Mental Resilience in Football

It can often be read or heard in the mainstream media that ‘they don’t quite have the mental strength to play at this level’ which then often raises the question ‘well what does it take and how do you get it?’ If we look more closely at the hugely important mental factors that can influence and impact performance, we should consider the following areas;

 

  • level of arousal (under and over)
  • motivation
  • decision making
  • problem solving
  • mental toughness
  • processing information
  • anticipation
  • cue recognition

 

Looking at levels of arousal and I am sure we can all think of a player who is super charged for a game and rarely controls himself and equally a player who plays without a care in the world. Whilst neither is right or wrong, it is however important to understand them and strike the correct balance that works for you. I often wonder what motivates the modern day elite level football player given the amount of money that is being earned through salaries and sponsorship. Are they motivated to make personal improvements each day, do they want to be recognised as the best player in the world or do they want to win trophies, earn a new contract and make even more money. At the very top level of the game where players and generally all at peak fitness with similar skill levels, decision making can often be the difference between the excellent and world class players. Knowing when to pass or dribble or drop off or press is a mental skill that can be trained through experience, knowledge and repetition and one that can make a huge difference between you and your competitors. With current society not being conducive to players playing in the street or public park for that matter anymore, it has often been said that the regular organised coaching culture which has been created for all youth players nowadays has reduced the ability for players to make decisions on the pitch for themselves and I have to agree. Players should be given the opportunity to make their own decisions (which alongside this will come mistakes) and then develop this mental factor making them more accountable on the pitch. This then links to problem solving and the ability to have the awareness and knowledge to spot something on the pitch which is either a strength or weakness of the opposition and making an educated problem solving decision to combat it. 

 

Quick tips

 

  1. Visualisation – close your eyes and picture yourself scoring that last minute winner of saving the decisive penalty in a shoot out. Play the scene over in your head and have an understanding of how it feels and what is required
  2. Positive Self Talk – have a short script prepared and ready to use should you be feeling down and lack of motivation in a game such as ‘I am a good player, I am going to impose myself on this game’ this can help flush out negative thoughts and focus on the positives