Most soccer players tend to focus on skills, techniques and tactics involved with the sport! Obviously, there is nothing wrong with that …
… However, they tend to pay little to no attention to the mindset and mental aspect of the game, which as important.
In this short Post, I dive deep into that …
The importance of the right mindset in soccer
Mindset can be defined as a person’s way of thinking, their attitudes, beliefs, and opinion. It affects not only how you see yourself but also the world around you.
Having a positive mindset is important in all walks of life, but never more so than when approaching a game like soccer. Having the right mindset gives you the belief and the confidence that you can win games or compete with other players even if they are better than you at the time being.
On the contrary, with a negative mindset you are beaten before you even leave the locker room.
You let the fears about the strength of the opposition or deficiencies in your game rule your head, and you become timid, afraid to take chances, and more prone to make mistakes.
What’s the right mindset for soccer?
A positive mindset in soccer is directly correlated to success on the field. It means focusing on your strengths, playing aggressively and with spirit, never giving up and always being prepared to take a risk or to try something different.
It means giving the impression, not only to your teammates, but also to the opposition, that you are a winner, and that together, you can achieve all your objectives.
The mental side of the game of soccer is often overlooked, but it is vitally important!
People often talk about confidence, but that comes from the collective mindset of a team. And the good news is that success breeds more success.
Winning becomes a pleasantly addictive habit.
Quick Tip: To help your overall mindset for soccer, you can help improve your self-esteem by using quality equipement while training and playing. For example, if you use quality soccer shoes (Like those), this will give you a sense of comfort and grip while playing that will eventually help your performance and mindset as well!
10 Tips on how to develop the right mentality/mindset for soccer
Everybody has a mindset but, the good news is that it is not fixed, and can be taught, just like any physical skill.
In fact, many clubs now employ professional psychologists for that very reason. They realise that those that are mentally strong can be the difference between winning and losing.
Here are ten tips for developing the right soccer mindset.
1. Show you are worth your place
The best soccer players are not just those who perform in matchday situations but also those who have trained hard during the week and are in prime physical shape when they step onto the pitch.
If you can show your coach that you are right at the top of your game, then not only are you an automatic pick for your team, but you will gain the confidence that you are constantly improving.
As the Latin saying Mens Rea, Mens Sana – a healthy mind in a healthy body – proves, mental and physical well-bring goes hand in hand.
2. Set goals and achievements
As a team and individuals, goals and achievements can be a major source of motivation.
Define what success means – trophies or promotion gained, cup finals reached – and then break that down into smaller increments, like games won, goals scored, or clean sheets kept.
A striker, for example, could be given the objective of scoring five goals with their weaker foot, or a goalkeeper tasked with trying to save one penalty in a season.
3. Cut out the blame game
Everybody makes mistakes in life, and football is no different – in fact, it is sometimes the team that makes the fewer mistakes that win.
That means nobody is infallible but blaming a teammate or even yourself when something goes wrong is not healthy.
Instead, if a defender or goalkeeper has let in a goal or a striker missed a golden opportunity, give them a pat and a word of encouragement.
They will feel much better for it and motivated to try not to make the same mistakes next time. Allow positive thoughts to prevail because this will rub off on those around you.
4. Forget about the misses
One of the characteristics of al the best players is that are not afraid to miss,
They do not let it define them, or spoil their game, Instead they have learned how to compartmentalise and forget them, knowing that another opportunity will come their way, and just to be ready to try again when it happens.
That is what distinguishes a top Premier League striker like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Jamie Vardy, for example, from others.
They may have a bad game and miss many chances, but they are still the ones likely to come up with the last-minute winner.
5. Practice, practice, practice
Read about any great player, and one thing you will immediately discover is how hard they work on their game, They may have been blessed with skill to start with, but they will often be on the ones on the training ground practicing a particular skill long after their teammates have gone home for the day.
You may not be a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but you can still work on a particular skill that can you an edge. The more you practice, the more it will become second-nature when it comes to a game situation.
