I want you to be a great actor when you play…I want you to move with confidence and I want you to anticipate quickly. I want you to play with the intensity your coach wants from you…picture this…great a big, bold and bright picture in your mind of you doing this…then I want you to go and act out this inner picture. Because that’s what so much of performance is – an act!

How often I find myself saying these words or words to this effect! When a client wants to develop their confidence or manage their focus better I strive to help them understand that much of what they do on the soccer pitch can be executed in the form of an act…confidence, focus and other mental qualities are to a degree a behaviour or set of behaviours that can be acted out.

This idea isn’t new. One of the most important modern-day philosophers was a 19th century American called William James. He is regarded as the “Father of American psychology” and was, for most of his professional life, a professor at Harvard University.

Here are two quotes from James that are still so relevant today:

“Begin to be now what you will be hereafter”

“If you want a quality, act as if you already had it”

So how is this relevant to soccer? A soccer game can improve by simply acting out how you want to play. Let’s look at this further…

If you want to manage your focus, act like a focused soccer player. This might mean being more vocal or it might mean being more on your toes. The point is, whatever focused looks like to you, just act it!

Similarly, if you want to increase your confidence, act like the a confident player. Again this will be different for different soccer players. It could mean standing tall, or it could mean purposefully executing actions with greater commitment and certainty (for example, being strong in the tackle or passing the ball with zip to a team mate).

If you want to focus better, act out the kind of focus you want to play with. If you want to play with greater confidence, strive to act confidently.

As it so happens another Harvard professor is espousing the same philosophies as William James 150 years after the master himself.. Amy Cuddy in her work on body language and physiology, believes that you can ‘be it to become it’ when learning new skills. Her TED Talk is here and is well worth a watch. I also talk about her work in my book Soccer Tough 2 and it how it relates to soccer.

As William James and Amy Cuddy would testify, over time the more you execute the actions you desire on the pitch the deeper they will embed into your brain and your into physiology. The more they will become who you are on the pitch. A simple way to improve your game!