Getting your team playing with confidence is key to winning big games. Sport psychologist Dan Abrahams offers six tips that will help you to get your team performing at their best.
01 Make playing fun
Why are players more likely to choke and play with fear in a big match? There are many reasons but one is that they become uptight. Relaxation and intensity influence a player’s confidence. It is important you help players slot into the perfect levels of intensity before big games. Stressing the importance of playing with fun and they enjoy themselves can lessen their tension levels prior to an important fixture.
02 Mistakes are okay
Playing with fear is the opposite of playing with confidence. The onset of fear is often a result of players not wanting to make mistakes – they play tight, tense and rigid. They second-guess themselves. To help your players enter a confident mindset, give them permission to make mistakes. Insist on them being decisive – mistakes will be made but you’ll have players who play free and confident. You’ll have match winners.
03 Train confidently
It sounds pretty simple and it is simple but insisting on confidence from your players as they train is one of the most straightforward ways to build their self-belief. No matter whether you’re getting your players to do a passing drill or some work on team shape, make sure that your communication demands they keep positive body language, loud vocals and positively executed actions.
04 Make memory highlights
Memory is a prime mediator of confidence. Helping players remember what they do, think and feel when they are playing at their very best is a useful way to help them maintain confidence. Take just five minutes before or after a training session to gather your team together and ask them to recall – through mental pictures – their best games. Help them create big, bold and bright positive mental pictures.
05 Rehearse confidence
Ask your players to mentally rehearse confident performances for 15 minutes a day away from training. What we now know in science is that the brain can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined. When players imagine that they’ve had a confident performance or have played a really good game, the brain actually thinks that it is happening. This process doesn’t replace physical training but reinforces it.
06 Make them alert
Whenever asked about their pre-match warm-up, players often talk about a physical process. But having a set of mental procedures before a game helps players switch on and increase performance confidence. Take two minutes in the changing rooms and ask players to picture executing their role and responsibilities with confidence. When physically warming up insist on players being on their toes, sharp, alert and lively. Look confident and feel confident.
Dan Abrahams has worked with many leading footballers. He is the author of Soccer Tough: Simple Football Psychology Techniques To Improve Your Game