthening neural pathways for successful execution of technical and tactical skills.


Imagine giving youth athletes the tools Olympic, professional and elite athletes utilize. Athletes such as Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carli Lloyd have all used visualization in pursuit of creating greater impact on the field of play.

So, do you want to train the mind and body to harmonize movements, or are you content to trust the body to train the mind? If it is the latter, how is that working out for you?

Links to stimulate your neural pathways:

Seeing is believing: The power of visualization

How to use visualization to achieve your goals