This post will give you a good overview of what is required to build true confidence in yourself over the long term. If you have a game or tryout in t
This post will give you a good overview of what is required to build true confidence in yourself over the long term. If you have a game or tryout in the next little while and you need specific advice about how to prepare for it, check out How to Mentally Prepare for a Soccer Game. However, you should start with the advice in this post, otherwise, you are just trying to trick yourself into feeling confident which will inevitably fail, given enough time.
If you want to be a good soccer player, you have to master your mental game. There is simply no other way.
In this sport, you will face adversity on the pitch. You will perform less than what you think you can do. You will miss a challenge, let in a goal, miss a penalty kick, or, arguably the worst of all, score an own goal. This is the reality of soccer, sport, and life in general. Nobody is perfect, no matter how good you are.
What will make or break you as a player is the way you respond to these situations. Will you let one bad outcome destroy your whole game, whole season, or even worse, your whole career?
Or will you be able to regroup after one of these less than favourable outcomes and rally back?
The reality is that confidence is a skill that you can learn, just like learning how to trap a ball. You have to put in the same amount of effort into cultivating the right mindset that you would put into training physically. It takes effort and dedication, but you can’t just power your way through and force yourself to get confidence.
To illustrate this point, try not to think of a pink elephant. Whatever you do while you read this, don’t think of a pink elephant.
So confidence means you – wait, are you thinking of a pink elephant? I told you not too!
You see, that’s not how the mind works. You can’t force it to do what you want. You can’t forcefully pluck bad thoughts from your mind, and force yourself to only think good ones. You have to work with your mind to slowly build it to operate the way you want it to. So how do you build it the way you want in this context?
#1. Earn your confidence with proper preparation
Many people will say that they want to be able to perform better when it counts. But, the thing is, performing well when it counts is all about preparing well. You won’t be able to perform well under pressure if you can’t perform well without pressure. So, instead of just trying to look for mental “hacks” that are going to make you feel confident, you have to earn your right to feel confident.
To illustrate this, imagine how nervous a regular person would be if they had to perform a surgery. They would feel shaky and nervous and totally NOT confident, because they’ve never done this before! They have no business being confident at all in this case! How silly would it be to provide this person advice on feeling confident in pressure situations, if the person has not done the necessary work (surgical training) to feel confident in their abilities?
This is the same with soccer. You can do all the mental work you want, but if you’re not training yourself to be your best technically and physically, there is no point in trying to train yourself to be your best mentally (We get into this in more detail on the “start here” page, so check that out if you haven’t yet).
If you’ve never set benchmarks for yourself and tried your hardest to reach them, if you’ve never reached benchmarks that tell you you’re fit enough to play, you won’t be able to be confident. So set goals, start doing what it takes to meet them. Then set higher goals, and meet them.
Identify your weaknesses, the things that you hate doing because you know that you aren’t great at them, and start working hard to improve them. You’ll see that your confidence will grow as you start to see results. There is no better feeling than knowing that something that was holding you back before is no longer holding you back. Then you can go into a game KNOWING that you’re fit and technical enough, and you wont have to question it. If you don’t earn your confidence, you will never find it.
Once you’re feeling like you truly are functioning at your best (i.e. training at your maximum and eliminating your weaknesses), then you have a solid foundation for your confidence to start growing.
#2. Realize that your confidence is your responsibility.
However you are within your own mind and body is 100% your responsibility. Even if everything is going wrong around you, you need to be able to manage your mentality so that you can do what is required. If you start to feel shaky and unsure of yourself, you are impacting your ability to do what you need to do in that moment, and there is no one to blame but yourself. No one else puts thoughts thoughts in your mind except you. No one else “makes” you feel a certain way. It is all you.
You can always control your own mind, your own reactions, your own behaviour.
So, start right now by taking full resposnibility for how confident or lack thereof you feel. You may have had a coach tell you you’re not good enough, or another player make you feel intimidated, or anyone else say something to you that affected how you view your own game. But that ends now. When people say things to you, it is up to you to decide how you will react and if you will believe them or not. It is up to you to ensure you feel confident in your abilities at all times, regardless of what else is going on around you. Own that responsibility. Your mindset is your own responsibility.
#3. Only concentrate on what you can control.
Things aren’t always going to go your way, either in soccer or in life. How will you respond? By dwelling on what just happened? OR by doing what you can do this moment. Take MORE responsibility than necessary. Don’t blame others. Even if you would ordinarily think that it was someone else’s fault, try to think what you could have done better. For example, the goalie let in the ball, but maybe you could have gotten back first to stop the shot. Maybe someone missed a pass by taking a bad touch. Well, maybe you should have let them know ahead of time about the pressure on their back so they may not have taken this touch. Maybe someone on your team isn’t fit, and its costing the team. What have you done to ensure your team is as fit as possible?
Keep looking for ways in which you can be responsible for what happens on the pitch.Take more responsibility than any reasonable person would think you should. It will improve your attitude and automatically make you focused on what you can do better next time, rather than allow you to dwell in negativity. Just by taking responsibility for everything that happens on the pitch, you ensure that you are never blaming teammates, you are always searching for ways to improve, and you are always zoned in to the current moment. You are always looking to the next play to do better.
This may not come naturally at first, but stick with it. It will help you. In the next post we will get into more specific strategies to use before, during, and after the game to help improve your confidence and calm your nerves. The points in this post are essential to understand and start to implement before you move on to the next one. This is the groundwork for cultivating a confident mentality. The next post will be details, tips and tricks that work well to help reinforce the ideas I’ve introduced here.
Let me know what you think in the comments below. Do these tips work for you? Have you implemented any of these into your own training? I want to hear from you!