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How to unlock the power of your brain, and ignite your Reticular Activating System for football – Part 3

Reticular Activating System

Recently, Liverpool Football Club published YouTube clips and a public statement on using neuro11. Neuro11 is a company that uses neuroscientific data-based training for elite athletes. Their slogan is: “Control your brain when it matters most”.

Jürgen klopp, Head Coach of Liverpool FC says,

“The neuro11 team has developed a highly innovative and fact-based mental strength training method that can be seamlessly integrated into our existing training program.

We are now able to specifically train the mental and shot-precision abilities of our players directly on the pitch, in a way that wasn’t possible for us until now.

Since mental strength plays such an important role at the highest level, we‘re excited about working together with these guys.“

Reticular Activating System

Reticular Activating System – Control your brain

Many people turn their nose up at programming your brain for mental strength. Unfortunately, there are past tainted examples of individuals and organisations making profits on motivational slogans, false promises, or emotional appeals. The truth remains that our brains and minds are responsible for our quality of performance. Your mindset will determine your output. Elite athletes know this and apply the relevant mental strength training to better their performance.

If there is something we must control in life, it is our thought-life.


In Part 1 we discussed that your Reticular Activating System helps you to focus and blocks out information that conflicts with the information stored in your subconscious. In Part 2 we delved into how your RAS seeks information that re-affirms your belief systems and how self-talk can help re-programme your stored truths.

Now, in Part 3, I’ll look at using visualisation as a form of instructing your RAS to seek out and reaffirm beliefs that will benefit your performance.

“I would visualize the best- and worst-case scenarios. Whether I get disqualified or my goggles fill up with water or I lose my goggles or I come in last, I’m ready for anything.” – Michael Phelps

There are many elite athletes today that use visualisation as part of their training. Some use it to learn how to deal with a variety of competition scenarios (like Michael Phelps). Others use it to improve specific movement sequences, like Michael Jordan.

Several neuroscientific studies have shown that visualisation can switch on motor centers in the brain (1)(2), meaning that the brain registers the movement without the person actually performing it.

An article published in the “Scientific American Mind” explains: “Imagining allows us to remember and mentally rehearse our intended movements. In fact, visualizing movement changes how our brain networks are organized, creating more connections among different regions.”(3)

Look where you want to go!

One of the results of your body’s eye-brain-body functions is that you will go toward, and eventually hit whatever you focus on. This is why coaches speak about, “keeping your eye on the ball” in ball sports.

Look where you want to go!

This is often what motorcyclists learn to protect themselves. When they’re turning a sharp corner, they are told to look past the edges of the sharp corner and rather to set their gaze far ahead, toward where they want to go. Target-fixation is the phenomenon where a person will eventually hit what they focus on.

When children learn how to cycle, they will identify the barrier – like a tree or a pole, and most of the time they will go directly into it. It’s because the child is focussing on the obstacle.

We must learn to keep our eyes on the goal and off the obstacle. How do you speak about your struggle? I hear players say, “I never score, I really struggle, why do I struggle, why am I so bad at scoring?” Most of the time they continue to struggle scoring until they shift their focus and start speaking about how strong their legs have become, how much their technique has improved, how they are able to score, and to score well. This is self-talk. A step further is using a player’s imagination.

Goals are achieved when a player chooses to shift their eyes to the image of themselves scoring; setting up their footwork correctly, engaging all the muscles involved in kicking, locking their ankle, connecting their laces, following through and watching the ball hit the back of the net. This is called disciplined thinking. Great leaders think and speak this way.

Ms Rachel Nyaradzo Adams, Director and Founder of Narachi Leadership says, “…courage is first and foremost a silent inner process of disciplined thinking and relentless focus. Before courage has a public audience, before it is heroic, it must first reside in the unseen chambers of the internal hopes and dreams that only you see and understand. It must be supported firmly by the values that inform your reason for being. Courage is about holding on to the promise when there is zero evidence around you that change is possible. Courage is stubborn.”

Ms Adams is describing the neuroscientific process of making sure your stored beliefs in your subconscious mind agree with your values and with your goals; that before your goal happens in reality, it must be residing and happening in your disciplined thinking and imagined space; that whether or not the evidence around you contradicts your goal, you keep focusing your eyes on it ( visualising the goal) to see the dream realised.

First Person Visualisation

One of the greatest ways to visualise is in the first person. Third person visualisation watches you kick the ball. First person visualisation is you kicking the ball. In your imagined space, you see the pitch, your shoes, your set up etc. as if you are personally about to score. Observe the process through your own eyes. The more vivid, the more confident you feel, the more complete you make this picture, the stronger the connections in your brain will become.

Like a pilot sitting in a simulator, you will be in your own simulator where you can make any eventuality a practised event. Like Michael Phelps, what happens when a defender is in front of you, beside you on your left, coming up toward you from your back left? What will you do? How will you get past any obstacle to score? Imagine that? Imagine it.

We need to form truths in our subconscious that work toward our goals; we must make sure our RAS can reaffirm images that serve us. Some people find it difficult to imagine something. In that case, self-talk can be used. Check out Part 2 for that information. For those of us that can visualise, it’s imperative to our performance that we use it.





Brain-boosting tips, Brain-centred Training, Children, Football, football player, improve your performance, IQ Football, Mindset, performance, Reticular Activating System, Scoring, skill development, Skills, Soccer, Soccer Academy, technique, Visualisation

Sean Szabo

Recognised as a leading brain-centred football coach in Gauteng, Sean Szabo is an English FA qualified coach who has worked internationally assisting player’s motor and technical football skills, as well as their cognitive development on and off the field. IQ Football was founded in 2015 by Sean as an amalgamation of his passion for football coaching, mentoring, and brain-centred research.

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