Over the course of quite a few sessions with several players, I have engaged in conversation revolving around some of my playing philosophies. Here are a few about playing with perfection:
v A soccer player who constantly strives for perfection has to understand that soccer is a game of imperfection. It is too hard a game to get everything right and a big part of being human is getting things wrong. Pele’ didn’t play perfectly. Nor did Maradona. Lionel Messi doesn’t play with perfection every match. Nor does Ali Krieger. A soccer player has to love this fact as much as she loves the game itself. Enjoy the imperfections of the game – the bad bounces, the mistakes from you and from team mates, and the refereeing decisions that go against you.
v A soccer player ahs to understand that technical perfection is an impossible dream. You will spill the ball from time to time, strike it poorly, play a poorly weighted or misdirected pass, and deliver a lousy corner which usually ends up with a shout of “120!!!” (Which in terms means you just missed a target 120-yards wide!!!) You have over 300 bones in your body. You’re not going to co-ordinate them perfectly all the time. Relax –perfectionism is only going to make your body tighter and ruin your technique anyway.
v A soccer player has to understand that perfectionism constricts her play, her creativity, and her decision-making. Your mind and body works best when you allow yourself to play, to move and to think with a mindset dedicated to fun and freedom. Playing freely enables you to take the necessary risks to play the ball that sets up winning goals, that helps a teammate to make runs behind the defense and enables her to reach for awkward crossing balls. Play with a mindset of trust. Call this your trusting mode. In your trusting mode you don’t beat yourself up or fear the consequences of failure. You simply play in accordance to the plays in your Script. In your trusting mode you know that the training you have completed will be enough to make winning passes and winning tackles. You know that the training and practice you’ve put in means you can allow your technique to flow without over-thinking your bodily movement.
v A soccer player has to understand that with perfectionism comes anger and fear and that these are not the route to excellence. Playing with focus and leaving mistakes behind (as we shall discover soon) will help her become the most effective and consistent soccer player she can be.
v A soccer player should strive to win but not at the expense of playing without focus and confidence. Playing with these two mindset qualities permits you to play in the zone. Forcing the result doesn’t. Perfectionism is anti-zone (like negative thoughts, which destroys Flow). It is filled with anger, fear and individualism. Believe you can win, but don’t expect to win. Believe you can win but avoid thinking about winning while you play. Believe you can win but focus your mind tightly on the present moment as each second ticks by.
“ Actions can become habits and so can thought. Make both your actions & thoughts awesome!”
Ultimately all you can do is…
Play with freedom and focus on executing your Script. If there is a secret to performance it is this! Champions don’t force themselves to win or to play with perfection. They know they can’t control winning and they know they can’t compete with perfection. If there is a fallacy about performance it is the idea of ‘making things happen’. If anything, under pressure, the world’s greatest sports competitors relax and allow things to happen. If they make a mistake they may turn up the volume of their focus or relax even more (to break away from tension) but they don’t force the process of performance.
Relax, be calm, show patience. Your performance will take care of itself. Just absorb your mind in fun, freedom and your Script.
“The ability to play positively under pressure doesn’t happen overnight. It is a result of thinking correctly for 100’s of training sessions”