How to Keep the Momentum Through Championships
“How do I get my team not to lose focus and not to look too far ahead when heading into the playoffs?”
This is a question asked by a coach from our soccer survey.
Gaining a better understanding of this issue (overlooking games or opponents that are perceived as “not significant”) will help coaches, teams and individual players to maintain strong focus, energy and effort.
Let’s define the problem at hand… When teams have clinched a playoff spot or are heavily favored to make the playoffs, the tendency is to look past weak teams and focus on the next the games that ‘really matter’.
“We really don’t have to prepare for teams we will easily beat; it’s the playoffs that really matter.” So you lay off the gas pedal in practice, the intensity is just not there.
You have the belief that you can just turn it on and be 100% ready for the games that matter most.
The three problems with this mindset are that overlooking opponents (1) causes you to play flat in games, (2) increases your chances of losing and (3) detracts from building emotional momentum heading into the playoffs.
For example, your team is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs with one game remaining in the regular season. The team you are about to play has only 3 regular season wins and the last time you played this team your team won 6-0. The week of practice heading into this final regular season game is lax, after all you believe it will be another blowout.
In warmup, you are just messing around with your teammates because you feel this game is a foregone conclusion. You are over-confident and you find yourself trailing 3-0 after the first half. You manage to score only two goals in the second half and lose 3-2. Heading into the playoffs, you feel dejected after the game and full of doubts.
That is not the case for Tyler Adams, midfielder for RB Leipzig of the Champions League. Adams’s team is focused on winning the Bundesliga title but the team knows the only chance for success is to focus one game at a time.
ADAMS: “One of the most important things is taking it game by game, right? We don’t want to look too far ahead and say, this game is going to be a deal breaker for us winning the title…”
“We have some important Champions League games coming up as well, but we can’t really look too far ahead. I mean, there’s going to be some tough tasks ahead—not just for us, but for Bayern, for Dortmund, for a lot of the teams that are fighting for that top spot. For me, obviously it’s no secret that at the end of the year I want to raise a trophy.”
Every game is an opportunity to build upon your confidence, improve team chemistry, hone your skills and sharpen your focus.
The ‘every game’ competitive mindset keeps you grounded in the present to be better prepared for challenges in the future.
Challenge Yourself Each Game:
Prior to each game, ask yourself, “How will this game help me achieve my seasonal goals?”
The next question is, “What do I need to focus on in this game to improve my game and be successful?” Success may not necessarily mean winning but it could mean sharpening up technical or mental skills to improve your overall game.
Find a “game within the game” to challenge yourself and improve your game. You might think about making a better first touch, staying focused on each run, or being more aggressive on tackles.
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If you’re a top performer during practice but find yourself under-performing in competition, the most likely culprit holding you back is your mental game. In fact, many athletes struggle with the same problem….
Master mental game coach Dr. Patrick Cohn can help you overcome your mental game issues with personal coaching.
Meet with us via Skype, phone, FaceTime, or GoTo Meeting. With today’s video technology, we are able to connect with athletes and coaches all over the globe.
Mental toughness coaching helps serious athletes like you to uncover the beliefs and attitudes that keep you from performing to your potential. You’ll learn mental game strategies to perform at your peak more often, overcoming performance plateaus and lack of consistency
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