I advise you to do this in your game. I believe you will play your best if you stay in the me, the now.
(The me, is the only thing you can truly control. That is you! Switching the focus on you, the me, and then thinking in a confident and helpful way will give you the best opportunity to deal with the toughest challenges (and the best players) on the field.)
I challenge you to ignore what you can’t control, acknowledge what you can influence while immersing yourself in the me.
By all means tell yourself that you want to win. But remind yourself that if you dwell on the outcome during the game you might start to panic. If the score remains 0-0 for most of the game or if you go down and your focus is on winning you might start to get anxious. I understand that it’s important for you to pay some attention to the opposition during the game. But the correct focus on the opposition is one that simply notices what they are doing rather than how they are playing. A quick judgement of their strategy is all you need, then you must switch your focus back to you.
Can you change the mistake you made five minutes ago? Can you take back the ball you gave away that led to a goal against your team? Can you re-attempt the sitter you missed in the 1st half?
A soccer player cannot change the past, nor can the coach, no one can roll back time. It’s the same on the soccer field as it is in life. A soccer player must commit herself to letting go of the past during the match. When she does she will give herself more chance of playing with freedom and precision.
As been discussed – staying in the me, the now is not easy. It’s a simple concept but not easy to apply. Fortunately this performance focus philosophy has another level – another step that enables a soccer player to play with the right focus.
The next step is to develop what I call a Match Day Script. Your script is 2 to 3 plays you want to execute during the game that are plays you can control and are related to your role and responsibilities and your mindset.
· Non-stop movement
· Win my headers: time jumps
· Push winger on the outside at all times
· Work hard – box-to-box
· Talk to myself confidently at all times
· Focus on me
· Be strong in every challenge
· Be dominant on a crossing ball
I can’t emphasize enough of the two characteristics of the plays that make up your script. They must be things you can control. The list above you can control all of those plays. The second characteristic is just as important – plays must be related to your role and responsibility, or to your mindset. Again, things you can control.
Take some time to write down some more plays that might make up your script. Remember they must be written positively (What you do want to do) and should be related to your role and responsibilities and mindset.
Stay on your toes at all times
· Be vocal: loud for 90 minutes
· Check over shoulders more: at least 10 times a minute
· Track the runners: defend the back line
· Make runs behind the defense
· Look up and relax when I receive the ball
· Hold the back line – push everyone up when the ball is cleared
· Press high when we don’t have the ball
I recommend having 2 or 3 plays but just 1 if you want. And would advise not to have more than 4 otherwise you will over think things on the field. Also it is advisable to have a script that involves plays to do technique. I believe it’s important for a soccer player to trust her technique as she plays.
On match day a trusting mentality is required. If you mis-kick or carelessly lose control of the ball, avoid critically analyzing your technique – leave this for the training ground.
Having a script with plays related to techniques will likely fill your PFC (Pre-Frontal Cortex). Remember we are trying to engage the front brain, not fill it up.
Some examples for Match Day Scripts:
The Striker Script
· Non-stop movement for 80/90 minutes
· Get in the box: Be constant threat in the area
· Stay upbeat no matter what happens
The Midfielder Script
· Close down quickly when my opposite number gets the ball: unsettle her
· Look for diagonal balls to left wing: exploit their slow right back
· Be constantly vocal: intimidate with my voice
These 3 plays have a nice balance of responsibilities on and off the ball.
The Defender Script
· Command with my body language: positive and upbeat at all times
· Talk to defenders non-stop: keep them aware of dangers
· Strong challenges: focus when tackling avoid silly fouls
The Goalkeeper Script
· Decisive on crosses: commit to fly
· Always switched on: Keep moving even when ball is down the other end
· High hands on shots
Thinking in the moment under the lights in the heat of battle requires an open mind free from the burden of poor focus.