Ahead of the Champions League final, some Reds players with brain sensors appeared in full training. Explanations.
It’s the mark of a very great team. Liverpool’s players have barely had time to digest their lost mano a mano with Manchester City for the English league title that they are already recovering from another crucial event: the Champions League final against Real Madrid, set for Saturday night. In the center of this preparatory week, some pictures from the training of the Reds caught my eye. Alongside, we see Kostas Tsimikas and Trent Alexander-Arnold with brain sensors in full swing. What can they be used for?
This exercise didn’t suddenly seem to prepare for the clash against Los Blancos. Liverpool’s technical staff introduced it last summer. The goal is to give players the mental keys to “control their brain when it matters most”. In other words, to make the best of their abilities when it counts.
Easier entering the “Zone”
Behind this ambitious project is the company neuro11, founded by the neuroscientist Niklas Häusler and Patrick Häntschke, a former German small field player. These two friends explored the marginal gains that can be exploited in the psychic aspect. “The physical side of football is almost exhausted. The next step is to train the brain directly,” Niklas Häusler introduces in an article by the athlete, where he explains this training method: “When you are able to get the best out of yourself, you act automatically. You don’t have to think about it, it just happens. […] What we do with a player is explore with them and find out what parts of that process help them get into that brain state. […] Everyone has their own mental process.” Or in other words, enabling each player to more easily get into “the zone,” that famous feeling of total accomplishment that athletes experience when confidence and technical execution are at their peak.
Niklas Hausler and Patrick Häntschke founded neuro11 in 2019 and quickly got in touch with Jürgen Klopp. The German coach tries to optimize every detail. With this in mind, he notably works with Denmark’s Thomas Gronnemark, a touch specialist, and German surfer Sebastian Steudtner to improve his players’ breathing. No wonder, then, that Klopp was open to the work of neuro11. “We can now specifically train our players’ mental and precision skills directly on the pitch in a way that was previously impossible for us. Given that mental toughness at the highest level plays such an important role, we are delighted to be working with these guys.”
For the time being, this collaboration revolves around set pieces. The results are convincing as the Reds ended the Premier League season this way with 19 goals. That’s two fewer than Manchester City (21), the championship’s best team in this area, and, importantly, seven more than last year (12). It’s also not trivial that they won their two penalty shootouts against Chelsea in the League Cup Final and then the FA Cup Final. “Jürgen and I really believe in these two guys and their concept,” praises Pep Lijnders, Klopp’s Dutch assistant, in the article the athlete. They give the right inputs so that the players can find the right flow and thus more precision. They help players find the right setting and know how to reset.”
That’s what great teams are known for: knowing how to push the boundaries of improvement.
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