Cancel the Outside Noise and Focus on Your Game
How often do comments from others affect your play? External distractions are extraneous noise coming from outside sources such as:
[Before games] “You haven’t played well the last few games. You need to focus.”
[During games] “You are off-sides; move back.”
[After games] “You should have taken your shot instead of making all those extra passes.”
“What are you doing? I was wide open.”
“We are making the same stupid mistakes we made last game.”
“Play the ball like [your teammate]. Cross the ball far post.”
“We can’t lose another game, or we are out of the playoffs.”
Tuning out expectations from others requires awareness the ability to focus on what you can control and not the noise.
A soccer player who responded to our Mental Game of Soccer Survey left the following question:
“How can I cope with high expectations from my parents, coaches, and teammates. All the comments I hear make it difficult for me to focus and manage my anxiety during training sessions?”
Practices and games can be chaotic. Coaches are barking out orders and instructions or screaming about mistakes. Teammates getting frustrated with teammates and making snide remarks. Parents are coaching from the sidelines.
So much noise causes you to get angry, and you make more mistakes. More comments are targeted towards you, and your frustration builds. You want to practice or a game to end, but you don’t want to hear the lecture on the drive home.
All this outside noise affects learning and developing new skills. You fear making mistakes in games, so you hold back. A big mistake in a match could cut your minutes dramatically.
The noise continues throughout the game and into the next practice. It’s overwhelming. You feel, “If only everyone backed off, you would play better in games.” The team you worked so hard to become a member of, you no longer want to play for.
Canceling outside noise is about controlling what you choose to focus on. Outside noise matters little. Instruction from your coach is necessary, but the opinions of others are only noise that interferes with your performance.
Take, for example, Daryl Dike, 21-year-old forward for the US Men’s National Team: In February of 2021, Dike played for Barnsley FC of the EFL League One. Dike played so well that many Premier League teams wanted Dike to play on their team.
Since Dike has generated much interest overseas, Dike has tried to focus by tuning out the transfer “noise” while playing for the US National team.
DIKE: “For me, all that stuff is kinda extra noise. In terms of all the extra things happening, that’s just something when the time comes. For me right now, it’s focusing on acclimating back to the [US Men’s National Team] team and seeing how I can be able to affect the games in the next couple of weeks.”
If it is not helpful, then tune it out. If it doesn’t help your focus 100% on the field, it hurts your game. That should be your mindset whether you are practicing or competing.
Managing External Distractions:
You can’t control what others say or do, so try not to allow it into you focus of attention. Think of it as wearing noise-cancelling headlines.
Whenever you hear outside noise, use the cue “headphones” or “cancel” to remind you that those comments are just noise and not important.
And be careful not to turn what others say into expectations. Parents, teammates, and coaches are not trying to pressure you, but you can easily interpret what others say as expectations.
Related Soccer Psychology Articles
- Mentally Preparing for Rough Teams
- How to Overcome Anxiety During Soccer Games
- Impatience with Improvements in Soccer
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