Playing Under Pressure in Soccer
Performing under pressure is a quality of great soccer players. Particularly as you move to a higher level in soccer, the ability to compete under pressure will become more and more important.
Here is a question a soccer player asked on our Soccer Psychology Survey:
“During every game and practice when I am performing under pressure my mind over thinks everything and I tend to mess up on the simplest things. When I am under pressure the feelings of nervousness mixed with my fear of messing up causes my head to not think clearly and I can’t focus on where to move or what to do on the field. How can I play better under pressure?”
Under pressure, soccer players’ intensity and physiological activation increases, which causes their heart rate, breathing and other physical signs to increase. This state can be very positive as it can help you focus better in crunch time. For many players though, it can cause them to tighten up, make bad passes, or miss goal-scoring opportunities.
One of your objectives when you feel the pressure to perform well is to interpret your anxiety and tension, such as pregame jitters as positive. Tell yourself that you are just pumped up and focused.
Welcome these pregame nerves as a natural part of soccer.
Focusing too much on the tension you feel from being under pressure only heightens anxiety, causes you to over think, and ultimately under perform. When you feel nervous, do not bring more attention to the knot in your stomach or a rapid heartbeat. Accept that your body is just getting ready to perform your best in competition.
The key is to handle your pregame nerves rather than allowing it to handle you!
Pressure can cause you to doubt or question your ability, if you let it.
Whether you think positively or negatively about being in high-pressure situations will determine if you will react well or poorly to it. Players who choke are afraid of the feelings that come with pressure, whereas athletes who are successful, embrace the feelings that come with pressure.
Pressure is only bad if you see it as harmful, but it can actually help you perform better if you use it to your advantage.
There are a few ways of to deal with pressure in soccer:
One way is to understand if pressure makes you perform better or worse…
Some soccer players prefer to use or channel the feeling of being under pressure into their performance, to gain energy, feel prepared, and help them reach greater heights – whereas others find that they perform much better if they can manage to disregard the pressure, and remain as relaxed and loose as possible.
For instance, if you perform better in pressure situations, then thinking about the game or practice in advance to build up some pre-competition nervousness may actually provide some additional fuel (in the way of nervous energy) for you to channel into the game!
Alternatively, some soccer players play much better when in a relaxed state. If you are one of these players, you want to distract yourself from thinking too much about the game in advance (e.g. by talking to friends, listening to music, reading a book etc). You can also use relaxation methods such as taking time to focus on your breathing and visualizing a positive performance before the game to help you to get into The Zone.
Figure out what works best for you and develop a pregame and prepractice routine that will help you better cope with the pressure you experience.
In part two of this article, we’ll focus on how to create a positive self-image of yourself as an athlete who thrives under pressure.
Download our free e-book, “7 Mental Game Challenges that Block Soccer Player’s Success”, and learn how to overcome other mental game barriers soccer players face.
Learn Mental Game Secrets to Soccer Confidence!
Does your confidence seem to disappear when you go from practice to games and don’t know why? Do you get nervous and anxious in big games or when you are under a ton of pressure? Do you get so frustrated when you make a bad pass which causes your confidence to sink?
Learn proven strategies to improve focus, composure and confidence so you can perform at your peak in games!
Players: Get the mental edge by learning how to take control of your confidence, mentally prepare for games and perform with composure under pressure.
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“Our son plays academy level soccer. Jaki taught him how to focus on mini goals for each game and practice, how to lower his expectations and understand that mistakes are necessary to grow as a player, and helped his perfectionism. We saw a noticeable difference within one month with improvement each month thereafter. He was more confident, happy, and was having fun again at soccer. The confidence has helped him off the field as well to not have to be perfect in everything that he attempts. We can’t say enough about how grateful we are for Jaki!”
~Linda Black, Soccer Mom
Do You Make Any of These ‘Costly’ Mental Game Mistakes?
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- How your soccer mind can be your best or worst asset on the field.
- How frustration and dwelling are your worst enemy.
- If you are using your soccer mindset effectively before games.
- Learn the important mental game of soccer skills you need to master to boost your confidence and performance.
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~Kyle Congleton, Soccer Coach and Parent
Mental Game Coaching for Soccer Players
Master mental game coach Dr. Patrick Cohn can help you overcome your mental game issues with personal coaching.
You can work with Dr. Patrick Cohn himself in Orlando, Florida or via Skype, FaceTime, or telephone. Call us toll free at 888-742-7225 or contact us for more information about the different coaching programs we offer!
We look forward to helping you improve your mental toughness!
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~Scott Burgess, Soccer Parent