Is your head getting in the way of your game?
You can be a great player physically, have mad foot skills and perfect touch, be amazingly fast and well conditioned, BUT, if you get too nervous before or during your games, hang onto your mistakes, focus on the wrong things or can’t manage last minute negative thinking and doubts, then you’ll never reach your true potential as a soccer player!
To take your performance to the next level, you have to systematically work on the mental side of your game.
This means that you have to learn how to:
- Stay calm and composed under competitive pressure
- Avoid psych-outs and intimidation
- Control your emotions
- Quickly rebound from your mistakes and setbacks
- Concentrate on what’s important and let go of everything else
- Manage last minute negative thinking and self-doubts
- Play free and loose without getting distracted by your thoughts
- Mentally prepare for your big games
To play like a champion, you have to learn to control your focus of concentration
- Championship concentration means that you have to focus on what you’re DOING and not on what you’re THINKING.
- Keep your on-field focus on “seeing, reading and reacting” – seeing the field, ball and position of the players around you; instinctively “reading” your best move; and then just reacting without thinking.
- Focus in the NOW on the moment by moment flow of the game.
- Whenever your focus drifts to thinking about the future (winning or losing) or the past (a mistake), quickly “reset” and return your focus to the NOW.
- Leave your expectations for the game at home
Mastering these mental skills will help you more consistently play like a champion!
And you can’t master the mental side of soccer without becoming aware of the mental differences between good and bad games. Simply put, to correct the mental mistakes that you might be currently making, you have to first know exactly what you’re doing wrong!
For example, when I was working with the NCAA D-1 Men’s National Champion UConn Huskies in preparation for their first game in the College Cup, the Final Four in soccer, we talked about the need to be able to control your focus both before and during your games, and before and during your PKs. When a player focuses on what they’re DOING, on the ACTION in the moment, they will stay loose and composed and perform with confidence.
However, when a player allows their focus to go “internal,” to their thoughts – thoughts about outcome, how good the opponent may be, the possibility of messing up, what the coach may be thinking, or thoughts about a mistake they just made – they’ll get nervous, physically tighten up, lose their confidence and then play tentatively.
This also means that as a player, you need to know what the biggest concentration mistake is that soccer players make: FOCUSING ON THE UNCONTROLLABLES or UCs! (anything that is directly out of your control)
With the Huskies, I emphasized the importance of keeping your focus on only the things that you can directly control. The UC’s are: The match’s outcome, the coaches’ decisions, the past (like a mistake you just made), how others play, what others may think of you, or the refs. When you as a player focus on the UC’s, you’ll get nervous, lose your confidence and under-perform!
Instead, you need to learn to keep your focus on the moment by moment flow of the game and nothing else! When distracting thoughts pop up, your mental job is to let them go and refocus on the action.
With practice, you can develop and strengthen this mental skill so it’s there for you whenever you need it!
As a Sports Performance Consultant, Dr. G has worked with soccer teams at every level from professional right down to juniors. He was a consultant to the UConn Men’s soccer program and worked closely with the team when they won the 2000 NCAA National Championship. Dr. G has presented at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as well as for the NSCAA, USYSA and AYSO national Conventions. Dr. G is the author of Playing Out Of Your Mind and the audio set Soccer With The Competitive Edge.
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Dr. G is one of the leading sports performance consultants in soccer. He has the knowledge, skills and experience to get players' heads on straight so they perform their best. His Developing Mentally Tough Soccer Players will help any coach build a mentally tough team!
I am a soccer goalkeeper trainer and have worked with one of your clients up to his retirement from pro soccer. He gave me a copy of This Is Your Brain On Sports and I intend to purchase copies for my GK's who will soon be playing professionally, both here and in Europe!
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