There rarely seems to be a happy medium. Footballers over-think. Footballers under-think. When they think, they tend to think about the wrong things. Yet thinking is a skill that’s important. It determines how you feel – and how you feel influences how you perform. This is how to think better day by day.
Whenever I start a relationship with a new client most have a football psychology that tends to relate to the same challenge – thinking. Of course what different players think and how different players think varies, but the common denominator seems to be thinking…every single time!
If you are experiencing a period of plateau or slump your brain loves to book mark this fact. It loves to keep reminding you of what is going wrong right now. In fact it’s basically pointing you in the direction of danger (“Warning, stop playing so bad”). In this state you tend to over-think.
Historically, when working at academies and with development squads I’ve found that young players tend to over-think. They’re worried and concerned about their future. They’re consumed by what the coach might think of them, and what the coach might have planned for them.
Stop over-thinking. Stop worrying. If you find yourself thinking too much about your game then STOP. Say STOP to yourself or see a STOP sign. Then SHIFT. SHIFT onto another activity or train of thought.
But Don’t Under-Think
Soccer players who never think about their game outside of training have just as poor football psychology. An ambitious player needs some game analysis. An ambitious players needs some time to reinforce strengths.
Take a little time, say 15 minutes, everyday to think about your best games and your dream games. That’s great football psychology. Make these images big and bold and bright. In your mind produce your personal highlights reel and enjoy re-playing outstanding again and again.
This works neurologically. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagination. When you imagine your dream game, your brain actually thinks it’s happening.
So by replaying your very best games or by imagining your dream game you create thee perfect blueprint or the perfect template for you to go and reproduce what your brain has primed on a daily basis.
Commit to this process everyday. Olympic champions do this. The best tennis players and golf pro’s do this.
Think Process, not Outcome
When you do take a little time to think about your game, make sure you’re envisioning the responsibilitis within your role.
The idea of imagining yourself playing for Manchester United or lifting the world Cup to my mind is pop psychology. It’s pseudo-science. This form of thinking (or visualisation if we’re going to use a technical term) won’t really make a difference.
What does make an impact is spending a little time breaking down all the plays in your game and imagining yourself executing them with excellence. What does make an impact is thinking about the runs you want to make, the movement you want to have, the shots you want to get away, the tackles you want to win, the space you want to find or to fill and the kind of team mate you want to be.
That is outstanding sport psychology and that is incredible football psychology.