To have mental toughness in soccer takes both teaching and self-learning. You can be told, but if you don’t try, believe or want to learn it will be hard to have mental toughness in soccer. It’s a game of mistakes and you have to learn to deal with them and overcome tough times. Unfortunately soccer is a game that takes tons of practice, travel, giving up other things in your personal life along with many ups and downs. Many players are successful at a young age, but they fall off because they don’t have the mental toughness. Good news is you are here reading this, which means you are wanting to learn and so you will. Hopefully you can take some things from my experiences and passion as a player and teacher of the game.
How to have confidence in soccer
You know you have heard someone in your life tell you to “just be confident”. I ask players all the time if anyone has told them this, and they all say yes. Then I ask them if anyone has ever told them how and they all say no. Mental toughness in soccer starts with knowing how to have it. This is why I want to share with you ways to be confident on and off the pitch. First think positive not negative. When that voice between your ears says that you’re not good enough or your going to mess up, quickly change your thinking. Deep down you still might not believe you can do it, but you have to tell yourself you can do it.
Tell yourself you can do it or you are going to do it. Remember the good things you’ve done in your soccer games or practices. Example: If you are about to pass, trap, shoot think about the good moments you have had before. Your mind is very strong and if you are thinking negative you will most likely mess up. If you’re thinking positive and believing you can do it, you have such a better chance to be successful in that moment and forever.
Recovering from mistakes takes mental toughness in soccer
Mistakes are part of the game. If you sit down and watch the top professional teams like Barcelona, Manchester, Bayern, PSG, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Juventus you will see mistakes every 10 seconds. I think it helps to hear that even the best make mistakes every day. As humans we are so focused on what we can do better or what we did wrong that we forget about the positives. Learn from your mistakes, but do not focus on them.
The difference from pro players and even college players compared to elementary, middle school and even many high school players is how they react after a mistake. You see them with their head down looking frustrated or embarrassed or even looking over at the coach or their parents. Then you see a professional make a mistake, and you can’t tell they are embarrassed. You can bet that they are frustrated, but they understand they have to move on and be ready for the next play. All of this is part of sports maturity and being taught how to act.
Dealing with success as a soccer player
Mental toughness in soccer is not all about dealing with confidence issues. Mental toughness means you have to deal with success the right way too. You see it all the time, players who are good and having success. The immature ones have a swag walk to them and think they are better than everyone. This is a pride issue and trust me I’ve been there. It’s not what you want in your life. Then you see an athlete like Messi, Drew Brees, Mia Hamm and they are so humble. It’s really amazing and fun to watch these people deal with success so well.
Sometimes dealing with success as an athlete takes some growing up, but to me it mostly starts at home. Parents need to teach their kids to have class on and off the playing fields. I think hanging out with the right people helps, because they say you become who you hang around. Last, be teachable if you have someone call you out. Remember iron sharpens iron.
Knowing that the last part of your ceiling takes time
Ages 6-11 improve noticeably every week, if they are being trained right and working a little outside of their team practice. Once these players turn 12+ years old things start to slow down, partly because they have become pretty good at the fundamentals. Then you have those who become good at the advanced skills, like chipping, bending balls, side volleys on goal, half volleys and receiving balls out of the air. Age 13 already think they know everything in life, so then mix that with a good player and it can call for hitting a wall. Meaning they stop improving technically.
Speaking positive over yourself when injured
This might seem weird to you and for others it will totally make sense. Think about all the times you or someone you know has been hurt. Have you ever heard “my body is a wreck” or “I’m all beat up” or “my knee is messed up”? I used to say these things and I can tell you it’s not good for you. Maybe you are injured and not feeling 100%, but there are better ways to say things.
Instead of speaking these things over yourself, do this instead. Say “I’m getting better from an injury” or “I got injured and am recovering everyday”. This way you are being honest with what’s going on, but you are also speaking positive over your body in your mind and out of your mouth. This type of thinking will help you recover faster! Do the same thing when speaking to other people too. Speak positive over them, not negative because this will help them think and hopefully recover faster.
Learning from others who have been there
Start to pay attention how some of the older players that you look up to act. You will notice a difference in how they conduct themselves, compared to someone who is new on the scene or just not as mature. I remember as an adolescent and even now, watching the pros on TV interviews. You can tell the rookies from the vets from how confident and professional they are.
It always amazes me when I see high school kids acting like professionals in terms of how they act not play. Pro leagues have coaches and groups for these players to learn how to conduct themselves in public. The pro athletes that are not teachable are the ones who have very short careers. Learning from the good and bad examples are great ways for younger athletes to learn and grow.
What to do when soccer is not as fun anymore
If you had the best job in the world, what would it be? Maybe a pro athlete or someone who travels the world trying new foods or rating cities. Whatever it is, I can promise you that there would be days you don’t want to get out of bed and face the day. This is life and it’s what separates the complainer from the go getter. To have mental toughness in soccer you have to do things that you sometimes don’t want to do. This is normal and if you know this it helps mentally.
Knowing that you are not losing love for the game helps you to get through the tough times. Think about how you would feel if you never got to play soccer again. How does that make you feel? Then think about all the good moments and feeling that soccer has given you. I can’t tell you how many players I played with hated practice. Even through my business academy – Elite Sports Business Academy, when I speak with athletes who played pro sports, many of them say they didn’t like going to practice. For me I liked it, just not everyday.
The days where your body hurts or the days you have to wake up at 5am for pre-season fitness. Those days are not fun! It’s part of it and the reward is the good feeling the sport gives you. So just remember that just because there are some days you are not wanting to go to practice, this doesn’t mean it’s not for you anymore. It’s normal to sometimes have these feelings. Don’t let others take your joy and keep you from your passion!