3 Strategies for a Positive Mindset in Soccer
What is a positive mindset? Does positivity even affect how you play soccer?
The concept of positivity is misconstrued by many soccer players. Positivity is not some warm and fuzzy feeling. Nor is positivity merely a concept. Positivity is not even an all-or-nothing proposition: “Either I am positive or negative.”
You may not know what positivity is but you, without a doubt, know what negativity is and have experienced negativity many times in your soccer career.
For instance, a soccer player from our Mental Game of Soccer Survey posed the following issue regarding positivity:
“I tend to get down on myself even before a game begins. I tend to be really negative when I play and put a lot of pressure on myself to score goals every game. I work hard in practice but I’m not seeing the results I expected in the beginning of the season. How can I be more positive before, during and even after games?”
Your negativity stems from your expectations of scoring a goal every game. Many things are not within your control in terms of scoring including field conditions, the play by your opponents, the level of play from your team, coach’s game plan for the game, etc.
Unrealistic expectations cause you to focus on outcomes and feel more pressure, even before the game starts.
Your negativity affects you physically and mentally causing:
- Shortness of breath, tired or low energy during the game
- Indecisive and second-guess passing the ball or dribbling up field
- Slow reaction or hesitancy going after the ball
- Mistakes (bad passes, fouls, being out of position)
- Lack of communication with your teammates
- Low confidence on the field
- Distractions and focusing on your self-defeating thoughts
- Increased stress and pressure to perform or need to be perfect
- Inability to deal with emotions
- Difficulty rebounding from mistakes
- Ability to compete without having your A-game
Negativity is the tendency to be doubtful, skeptical, or self-defeating. Negativity expects the worst: bad mistakes, embarrassment, or bad outcomes.
Positivity, on the other hand is the tendency to be upbeat, encouraged, or optimistic in attitude. Positivity focuses on the process and improvement. Positivity does not focus on stats or scores but on effort, focus, preparation and improvement. All these aspects of positivity contribute to peak play during soccer games.
Positivity has been the mentality for Manchester United throughout their 16-game unbeaten run. Manchester forward Marcus Rashford has watched as his teammates have grown throughout the season.
RASHFORD: “I just think there’s a massive flood of positivity right now and momentum. For us, we want to keep that going.”
Further, Rashford emphasized the team’s approach is improvement over outcomes.
RASHFORD: “For the fans, sometimes the only time they get to see it is on matchday. You know as well as us that some match days they don’t go your way. It can look like there’s no progression, but 100% this team has been progressing since the start of the season. Where we are now, it’s getting closer to what we picture but there’s still a lot more work to do to be back challenging for the Premier League.”
It is easy to get caught in the trappings of a focus solely on results, just like spectators do. That mentality keeps you oscillating back and forth from being positive and negative.
The best strategy to keep a positive mindset is to keep grounded in continued growth and improvement.
Maintaining Positivity in Soccer
Play in the moment — The time to analyze play or the outcome of a game is after the final whistle.
Practice positive affirmations — Instead of fearing negative results, recite positive affirmations prior to the game. For example, “I will stay focused and positive during the game,” “I am a talented soccer player” or “I am aggressive and decisive on the field.”
Develop new skills — Work on controlling the ball with your non dominant foot.
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