Take a leaf out of the books of the British Army which talks about the 6 “Ps” – proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance.
Keep in mind that you can even practice soccer by yourself (in case you don’t have access to partners) … For example, these drills will help improve passing just by yourself!
6. Work on your weaknesses
By the same token, it is important to work on your weaknesses, because that will help you feel mentally stronger. Many players will prefer one foot or the other, or not have great heading ability.
If that is the case, work on your weaknesses in training, or by yourself at home. Practice with the other foot until you are confident that you can pass with it and try to learn how to head the ball effectively.
Nobody expects you to become as good with your weaker foot, or to become a powerful header of a ball overnight. However, what you want is to get to the situation where you feel confident in a match situation to use your weaker foot or head, without thinking about it first.
7. Compete Aggressively
You can improve your mindset by learning to compete aggressively in all aspects of the game, even training assists. That means trying to win the sprints, the one-on-one duels, or the race to the ball.
As you begin to win these contests, then you will become more confident, and other players will begin to respect or even, sometimes to fear you as well.
When that happens then you have got the mental edge on them, and that can be all important on the field. It means that they may duck out of a 50/50 tackle or decide not to make that late run into the penalty box.
8. Hate to lose
Learn to hate to lose.
It is a characteristic of all elite sports people that they hate to lose. Ask Lewis Hamilton how he feels when he doesn’t win a Grand Prix, or Sir Alex Ferguson after Manchester United lost a match. They will try and smile and give credit to the opposition, but defeat hurts them, almost in a physical way.
Forget all the platitudes about playing the game for its own sake, and fair play. Losing should be something that becomes so unpleasant that you will do anything possible not to feel that way after the next match.
This is not to advocate cheating or foul play but just to say that winning is all that matters.
9. Respect but don’t fear the opposition
Opponents should be respected but they should never be feared, however good they may be. There has never been a team yet that cannot be beaten.
That means by all means learning about their tactics, and their strengths, and paying attention to their key players. But do not obsess about it.
Your job is to work out how to beat them, not to worry too much about what they may do to you.
Far too often a team has lost the game before they have even lost the dressing room because they are scared off them. Just remember that cup football, for example, is littered with cases of David beating Goliaths.
10. Think about your body language
A person’s body language can say a lot about how they are feeling inside. Somebody who stands tall, with their head held high and their shoulders back gives off the aura of somebody who is feeling upbeat and confident. That is opposed to somebody who looks down, with their shoulders hunched.
It is not possible, however positive a person you may be, to always feel optimistic inside. However, if your body language is right, you can give the right impression to others which is sometimes half the battle.
The Coach’s role in improving a player’s mindset
As a coach the first thing to remember is that your mindset will directly rub off on the players in your charge.
If you are acting in a negative way, constantly shouting, and criticising them, it will directly harm your team’s chances of doing well.
You may be raging inside, but you have to take that energy and make use of it in a positive way. Always encourage them, and, if you must criticise do it constructively.
You also need to be something of a psychologist, so get to know your team and their individual characters. Some can take a bit of honest feedback, but others need a gentler approach, and an arm round the shoulder.
Be explicitly clear about what you want to achieve and why. Spell out your tactics, who is playing where, and what patterns of play you want. Soccer is an instinctive game and players do not have the time to think too much on the field. Any ambiguity leaves room for doubt, and doubt leads to fear.
That also means setting goals to which the team should try and aspire. They may be big goals like trying to win a league or cup, or more modest objectives like keeping a clean sheet.
Above all try and enjoy the game, At the end of the day, soccer should be about enjoyment, so try and communicate that to your players. People perform better when they are having fun.
Final Thoughts …
Obviously the goal of this article is to provide you with some useful tips to, hopefully, make you mentally stronger …
… But the main goal is develop your awareness that skills are not all what there is in soccer! The mental is as important to perform at the maximum of your abilities!
Finally, I hghly invite you to learn about these important tips to improve your overall soccer knowledge! You will find those really useful …