I’d like you to use your imagination. Take the role of a central defender and picture this:
Your coach shouts out to your team “Come on lads, forget it and get back into this.” But you can’t help feel downbeat. Big cup game; you’ve gone a goal down; just ten minutes to go.
You’ve dominated possession but as so often happens in football you’re now losing. You feel the confidence drain out of you. A misplaced pass that led to the goal hasn’t helped. As your team mates re-start the game your thoughts switch to the mistake you’ve just made. Suddenly this image of the poor pass flashes in front of you accompanied by the thought “I’ve messed it up for everyone, we’re gonna lose now.”
Your mind is racing, thinking of everything but the game. You’ve worked so hard to get into the cup final, your first for many years, and now one simple mistake and you’ve blown it. You look over to the coaches on the touchline. They can see what you feel: noticeably slower, less agile, less willing to run. Focus and confidence destroyed… individual performance shattered.
Football can beat you up, it really can!
One match everything goes great. You drill passes into your team mates, you time every tackle perfectly, you are sharp and on your toes and seem to have the movement to find space to receive passes for the whole game. Controlling the ball is effortless. If you are a striker you get plenty of shots away and if you’re a defender you always seem one step ahead of the opposition.
But another match might bring a different story. The game is a chore. Your legs feel heavy; your feet feel like they’re sticking to the ground with glue. You are slow to react, you miss your passes and the opposition brush off your attempts to tackle them. On this day the striker can’t get a shot on goal and the defender makes mistake after mistake allowing the opposition to nip in and bag a couple of goals.
Welcome to my world; my world as a football psychologist:
- In my world how you talk to yourself on the pitch is just as important as your ability to trap and control the ball.
- In my world your body language is as vital a component of performance as the ability to head a crossed ball.
- In my world being thoroughly prepared for a match is more than just what you should eat and remembering to bring your boots to the big match.
I am a football psychologist. I work with teams and individuals to help them develop mindsets that win more matches, and I want to introduce you to some of my football psychology techniques to help you play better, more consistent football.
Why is Football Psychology Important?
The best of the best work on their football psychology because they know this simple fact about football: The difference between success and failure is measured in inches.
The difference between success and failure is measured in inches.
When I watch football I’m constantly in awe of the small differences that affect the result. A mistimed tackle, a poorly delivered pass, a weak shot, an over-hit cross, and a poorly timed run are a few things that factor together to win or lose games. An observant football fan will see this week in, week out in park and amateur football right the way through to games played in the English Premiership, La Liga and Serie A.
There isn’t a game that goes by where this isn’t the case, but allow me to illustrate this by using two football examples.
The first takes us back to 1996 and the semi finals of the European Championships. England, the hosts of the tournament were playing Germany. At one-all in extra time the game was tight. This was a tournament when FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, decided to play a format called Golden Goal in extra time, meaning that the first team to score instantly won the tie.
Anyway, deep into extra time England had a glorious opportunity to score. The enigmatic and enormously talented English footballer Paul Gascoigne agonisingly found himself an inch away from latching onto a ball played across the front of the goal. Gascoigne had run from deep into a great position inside the German penalty area, and, as he noticed his team mate lining up to drill the ball across the penalty area he took a couple of strides closer to the goal. The 80,000 English supporters held their breath as they saw what Gascoigne saw, the opportunity to become a national hero. But Gascoigne hesitated for a split second, and whilst he stretched his leg as far as he could he missed contact by an inch. 30 minutes later England were out of the competition losing in a nail biting penalty shoot out.
Now fast forward to 2008 and the Champions League Final between Manchester United and Chelsea. The game had gone to penalties. Up stepped John Terry who, if he scored would have won the final for Chelsea. He took his run up, slipped and hit the post. Another missed penalty later and Chelsea had lost, beaten in the most agonising of circumstances to English rivals Manchester United.
Both of the above incidents can be checked out on You Tube.
These are just a couple of examples but the fact is football is a game of inches. In every game, every single day the world over, from World Cup matches to college games to fun 5 aside matches, football is a game of inches. And therefore it is vital that every footballer is equipped with simple football psychology strategies to deal with this.
What about your game?
Take a few minutes to think about the football games you’ve won and lost by the odd goal. A loss may have been down to you because you’d lost a little focus against a quick witted striker who managed to get in front of you to score the only goal of the game. A win may have been a result of your team mate playing with confidence and jumping an inch higher than the centre back to glance a header into the corner of the net. When you think about it the game is won and lost on those inches.
