Do you feel deflated towards the end of a game where victory seems improbable, if not impossible?
Do you throw in the towel or fight until the final whistle when you lose the lead late in a game?
Let’s look at the following scenario to understand why some athletes become deflated while others stay motivated under adversity:
Your team is playing in a midseason tournament against one of the top teams.
You are winning 2-1 when the opposing scores the game-tying goal with ten minutes remaining.
You have controlled the ball all game, so there is no reason to panic.
However, your team starts to play tight and fearful of giving up another goal. You are still pushing the ball upfield but not with the same confidence as in the first half.
With five minutes remaining, your defense gets caught out of position leading to another goal.
You still have five minutes plus injury-time to tie the game, but your team is collectively demoralized, gives up, and loses the game.
Why did your team suffer a collapse at the end of the game? Was the primary reason for your team’s demise negative emotions or counter-productive thinking?
While negative emotions and thoughts contributed to the team’s letdown on the field, the ultimate cause for the lack of fight was a negative mindset.
Your mindset is a series of attitudes about yourself, your team, or your circumstances, such as, “We are not good enough to bounce back late in a game” or “We are not a playoff team.”
When you have a negative mindset, your thoughts fall into line, “We can’t bounce back. We are not good enough.”
These thoughts translate into unproductive emotions: frustration, anxiety, and demotivation.
The final domino to fall is your actions on the field: bickering, blaming, general sense of hopelessness, negative body language, and a lack of effort.
Remember, it all starts with your mindset. When you have a “We Never Give Up” mindset, your thoughts will match your attitude.
“Okay, let’s find a way to tie this game.” The thoughts would translate into resolve, motivation, and determination. You would be energized and work together as a unit.
Mindset makes the difference between winning and losing in soccer.
Take, for example, the 2022 FIFA World Cup Final between Argentina and France.
Both teams showed tremendous grit on the field. Neither team gave up at any point, and it showed in their play.
Argentina jumped out to a 2-0 lead after just 36 minutes. France turned things around in the second half and scored in the 80th minute.
Just 96 seconds later, France scored again to tie the game 2-2. Argentina pushed forward, with Lionel Messi scoring in the 108th minute to retake the lead, 3-2.
Then, with less than two minutes remaining in extra time, France fought back again to level the score 3-3. Ultimately, the game was decided by penalty kicks, with Argentina winning 3 (4) – 3 (2) to become the World Cup Champions.
Argentina bounced back throughout the tournament. After Argentina beat Croatia in the semi-finals, Messi commented on the mental toughness needed to be successful at the World Cup.
MESSI: “That’s what it’s all about, getting back up and trying again in all aspects of life, everyone gets knocked down, but the important thing is to try again and fight for your dreams. At one point, I did have doubts, but thank goodness I came back to enjoy all this.”
In the post-match interview, Argentina World Cup-winning coach Lionel Scaloni spoke about his team’s mindset.
SCALONI: “The spirit of this team is such that they never give up. Those two French goals we let in were real blows, just like against the Netherlands. But we kept going; we knew we had to win.”
Mindset, more than talent, is the hallmark of successful teams and mentally tough athletes.
So, the biggest question facing you is, “What mindset do YOU want to develop?”
To create an elite mindset, follow these three steps:
- Decide who you want to be as a player
- Work to build your grit in practice
- Fall in love with competing.
Your mindset is shaped long before you step on the pitch, so it is important to purposefully build your desired mindset.
Resources for Athletes, Coach, and Sports Parents
- Learn more about Soccer Psychology Tips and Strategies
- Download our a FREE Mental Toughness Report
- Read our Sports Psychology Articles
- Check out our Sports Psychology Audio Programs
- Subscribe to The Sports Psychology Podcast on iTunes
- Subscribe to The Sports Psychology Podcast on Spotify
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