It’s the aftermath of Saturday’s Champions League final. And the talk is still of Liverpool keeper Loris Karius and his night to forget.
Will Karius ever play for Liverpool again? Should he move abroad to rebuild his career away from the Premier League gaze? All relevant questions.
But whatever he decides. the important thing for the German is how to places his Champions League errors inside his mind.
Of course, the sense of guilt will be strong for some time. The feeling of letting team-mates, staff, fans and family down. But that will pass with the advent of another campaign.
The key is what he does with the mistakes. Can he observe objectively error number one? In wanting to roll the ball put quickly to maintain a high tempo, can he see that he didn’t have a full picture in front of him?
That in the desire to maintain game tempo, he compromised his own mental stillness and clarity. It doesn’t matter how quickly you want to get the game moving, you have to do so from a place of stillness and clarity. Lose this, and the game is played in a haze.
Then, by not relegating this error correctly, Karius is still in a weak state of concentration, by the time Gareth Bale fizzes a shot directly at him. Again he is not still or calm enough to deal with the moving ball.
The idea of pre-match mental preparation, is to set your mind and body, ahead of time, for what it is you are about to face. The better the mental preparation, the less surprises there are during the game.
You know the manager wants you to release the ball quickly. So you prepare your mindset for that. How clear are the pictures you want to have of your options? So despite the speed of release, your in a position to make good decisions. You play out the scenario – scan…scan…distribute.
You go through the opposition thoroughly. What do I know about Bale…how does he strike the ball..what movement can I expect on the ball?
You run through the detail so you can see it…feel it…so that when Bale pushes the ball out in front of him in real-time, you are so composed because you have already rehearsed this scenario many times previously. Your hands almost move instinctively with the ball, because you are ready for this moment.
Mental preparation, when done correctly, turns unknowns into knowns. It allows you to sort out what will be the critical v non- critical information to focus on. It leads to a state of stillness, because everything is in place and settled. A deep state that almost makes you feel as if you have played the game before you have played it. So in real-time, your mind, body and the game are in harmony.
In a game as big as a Champions League final, mental preparation is critical to a good performance. In falling short of what is expected, Loris Karius may have to look at how thoroughly he was mentally prepared, for what he was about to face.