The Link Between Mindset and Field Presence
Do you play with an attacking, aggressive style during soccer games or are you hesitant on the field?
Have you been told by a coach or parent that you need to be more aggressive during games?
If so, what is holding you back during matches?
What factors contribute to a player’s level of aggressive play during games? Is aggressiveness a personality trait or is aggressiveness a result of a player’s mindset?
A soccer player on our Mental Game of Soccer Survey posed a question regarding her difficulty with being more aggressive on the field:
“Why am I so shy to go for the ball in games?”
Many people in the soccer world believe that some players are a bit more aggressive by nature but a player’s personality contributes only so much. The biggest contributor to being more aggressive on the field and playing better in games is your mindset.
For example, a tentative mindset is based on fear… If you are focused on what might happen, making mistakes or the consequences of failing to get the ball, you will be more reserved on the field.
For example, from the moment you take the field, you are nervous that you might make a mistake and disappoint teammates. You are afraid that if you go for the ball and are unsuccessful, you are going to get caught out of position, allow the opposing team to make a run down the field and give them an opportunity to score.
Failing to make that play on the ball would make you feel embarrassed and negatively judged by your coach and teammates. You might even get benched for a significant amount of time. So you decide to play it safe. Instead of going for the ball, you hope the opposing team makes a bad pass or loses control of the ball.
That bit of hesitation is the very thing that leads to scoring opportunities for the opposing team.
When you are timid, you allow opposing players to be creative and look for opportunities to score. You are a step behind and it results in what you feared might happen in the first place. This type of outcome thinking is the gist of the tentative mindset.
The only way to make a strong impact on the game is to look for opportunities to go for the ball and fully commit to going for it… full speed ahead without fearing the worst. This aggressive mindset is the difference-maker during games.
To maintain an attacking, aggressive mindset, U.S. Women’s National Team coach Vlatko Andonovski fosters competition during training sessions.
ANDONOVSKI: “Everybody is competing, and everybody is competing every day, and I love the fact that nobody feels locked on this roster. It’s a competition and they embrace it, they embrace the challenge, they love it, and that’s what helps them get better.”
Andonovski challenges his team to practice as they want to play. If you are timid in practice, you will have a timid mindset in games.
To overcome being “shy” or timid on the field, let go of the ‘what ifs’ and just go for it. If you make a mistake, keep after the ball and don’t let up on the play.
By competing in practice, going for loose balls, pressuring the ball and playing aggressively, you will see that aggressive mindset play out in games.
Performing with an Aggressive Mindset During Soccer Games
Practicing is for practicing the skills and strategies that you want to apply in games.
Define what aggressive means to you. What are the specific behaviors that will help you play aggressively? For example, you might decide that you need to go quicker and harder on 50/50 balls.
Your self-talk is important too. You can create a phrase that you can help to remind you to play aggressively in games. For example, the simple phrase, “That ball is mine” or “I got this” can keep your mind focusing on battling for the ball and attacking.
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“I have enjoyed and benefited from your emails over the past year or two. I have been a player, parent, and coach in soccer over the past 40 years. Thanks for the assistance with the mental game resources.”
“We try and spend 20 to 30 minutes a day working on the mental aspects of the game. My daughter is really enjoying it and feels it has helped and I know it has worked for her mother and I. I think you need to open a branch up here in Detroit, Michigan because there are a lot of parents and kids up here that need this information. Keep up the good work!”
“Adam is truly one of your success stories. We purchased the CD program for him last year around this time. He is a soccer goalie and needed more confidence. The change was dramatic and he still goes through the exercises before a big game.”