E book – Chapter 3 – Self Belief (part 2)

  • Dan Abrahams E Book
Football Psychology Technique 1:
Stop Listening to Yourself, Start Talking to Yourself

I can’t remember where I first heard the statement “stop listening to yourself, start talking to yourself”, but it’s true. Boy is it true.

As we discussed in the previous chapter, because of our brain we tend to have a lot of thoughts that pop into our head that are negative. And we tend to listen to them.

“There is no way we’re gonna beat this team, they’re top of the league”.
“I don’t fancy my chances of scoring today against those massive centre backs”.
“I had a nightmare last week. I don’t feel confident at all”.

We tend to listen to them; we tend to let them dominate our feelings and behaviours.

We tend to let our negative thoughts dominate our feelings and behaviours.

Champions are champions because they choose to ignore this rubbish the brain comes up with. In fact they drown out their negative self-talk. They stop listening to themselves and constantly talk to themselves.

Champions drown out the negatives and constantly talk to themselves.

And as a football psychologist this is what I teach: to think like a champion. Champions take control of what they are thinking. To start building a strong, unshakeably positive football image you have to start taking control of your thoughts, you have to think confidently.

You have to start taking control of your thoughts, you have to think confidently.

Case Study: Learning from Muhammad Ali

No one talked to themselves better than the great Muhammad Ali (he would have had great football psychology). Here are a couple of his quotes:

“I am the greatest; I said that even before I knew I was”.
“I hated every minute of training, but I said… Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion”.
“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself”.
“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen”.

It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief.

Wow! Great words! This is a guy who has become an iconic figure in sport. He is many people’s greatest sportsman of all time. And he’s telling you here… “I talk to myself confidently time and again…time and again”.

Was he scared going into the ring against Sonny Liston and George Foreman? Of course he was. But he refused to listen to that inner voice of doubt. He refused to listen to his negative inner voice.

Muhammad Ali refused to listen to that inner voice of doubt. He refused to listen to his negative inner voice.

And those who want a strong football psychology should take note. Ali understood that the more he talked to himself in a confident, upbeat, and energised manner the better he’d feel about himself, the more confident he’d be and the better he’d perform.

And this is what I make sure my football psychology clients are doing. I want them to be immersed in the process of talking to themselves confidently. I want them ignoring the negative inner voice, accepting it will come in, but brushing it aside with upbeat, confident talk.

“This Saturday is my Saturday. It will be my game. I will own the pitch. I will own the opposition. I will play harder than I ever have”.

This is just one example of how I want a player talking to himself going into a game.

“I’m going to be strong and dominant. I’m going to dominate the opposition. I will be quick and on my toes no matter what happens”.

And when you speak to yourself like this you give yourself a great chance of being confident and playing to the best of your ability. This is great football psychology.

Why?

Because the words you use determine the pictures you see which drives your confidence and subsequently determines your performance.

I’m going to say that again because I want it to impact you. I want this sentence to be a guiding force in your life:

The words you use determine the pictures you see which drives your confidence and subsequently determines your performance.

Let’s read it again. Think about it. And then do it.

Start talking to yourself. Start using great words. Start using powerful words. Stop listening to yourself, start talking to yourself. Build a strong football psychology step by step by using exciting, powerful words.

This leads me to technique two.

Football Psychology Technique 2:
Your Dream Game

This is a fantastic football psychology technique.

How would you describe your dream game? What words would you use? What are you like in the air? What are you like in the tackle? What is your movement like?

Take a few minutes to picture your answers.

I bet you feel quite good after answering those questions. Remember words create pictures. If you picture these things you’ll start to feel pretty good. Maybe you feel like you want to go play right now? Maybe your football psychology has rocketed after answering these simple questions?

Keep going:

In your dream game what runs are you making? Are you powerful in the challenge? Are you strong in the tackle? What does it look and feel like?

Again take a few minutes to think about your answers.

What words would you use that sum up your dream game. Here is what some of my clients have said:

  • Strong
  • Dominant
  • Competitive
  • Belief
  • Focused
  • Winner
  • Aggressive

What words would you choose? What words would you use to describe your dream game?

Keep picturing:

Are you first to the ball? Are you loud? How vocal are you? What are you saying to others? Are you being a leader?

Are you playing with belief? What does it look like when you play with belief?

What does it look like when you play with complete unshakeable belief? What does it feel like?

Keep picturing. Use all your senses. See and feel yourself play your dream game. See and feel the pace. See and feel yourself checking your shoulders, taking in the information around you and acting on that information.

What words sum it up? Make these words emotional words, motivating words. Don’t make them boring. Let them raise the hairs on the back of your neck when you think about them.

Create a stadium in your mind. Blow it up; make it big, bold and bright.

Make your pictures big, bold and bright.