There is another reason why the best work on their football psychology:
Most Competitors Want to Win
I’m going to roll out the “if I had a pound” cliché now, but if I had a pound for every soccer player who has told me how passionate they are about winning… Now of course it’s vital that competing sportsmen at all levels have a will to win, but they often overlook a vital fact, a fact that the hugely successful American college basketball coach Bobby Knight once insightfully remarked about:
“It’s not the will to win that is important. It’s the will to prepare to win”.
Whether you play a five aside every Monday, whether you are a ten year old playing for your school team or whether you are playing for Brazil in the World Cup final, the likelihood is that everyone who is playing against you wants to win as well.
It’s safe to say that everyone wants to win. But the reality is it’s the person or team who are the most prepared who gives himself or themselves the best opportunity to win. And this gets to the heart of football psychology. Working on your mindset gives you that edge over your opponents. Having simple techniques to play with unshakeable belief and correct focus as well as being able to bounce back with confidence from a defeat will have more influence over the result of your next match than the person or team who prepares less but has an extreme desire to win.
I now want to offer you one more reason as to why it’s vital for everyone to work on their football psychology. It’s do with the way our brains are designed.
Brain Fact – Your brain works in milliseconds
Yes, whilst the game of football works in seconds, the brain works in milliseconds.
What scientists have found is that the brain makes sure people feel emotions in 10-20 milliseconds and think consciously 500 milliseconds later.
It’s mind blowing stuff. And it means a footballer has to be fantastic at dealing with his emotions and managing his thought processes every single second of every single match.
A footballer has to be fantastic at dealing with his emotions and managing his thought processes every single second of every single match.
A feeling or thought that rises to the surface happens in a blink of an eye. And these feelings and thoughts affect your performance. They affect your technique, your anticipation, your awareness and decision making. They affect your all round game. Football is a game of psychology and you must improve your mindset to become the best footballer you can be.
What’s in this Book?
Very simply, some of the football psychology techniques I use to help my clients reach their potential.
Inside this e book are some of the secrets that helped:
- Carlton Cole go from forgotten reserve team player at West Ham to England International in just 18 months.
- Anthony Stokes score 18 goals in 5 months having previously scored just 4 in a year and a half, and then win a dream million pound move to his boyhood team, Celtic Football Club.
- Junior Stanislas break into the first team at West Ham after the manager had labelled him too inconsistent to play first team Premiership soccer.
- Richard Keogh to become Player of the Year at Coventry City Football Club in only his first season in the English Championship division.
My simple football psychology techniques have helped me win a contract at an English Premiership football club, work with the English Football Association and capture the interest and imagination of dozens of professional footballer, coaches and governing bodies.
The techniques are built from the very best in sport and performance psychology practice as well as from the experiences of world class athletes including Lionel Messi, Muhammad Ali and Tiger Woods.
I’m not saying all this to impress you. I’m saying this to impress upon you that the information in this e book works.
The football psychology techniques I’m going to introduce to you are simple, but they aren’t necessarily easy.
There is a difference between simple and easy
The techniques are simple to understand but they are going to take a little effort to apply and will power to get right.
But put a little effort and will power into this process and you’re going to improve without even breaking sweat.
How good is that? In a sport that requires enormous amounts of physical fitness you can improve without even moving from your armchair.
This football psychology book is designed for everyone from the recreational player to the Premiership stars, from the grass roots coach to the Champions League manager.
- If you play football on the weekend just for fun then this book will help you get better at the game you love without breaking sweat.
- If you play for a living then you will glean simple ideas from every chapter that will help you play at the highest level with greater confidence and increased focus.
- If you’re a youngster that wants to tread the hallowed turf of the world’s best stadiums then read on, for in this book lie the secrets to making the most of your talent.
- If you’re a local coach then read this from front to back and use all the football psychology strategies to help your players play better, more consistent football.
- Maybe you’re a football parent and you want a few techniques to help your child play better under pressure.
- Or you might be a supporter who wants to get inside the minds of the players from your favourite team. This e book literally is for everyone in and around the beautiful game.
So What Next…
Every week I am going to add to my blog another chapter of this football psychology book. So let’s get started…