You may not be a rugby fan. But at the moment the England rugby team are showing the sports world how to change their playing culture from fearful to fearless. It is imperative to learn to play ‘Fearless Football’ otherwise you’ll never play with consistency and you’ll never discover how good you can become. Here’s a brief guide to playing front foot soccer.

The England rugby coach is called Stuart Lancaster. At the moment he is fashioning a team to match the best in the world – the New Zealand All Blacks. How is he doing this? By developing an incredible coaching culture. He wants players who are committed to the cause. He wants players who love the shirt and play for the crest. He wants players who enjoy nothing more than to play fearless rugby.

Lancaster has been giving his players to make mistakes. In the final third of the pitch he wants the usually rigid England team to play with a little more flair and little more derring-do. He wants players to take risk and accept that some mistakes, some failure, is the inevitable part of the journey of a championship winning team.

In sport psychology terms he is helping the players become ‘approach players’ rather than ‘avoidant players’. Being approach rather than avoidant is imperative in soccer.

Approach is front foot; avoidant is back foot

Approach is fearless; avoidant is fearful

Approach is playing to win; avoidant is playing to not to lose

Here are 3 quick ways to engender an approach mentality from your players and your team on the pitch

– Emphasise fun and freedom: fun and freedom are forerunners to focus. They are imperative qualities if you want your side to unleash their skill under pressure. Players who compete with fun and freedom are able to express themselves – they are able to create. Reinforce the notion of playing with fun and freedom constantly. Insist on seeing these 2 valuable F’s

– Give them permission to make mistakes: Your players can’t compete with freedom if they are terrified about making mistakes. Your communication here should be simple – keep trying. Keep trying. Keep trying. If it’s the wrong play then talk with them afterwards. But in the moment, let them keep trying the boldest and the bravest moves.

– Focus on the controllables: Players tend to compete in an avoidant mindset when they are focusing on the things they can’t control. This might be the state of the pitch or the quality of the opposition. They can’t control these thing yet they can cause avoidant, back foot soccer. Help them focus on themselves – that, after all, is all they can control

Help players compete in an approach mindset. That is such a big part of football psychology.

Picture courtesy of Mitch Gunn/