When you think about your dream game you are giving yourself small injections of confidence. Do it enough times and you will feel big hits of belief.

When you think about your dream game you are giving yourself small injections of confidence. Do it enough times and you will feel big hits of belief.

Now I want you to think about your dream game for 10 minutes every single day.

Think about your dream game every single day.

I want you feeding your brain with these words every day. It’s like brain nourishment.

And this is something you can do a couple of hours before a match that can help build your confidence in the moment.

Football Psychology Technique 3:
Picture Success

I’m going to hand you over now to one of the best strikers in the English Premier league… Didier Drogba. He is a great competitor. He has a very positive football psychology.

This is what he says about his preparation:

“I think about what I’m going to do to escape my marker. I close my eyes and try to imagine it. I actually think about the way I am going to score my goal. Most of the time when you get it in your head that you are going to score a certain kind of goal, it happens”.

Drogba is strong, powerful and skilful. He moves well, more often than not works very hard and has an exceptional eye for goal. But what Drogba instinctively knows is that if he is to prepare thoroughly and effectively for every match, if he wants to feel confident he has to spend time every day picturing how he wants to play.

Like all top athletes Drogba pictures success every single day.

And this is what I want you to start doing. Why? Because the brain cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined.

The brain cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined.

Yes, this is an amazing fact about the brain. Academic sport psychologists and neuroscientists have demonstrated that when you imagine playing football the brain actually thinks you are playing.

When you imagine playing football the brain actually thinks you are playing.

So sit back on your sofa and start picturing how you want to play in your next match. You don’t have to see the pictures like you’d watch a movie in front of you. Lots of people find it very difficult to see pictures in their mind vividly. If you’re one of those people then don’t worry, don’t panic. Just try to get some kind of image. Try to get some sensation of playing. This is enough. This is enough to trick the brain that you are actually playing.

And if you do this you’ll be in good company. In fact very good company! With one of the greatest players of all time no less.

Pele: The Ultimate Picture Maker

Yes Pele used to actively use football psychology and take time to picture success before every game. Below is a quote from Gary Mack’s excellent sport psychology book “The Mental Gym”.

‘Pele described his routine, which was the same for every game he played. An hour before the match, Pele went into the locker room, picked up two towels, and retreated to a private corner. Stretching out, he placed one towel under the back of his head, like a pillow. He covered his eyes with the other. In his mind’s eye he saw himself as a youngster playing soccer on the beaches of Brazil. He could feel the gentle breeze. He could smell the salt air. He remembered how much fun he had and how much he loved the game. Pele then hit the fast-forward button of his mental video. He began recalling his greatest moments in the world cup and reliving that winning feeling. Then he let those images fade and began rehearsing for the upcoming game. He pictured his opponents. He saw himself dribbling through defenders, heading shots, and scoring goals. After a half hour in solitude, alone with his thoughts and the slide show of positive images, Pele did his stretching exercises.’

I believe if one of the best footballers of all time is using this football psychology technique then we all should. And it’s something I get all my clients doing, picturing how they want to play in their next match. Picturing success!

Build on your dream game technique by picturing success for 5 minutes every day. This will take your football psychology training to 15 minutes a day and I guarantee it will make a big difference to your football image, and subsequently your self-belief and confidence.

You will start to wire your negative brain to be more positive. You will start to build a strong, robust, positive football image in just 15 minutes a day. You don’t even have to build up a sweat.

And if you find it difficult to find time to do these two football psychology exercises, do what England goalkeeper David James did.

David James: England recall

At 34 years old David James who at that time played for Portsmouth in the English Premier League decided he wasn’t too old to play for the English national team. He still felt he could progress. He still felt he could be the best goalkeeper in the country.

To help his performances become more consistent he started to use work on his football psychology and picture success. And to make picturing success a habit he made it a ritual to do it during mundane activities. So when he brushed his teeth he pictured dealing with a ball over the top of the defence; when he was stuck in a traffic jam he pictured coming for a crossed ball decisively; and when he showered he pictured making world class saves.

And so every day David James pictured success and every day he built his football image, his belief and confidence and subsequently started to perform better and better.

At the age of 39 David James played in the world cup for England.

Picture Secrets

There are two guidelines, secrets perhaps, that I’d like you to follow when using the picturing success technique.

Firstly, to make this technique as powerful as possible make sure you don’t stop at just seeing yourself play.

I want you to have a sensory blast! I want you to feel yourself play…and not just the feel of kicking a ball or the feel of making runs and having constant movement. I also want you to feel the emotional feelings you want… feelings of confidence, of belief, of commitment.

You have a choice here. You can see yourself control a ball that’s been passed to you or you can see and feel this combined with the feeling of controlling a ball with confidence.

See yourself control the ball with confidence.

