July 15th, 2018 marks the final of the World Cup, where France will be playing Croatia for the world championship title. Looking back on an exciting month of historical upsets, penalty shootouts and goals, we should take a moment to look at how the best soccer players in the world stay fresh, committed and healthy in the face of pressure.
It’s no secret that sleep is a hugely important factor in athletic performance, as highlighted in a New York Times piece on the stress certain World Cup teams were putting on making sure they got a good night’s sleep while staying in St. Petersburg during the tournament, where the sun doesn’t set until midnight during the summer months. A spokesman for the UK team told the Times that they took special precautions, such as having their hotel install thicker curtains, bringing in special mattresses and making eye shades available, all to ensure the team got the shut-eye they needed to play their best.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s game day regimens reflect the importance of sleep as well, CNBC reports. Ronaldo says he makes sure to go to bed early before matches to maximize physical recovery and energy. Ronaldo’s pre and post-game habits also put an emphasis on eating balanced meals, and the importance of routines: “If you get into a routine,” he says of his exercising and sleep schedule, “then it makes it easier, it will become a habit.”
Another often underrated element of staying on top of your game as a star soccer player is mental health. Ronaldo told Goal.com that “living a relaxed lifestyle helps you to be the best you can be physically and mentally. I spend my free time with family and friends, which keeps me relaxed and in a positive mindset.”
The UK team has acknowledged the importance of preserving mental wellbeing with their use of a team psychologist, Pippa Grange, who has joined them in the tournament. The Guardian reports that Grange has the British players learn about each other on an intimate level through small group activities to build camaraderie and trust. She draws up daily wellness questionnaires for them to complete and also urges the players to take breaks from their smartphone usage and limit the time they spend on social media to help their mental wellbeing and improve their relationships with each other.