Taking The Underdog Team Seriously
Playing a soccer team that has a worse win-loss record or is not as strong is just as challenging as playing a tough team.
You may think that statement is ridiculous, “How can playing a team that is in last place be a threat?”
It is that “looking past an opponent” mindset that often gets teams in trouble.
Every soccer match is a competition and the opposing team is looking to scratch and claw for things to work out in their favor.
If you let your guard down or take a team lightly, you may find yourself at a deficit early in the game or allow the opposing team opportunities late in the game to make a run and snatch a victory from underneath you.
There may be an even greater problem with the “looking past an opponent” mentality.
When you don’t approach every game with the same mindset and same level of preparation, you are relying on your ability to flip the switch when playing tougher teams.
What exactly does that mean?
Your mindset or your mental approach to games is a habit.
If some games you are well prepared and others you take lightly, you weaken that habit. So, when games are important, you might not be in an optimal mindset to compete from the very start of the game.
USMNT coach, Bruce Arena, espouses the need to prepare for every game in the same manner. It is necessary to treat each game with the same degree of importance.
In the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the USA team wasted a two-goal lead against Martinique, a team that is not even a member of FIFA. Martinique, a small island with a population of just 385,000, is not eligible for World Cup qualifying, yet Martinique almost pulled off a late game upset.
The USA team failed to score in the first half but scored twice midway through the second half for a 2-0 lead. Martinique responded quickly with goals in the 66th and 74th minutes to tie the game.
The USMNT needed a late-game goal and scored at the 76 minute to break the tie and, eventually, edge out Martinique for the 3-2 victory.
USA defender Omar Gonzalez talked about how the USA squad needs to have a stronger focus throughout the whole game.
GONZALEZ: “[Martinique] didn’t stop running, didn’t stop playing. We need to be smarter, more focused throughout the entire game.”
Coach Arena agreed with Gonzalez’s assessment and believes the USA team needs to approach every game with the same mindset.
ARENA: “We’re certainly guilty of making the game a lot more difficult on us than it needed to be.”
The lesson is that, if you want to play consistently at your peak, your mindset needs to be the same no matter the level of your competition.
A Tip for Maintaining the Same Mindset for Every Game:
If you are to compete with the same mindset every soccer match, then your preparation must be the same for each game–including the same intensity and focus.
Be sure to stick to your pregame routine from the moment you step into the locker room until the starting whistle.
Consistent mental preparation leads to consistent performance and in you want to bring the same intensity every time you hit the pitch.
Learn more about how to have a consistent pregame routine with Soccer Confidence Audio and Workbook program…
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Mental Coaching for Soccer Players
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