Let’s do this now. See the ball being drilled towards you. In your mind’s eye confidently stick your foot out and deaden the pace on the ball as it hits your foot. Control the ball perfectly. The key here is to use a feeling, a sense; an air of confidence as if it is the easiest skill in the world, almost as if it’s as easy as walking up stairs.

The second secret is to make sure you picture specific things that you can control.

I despair at the notion of picturing holding aloft a trophy or even picturing winning a match. Why? Because these are things you can’t control. You can’t completely control how your opposition play, you can’t control how your team mates play and you simply can’t control what the end result will be. All you can control is yourself and no matter how much you picture winning it’s really not going to make much of an impact. That is pop psychology, fantasy land. Just because you picture winning doesn’t mean you’re going to win. It doesn’t even give you a better chance.

For me the most powerful pictures are ones where you are executing specific skills successfully. Picture the technical, tactical and mental things you want to focus on and get right on match day. Those are the things you can control. And when you picture these you give yourself a better chance of executing them, which in turn gives you a better chance of contributing positively to a win.

The most powerful pictures are ones where you are executing specific skills successfully.

Maybe you’re a striker who wants to score more goals and one of the skills you need to get right is to find space in the penalty area with quick movement to lose your marker. You can therefore choose to picture this in the days leading up to your next match. See the ball break down the wing and feel yourself being decisive in making a run into the area. Feel confident as you make a run for the front post as you confidently pull away from your marker. See the ball come over and anticipate its trajectory and feel the confidence flow through you as you get to the ball first and connect with a glancing header that bulges the back of the net.

Effective picturing is seeing it, feeling it and doing it in your mind’s eye. It’s not about just seeing the ball bulge the net. In this specific example the most important moments relate to the skill of confident movement to lose the marker.

So take time every day to picture success. Make those images vivid and filled with rich sensory experiences. Make them specific to the skills you want to magnify during the game. When you commit to this process you give yourself the best chance of being the best individual footballer you can be and the best team mate you can be.

Football Psychology Technique 4:
Magnify Strengths and Flip Weaknesses

People who are successful in life out-work, out-prepare and out-think the opposition.

People who are successful in life out-work, out-prepare and out-think the opposition.

And it is the out-think part that I am absolutely fascinated by. That’s probably why I do the job I do. Part of thinking successfully is the ability to magnify strengths and deal with weaknesses.

It is vital that you spend time thinking about your strengths. This is what the previous two techniques are designed to do. But it is still important to learn from and improve your weaknesses.

This is a challenge: the ability to think about your strengths more often than not to build your football image, belief and confidence. But this must be balanced with an understanding and recognition of your weaknesses.

This is what I say to my football psychology clients:

You must dwell on your strengths but acknowledge your weaknesses.

Let’s say that again because it’s important:

You must dwell on your strengths but acknowledge your weaknesses.

When you think about your football you must spend at least 80% of your time thinking about your strengths, what you do well, what works. But 20% of the time you must analyse what needs to go better. And then you have to flip the weakness.

What do I mean by flip the weakness?

Once you have figured out what you are weak at you then need to see the weakness in a different light. You need to flip the weakness. Let me give you an example.

You think about your last match. You decide you gave the ball away too many times. You decide that your weakness is your passing. Now you flip the weakness. You need to say to yourself “Great, I’m going to work hard on passing. I’m going to work so hard that it’s going to become a strength. How exciting is that, my passing will be a strength.”

Because this is an interesting fact about champions:

Champions dwell on their strengths but they acknowledge their weaknesses. And they love to work on and improve their weaknesses.

I’m going to say that again because it’s so, so important you understand how a champion thinks.

Champions dwell on their strengths but they acknowledge their weaknesses. And they love to work on and improve their weaknesses.

You must acknowledge weaknesses and then flip them. Knowing and understanding your weaknesses and then getting excited about working on them… that’s powerful. With that attitude you will inevitably improve.

With that attitude you will inevitably improve.

Self-Belief: A Final Word

Self-belief is at the heart of football psychology.

How confident you are on match day is largely determined by your self-belief. Your self-belief is dictated by your football image. Your football image is mediated by how you think. Are you thinking confidently or negatively?

I know that if you think confidently off the pitch you will feel more confident on the pitch.

I know this to be true because I know, from scientific evidence, that you shape your brain by how you think.

I know that your brain is designed to recognise the negative most of the time, but if you can re-train your brain to predominantly think about your strengths, your best moments, your best games and think about future success you will build and maintain unshakeable confidence for match day.

Use the four football psychology techniques. Use them every single day. They won’t intrude on your life. You need not tell anyone you are doing them. You don’t need to do any extra training. Just allot a little time every day to picture your dream game and picture success. Start becoming accomplished at talking to yourself rather than listening to yourself. And start to improve your ability to think more about strengths and flipping your weaknesses.

2016-12-30T00:20:03+00:00 Categories: Dan Abrahams Soccer|Tags: |