Learning the Play-The-Best-I-Can Approach
Why do some soccer players choke under pressure? The answer is that some soccer players make mountains out of molehills.
In other words, some soccer players create pressure for themselves and keep building upon that mountain of pressure.
When you ascribe more importance to a game or a moment, pressure increases. When you say, “I have to score a goal or we won’t win,” pressure increases.
The basis for this pressure is based on fear… You fear you will let down your parents… You fear your teammates will blame you for the loss… You fear the coach may become angry with you… You fear that not scoring means you just may not be good enough.
Listen to the tone of the following example of pressure:
It all comes down to me. My team is relying on me. This is the biggest game of the season and my coach really expects me to lead the team to victory. If I don’t rise to the occasion and score, we will lose and I will let my teammates down. I might even lose my starting role or play less minutes each game. I’m so nervous. I hope I don’t mess up.
In the previous example, you feel you must have your A-plus game… You have to be perfect… One little mistake and you will blow it for your entire team. You know exactly what happens playing with this excessive pressure… mistakes and under-performance.
On the other hand, some soccer players take a play-the-best-I-can approach, “I want to play well enough to help my team.” This approach is based in calmness, confidence, effort, and focus.
When you want to make a positive contribution to your team’s success, you will still experience a little pressure. A little bit of pressure narrows your focus to the action on the field, improves your decision making on the field and helps you to create on the field.
The play-the-best-I-can approach has been USMNT midfielder Christian Pulisic’s key to success on the pitch. Pulisic, 21, signed a $73 million dollar contract to play for Chelsea of the Premier League.
Pulisic is one of the Premier League’s top goal scorers since the restart of the 2019-2020 season after COVID-19.
Pulisic “I’m happy I can help the team any way I can. I want to be a part of this team. Every day in training I work hard because I want to start and I want to be on the field and I want to create goals and I want to score goals. Thatís where I want to be. I want to continue to make a big impact every week and every game.”
After scoring the winning goal against Olivier Giroud, Pulisic revealed just how he has kept pressure in check.
PULISIC: “The manager just told me to go on and try and help us win the game. There was nothing special or anything in particular. I just wanted to try and use my talents and see what I could do. I’m happy I was able to do that.”
With the play-the-best-I-can approach, you still may want to make big plays to score goals, you just don’t have the feeling you “have to” perform to some standard.
When you want to use your talents to best of your abilities, you make the most significant contribution to your team.
How to Cope with Pressure During Soccer Matches
The best strategy to minimize pressure is to ask yourself, “How can I best use my talents in this circumstance?”
Start by letting go of the expectations you feel from other soccer players and coaches. Also, don’t demand of yourself a perfect game or mistake-free game.
You will free yourself up to play your best when you focus on what you can do, not what you feel you must do.
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