I want you to write down your 3 best ever games. Write them in detail just as we’ve discussed before. This will give you something to come back to every day that can help build and maintain a strong soccer image. It will help you take control of the memories you have of your football.
When writing down your 3 best games remember key moments such as the runs you made, the tackles, blocks, passes and headers you won. Add feelings to your story – “I felt strong, confident and powerful” and “I felt like I was unbeatable” – these are exciting images to remember and to reinforce. If your friends or loved ones were watching you what do you think they would have seen? Write their viewpoint down as well.
When you spend time off the field reminding yourself of the times you perform at your very best you feed your brain and body confident pictures and images. The footballer who commits to this technique on a daily basis will build self-belief and feel great going into his training session and matches – giving himself an improved chance to learn quicker and play better with more consistency.
Practice with a purpose
Having an abundance of ability in soccer is nice to have, but however talented you are it is the quality of your training that determines the trajectory of your ball. In fact, so important is this that I advise players to stop using the word training and start calling it practice. And any old practice isn’t enough – it is deliberate practice that is important. Deliberate practice isn’t easy and it begins in the brain. It’s not a soccer player doing an hour of training, doing a bit of five-a-side and having fun with friends. It’s mentally and physically taxing. It is a kind of focused, repetitive practice in which you are always monitoring your performance, correcting, experimenting, listening to immediate and constant feedback, and always pushing beyond what you have already achieved.
When you next go and practice make sure you set yourself a goal, preferably a specific area you’d like to improve. Concentrate fully and push yourself out of your comfort zone by attempting the things you don’t find easy on the field.
Control the Controlables
The biggest killer in soccer is distraction. Taking your mind away from the game can lead to hazardous consequences. A correct focus of attention in soccer starts with an understanding of what you can and can’t control. There are plenty of things in soccer you can’t control and if you play your focus on them you can easily get distracted as you play.
The most obvious ones are the weather and the state of the field. It’s fairly evident that you can’t control those aspects. And yet how many soccer players place their focus on them? Many times I’ve walked onto a field with the team before a game and heard someone say “I can’t believe how bad the field is. How can we play well on this?” Where do you think this soccer player’s performance focus is going to be during the match? Do you think he might be easily distracted?
Similar to the state of the field I’ve heard players moan about the weather. Last season a player came up to me on Thursday and said he hoped it wasn’t going to be raining during the game on Saturday because he had decided he was bad when playing in the rain. I, of course, pointed out that if he wanted a career in collegiate football in the US he was probably going to have to get used to playing in the rain (it rains a lot in Autumn!). Joking aside do you think this player’s thinking going into the game was helpful? His performance focus was inevitably going to be damaged if it rained – something he couldn’t control.
Before the next time you play jot down some the things you can control like your ‘body language’ and ‘how confidently you execute your role’ and try to focus on these. Avoid placing your attention onto the things you can’t control – they will only direct your mind away from what is important during the game.