It's almost kick off, and your blood is pumping in anticipation. You've got your kit on and you’re waiting for the referee to knock on the door.
But before you head out the door, It's important to know that there are some things you should never do before a football match.
You may think they'll help you win, but they could have the opposite effect.
From not eating the right things to not warming up properly, could have massive effect on your performance, so it’s important you prepare right. Read on to know what things you should avoid before playing your soccer match.
15 Pre-Match No-Nos that You Should Avoid
If you want to perform your best on the pitch, avoid making these 16 pre-match mistakes:
It might be tempting to stay up late the night before a big game, but resist the urge! Getting a good night's sleep is essential to enjoy the game day fully. Besides, you don't want to lose focus in the middle of the game because you're exhausted. So get a good night's sleep and set your alarm clock, so you can wake up bright and early on match day.
Eating too Early, Unhealthily, or Not Eating At All
What you eat before the game can significantly impact how you perform. Eating too early might end up feeling sluggish as your food digests. And if you don't eat anything, you'll likely feel faint and dizzy by halftime - not ideal! So instead, eat a balanced breakfast around 5-6 hours before and then try to eat a light meal or snack about 1-2 hours before the warm up.
And make sure it's something that will give you lasting energy, like complex carbs or protein. Steer clear of sugary foods and drinks, which will cause your energy levels to peak just after you eat them but then crash later.
Drinking Too Much Right Before the Match Begins
So make sure you stay hydrated the morning before a game. Carrying water bottles can help you stay hydrated before the game. Sip them consistently but don’t drink too much that you need to go for a Linekar-esque pee on the pitch! That way, you'll stay hydrated without needing the loo. You’ll also avoid getting a stitch too.
Not Drinking Enough Water or Fluids During the Match
Dehydration is one of the main reasons footballers get cramps. As little as 1% dehydration can have massive detrimental affects on your performance. When you don't drink enough fluids, your body doesn't have enough liquid to sweat. It causes your blood vessels to constrict and your muscles to cramp up. Ensure you drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after the match to avoid dehydration.
Not Wearing Proper Clothes and Base Layers
Wearing the wrong clothes can lead to some severe injuries. For example, not wearing shin pads can result in a broken leg if you get tackled in the wrong place.
In addition, not wearing the proper base layers can cause chafing and other uncomfortable skin irritation as well as not keeping your muscles warm during the colder, winter months. Be sure to wear the appropriate clothing and base layers before playing football.
Not Wearing the Right Football Boots
Playing football without the right is dangerous because you're more likely to slip and suffer an injury. It could lead to a sprained ankle, muscle strain or even a broken leg. Make sure you wear appropriate boots/studs for the type of surface you'll be playing on.
Wearing the Wrong Socks
A good pair of socks is one of the most under rated pieces of kit for any footballer. Not only do they protect your feet from blisters, but they also wick away sweat to keep your feet dry. So it's always a good idea to stock up on some fresh grip socks when getting your kit bag ready in the morning.
Opt for socks made from synthetic materials like polyester or nylon - like our grip socks… cough cough (shameless plug).
Forgetting to Warm Up or Do a Pre-Match Routine
You wouldn't try to run a marathon without warming up first, so why would you try to play a football match without doing some form of warm up.
A proper warm-up helps increase blood flow to your muscles, reduces your risk of injury, and prepares you mentally for the game ahead.
So take some time before kickoff to jog around the pitch, do dynamic stretches, and get your heart rate up. Trust us; your body (and team) will thank you later. Getting the ball involved towards the end of the warm up also prepares your nervous system for what you’ll be doing during the match. Add some sprints and high intensity work at the very end once your muscles have already got some good blood flow, to avoid getting injured in the warm up but still getting ready for match-intensity.
Not Stretching Properly
Stretching is essential for any athlete—it helps improve flexibility, reduce the risk of injury and increases range of motion. But it's essential for football players who are constantly sprinting, jumping and changing direction during a game. So make sure you take the time to properly stretch all of your major muscle groups before the whistle goes. The lower body muscles are obviously the most commonly used, but you also use the rest of your body at some point during games so make sure you’re stretched from head to toe!
