The brain never switches off. It’s always on the go. There is a constant stream of electrical activity travelling through the brain every second of every minute and every minute of every day. In fact if you were to look at the electrical activity of a brain (even one at rest) it would look like an electrical storm on planet earth seen from space lighting different areas several times a second.

This constant activity causes mayhem. Thoughts pop into our head randomly and focus switches automatically. Football psychology in action folks.

The way the brain works is very similar to how an intelligent footballer plays. Let me explain:

An intelligent footballer receives a ball, passes the ball and offers himself to receive the ball again (very much on show right now if you tune in to a Barcelona football match). Similarly the brain receives information from the outside world, passes the information on to the conscious mind and offers an automatic thought or evaluation.

So just like an intelligent footballer the brain receives, passes and offers.

However just as a footballer may not be able to offer a favourable position to receive a pass the brain may not always offer a positive thought or positive evaluation. In fact football psychology research suggests that the majority of the automatic thoughts the brain offers us are negative.

When a footballer is competing negative thoughts can damage his performance, and this is where football psychology plays a part. And this is where I, as a football psychologist can make a big impact on a players game no matter what age they are or what level they play at.

What I find endlessly fascinating about football psychology is that the simplest of techniques can set in motion big changes. For example, just by asking a footballer to become more aware of his negative thoughts you can help lessen the impact these thoughts have on his performance. From my experience this first stage of awareness is the most important.

However “thinking about thinking” is no easy task especially while playing. As a football psychologist I am very cautious about analysis being done when a player is competing. This is why I always suggest clients use training sessions to understand their thought patterns. Training offers a footballer a low pressure environment to learn a little about the thoughts that pop into his head.

For those footballers who really want to manage their brains taking a little time after training to write down some of the more common negative thoughts experienced can improve their thought management. By asking “what thoughts did I have?” and “when did I have them?” a footballer will not only start managing his brain better but also improve his understanding of the different reactions he has in different situations.

If you are a coach you can ask these questions after training to individuals or to the whole group. It will only take a few minutes and is a simple yet powerful way to improve your players’ thinking.