Football: Liverpool practice innovative mental training

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Ahead of the Champions League final, some Reds players with brain sensors showed up in full training. explanation.

This Wednesday, Trent Alexander-Arnold was equipped with brain sensors in training.

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It’s the mark of a great team. Liverpool players have barely had time to digest their lost mano a mano with Manchester City for the English title that they already have to fight back from another crucial event: the Champions League final against Real Madrid, scheduled for Saturday night. At the heart of this prep week, some images of the Reds’ training stood out. We see the side Kostas Tsimikas and Trent Alexander-Arnold with brain sensors in full swing. What good can they be used for?

Kostas Tsimikas in action at training this Wednesday.

Kostas Tsimikas in action at training this Wednesday.

IMAGO/PA Photos

This exercise did not suddenly seem to prepare for the clash against Los Blancos. Liverpool coaching staff introduced it last summer. The goal is to give players the mental keys to “control their brains when it matters most”. In other words, to make the most of their abilities when it matters.

Easier to enter the “zone”

Behind this ambitious project is the company neuro11, founded by the neuroscientist Niklas Hausler and Patrick Häntschke, a former German player of modest level. These two friends looked at the marginal gains that could be exploited in the psychic aspect. “The physical side of football is almost at its maximum. The next step is to train the brain directly,” said Niklas Hausler in an article by the athletic, where he explains this training method: “When you give the best of yourself, you trade automatically. You don’t have to think about it, it just happens. […] What we do with a player is we figure out with him which parts of that process help him get into that brain state. […] Everyone has their own mental process.” Or how, in other words, any player can more easily get into “the zone,” this famous sense of total success that athletes experience when confidence and technical execution are at their peak.

“The physical side of football is almost at its maximum. The next step is to train the brain directly”

Niklas Hausler, co-founder of neuro11

Niklas Hausler and Patrick Häntschke launched neuro11 in 2019 and quickly got in touch with Jürgen Klopp. The German coach strives to optimize every detail. With this in mind, he mainly works with Dane Thomas Gronnemark, a touch specialist, and German surfer Sebastian Steudtner, with the aim of improving the breathing of his players. It is therefore not surprising that Klopp was receptive to the work of neuro11. «Nous sommes désormais en mesure d’entraîner spécifiquement les capacités mentals et de precision de nos joueurs directement sur le terrain, d’une manner qui ne nous était pas possible jusqu’à présent, indique-t-il sur le site de l’ company. Given that mental toughness plays such an important role at the highest level, we are delighted to be working with these guys.”

For the time being, this collaboration revolves around set pieces. The results have been convincing since the Reds finished the Premier League season with 19 goals this way. That is two less than Manchester City (21), the best team in the championship in this area, and especially seven more than in the previous year (12). Nor is it trivial that they won their two penalties against Chelsea in the League Cup final and then the FA Cup final. “Jürgen and I really believe in these two guys and in their concept,” Pep Lijnders, Klopp’s Dutch assistant, applauds in the article. the athletic† They give the right input so that players find the right flow and therefore more precision. They help put players in the right mindset and know how to reset.”

This is also what great teams are known for: knowing how to push the boundaries of improvement.

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