Focus on dynamic stretches that mimic the motions you'll be doing during the game; static stretches are fine too, but they're not as effective as dynamic stretches regarding reducing your risk of injury. Trust us, spending a few extra minutes stretching before the game will be worth it in the long run.
Don't Play If You're Injured
It sounds simple, but the pressure to play can be quite intense. So another essential way to protect yourself while playing soccer is to sit out if you're injured. Unlike other sports where you might be able to play through an injury, football is too dangerous to take that risk.
If you have any injury—even something as minor as a sprained ankle—sit out until it's fully healed. It's not worth risking your long-term health to play one game.
Once you think you are ready to start playing again, ease yourself back into it before playing a full 90 minutes.
Don't be afraid to ask for help if you're unsure how to stretch or warm up properly. Plenty of resources available online or from your coach can help you get started.
And if you're ever in doubt about whether or not you should play through an injury, err on the side of caution and sit out and prioritise your health because health is wealth.
Don't Ignore Concussion Symptoms
One of the most common and dangerous injuries in football is a concussion. A concussion is a brain injury that can have serious long-term effects if not treated properly, typically suffered in a head clash.
If you suspect that you or another player has suffered a concussion, it's essential to remove them from the game immediately and seek medical attention. Concussions should never be ignored because they can have severe implications for your health down the road.
There are strict protocols (SCAT Guidelines) that professional players have to go through when they’ve suffered a suspected concussion, which shows how important it is!
Overthinking Your Match
Thinking about everything that could go wrong will only make you more nervous and increase the likelihood of something going wrong. So instead of worrying about all the things that could go wrong, focus on what you need to do to help your team win.
Visualisation is a technique used by a lot of the top professionals. You can sometimes see players such as James Ward-Prowse lining up a free kick with their eyes. It’s a technique psychologists use to help reduce anxiety and improve focus. You can do this on the game as a whole. Visualise the game going the way you want it to and what winning would feel like. Trust us; it'll be much more helpful than stressing out about everything that could go wrong.
Not Communicating with Your Coach and Teammates
Football is a team sport, so communication is critical. Success won't be easy if you're not on the same page as your coach or teammates. So make sure you're communicating openly and frequently with everyone involved in the game.
That includes your coach, your teammates, and even the referees. If you're not sure about something, ask questions. The more open and honest you are with everyone involved, the better your chances of success will be.
Practice Hard All Week Before Your Match
This is a no-brainer, but it's still worth repeating. The harder you practice during the week, the better you'll play on match day.
There's just no substitute for hard work when it comes to football. There are players that sometimes aren’t as naturally gifted with talent, but they work hard for the team. Think of that player in midfield that doesn’t stop running for the full game. Is he as technically gifted as the winger that does 15 step-overs before putting the ball on the 6 yard box to be slotted away by your striker? Probably not, but if he wasn’t working that hard then your team would probably get passed around the park.
So if you want to be successful on match day, ensure you're doing the work during the week. Your manager will thank you for it, and your team will be better off.
Pushing Yourself Too Hard in Training
While it's essential to practice hard during the week, you don't want to push yourself too hard. If you're constantly trying to go harder and faster than your body can handle, you're putting yourself at risk of injury.
So find a balance between pushing yourself and taking care of your body. If you're feeling sore or exhausted, take a break. There's no shame in taking it easy during practice if it means you'll be fresh and ready to go on game day. A good rule of thumb is that if you feel anything less than a 5-6/10, have a rest day! Fatigue compounds and eventually will lead to injury. So you’re better missing a day to recover, than missing 6 weeks with a hamstring injury!
Before playing a game, certain things can help you avoid injuries and be ready mentally and physically. An excellent pre-game routine that includes a proper warm-up and stretching can help reduce the risk of injury. Also, wearing the right kit is essential to keeping yourself safe on the pitch.
Despite this, it's important to seek medical attention immediately if you ever suspect you are suffering from any injuries. If your club doesn’t have a physiotherapist, get booked in with someone locally just to get checked out. Better to be safe than sorry!