Psychology Techniques to Develop a Winning Soccer Mindset

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

How do you develop an elite winning soccer mindset? As the great Andrea Pirlo once said, “Football is played with your head, your feet are just your tools.”

In the beautiful game, the mental part is just as important, if not more important, than the physical part of the game.

If you want to become a better soccer player, especially if you have dreams of playing in college or at the professional level, then one of the most important things you can do is to develop a strong mindset.

By developing a strong soccer mindset, which means having a growth mindset, mental toughness, moving on from mistakes quickly, and more, you will perform with more confidence and have an easier time achieving the flow state.

In this blog post I will cover many sports psychology techniques and tips you can start using today to develop a winning mindset.

Soccer Mindset

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Develop a Growth Mindset

As an athlete, developing a growth mindset is crucial for your performance on and off the field. A growth mindset believes that skills and intelligence can be developed through smart work, hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

By adopting this mindset, you become more resilient to setbacks and failures, and you’re better able to learn and grow from your experiences. This mindset allows you to view challenges as opportunities for growth and improvement by embracing criticism from the right people, such as coaches.

On the other hand, athletes with a fixed mindset will be less likely to put in the effort required to improve their skills and are more likely to give up when faced with obstacles. After a failure or setback, they may be more likely to become upset and lose confidence in their abilities.

A growth mindset is basically trying to find the good in every situation and learning as much as you can from each one of your experiences

Soccer Mindset

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Positive Self-Talk

When you are on the soccer field, and even off the field, you have to learn how to be your own coach and use positive self-talk to help motivate and energize yourself. Your mind is mighty powerful and so is your tongue so speak right on your life because it is what you become.

Avoid negative thoughts, catch yourself when you do have negative thoughts and do your best to replace them with positive thoughts. Becoming aware of your internal voice is key to developing a winning mentality.

These are some examples of phrases that you can use.

  • I can do this
  • I am a great player
  • I am prepared for this match
  • We can beat this team
  • I will get an assist
  • I will score a goal
  • I have trained and taken care of every aspect of my life for this match
  • I am ready for this match
  • I am prepared for this match
  • Today is another day to get better and improve
  • I am grateful for the opportunity to showcase my skills to the world today

Soccer Mindset

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Learn from Your Mistakes

This sounds very simple, but you have to learn to be able to learn from your mistakes instead of dwelling on them, which is part of developing a growth mindset.

Mistakes happen and they are part of the game, and life in general, but it is what you do after you make a mistake that matters. As a soccer player it is especially important to be able to move on from your mistakes as quickly as possible.

If you make a mistake in a game there is no need to worry about it because it already happened. Focus on what you can control, which is how you anticipate the next plays after making the mistake and learn from that mistake so that you can prevent it in the future, or minimize it.

The best way to learn anything is through experience and making mistakes is part of gaining those experiences. Another way to learn anything is by learning from the experiences and mistakes of others, so that you don’t make those same mistakes which is why I highly recommend the following:

Soccer MindsetSelf-reflection

Taking some time out of your day, either in the morning or at night, or even just once a week, to write down your thoughts can be a great way to self-reflect on your soccer training and matches for the week.

You can use a soccer journal or a soccer notebook, to write down anything you want to help you understand what your thoughts may be trying to tell you. For example, you can write about how you are feeling that day, what went well in practice, what went wrong, what you need to improve, what you are doing well, or anything else that comes to mind.

This does not have to be complicated or structured and taking even just 5 minutes to write down anything about how you are feeling, either soccer related or not, is great for your health. You can also write about things you are grateful to practice more gratitude to help develop a more happy mindset.

Soccer Mindset

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Visualization

Visualization is exactly what it sounds like. You close your eyes and visualize yourself performing certain actions that you want to do in a game or training.

How well you are able to visualize will depend on how creative you are, how well you can use your imagination, and how clearly you can create an image in your mind’s eye. Before your next match or training take 5-10 minutes to visualize what you want to do in that match.

This could be visualizing yourself scoring goals, dribbling past players, stopping a goal from being scored, and so on. Your brain does not know whether an action occurs in reality or in your head so the better you get at this the more benefits since you can literally get extra reps of training inside your mind without causing physical fatigue.

Soccer Mindset

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Meditation

Meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness, can teach you how to clear your mind, and can be a great tool to help you get into flow states easier. Most people think meditation has to be done how Erling Haaland is posing above.

That is a common way to meditate, but there are many other ways to practice meditation. Some people find meditation in standing still, going on walks in nature, reading books, doing breathwork, or many other ways.

Find something that works for you and practice it consistently. Start with a low number, such as five minutes and gradually build up time. You can even start with guided meditations or by listening to calming music if you are not comfortable meditating alone in the quiet.

Being able to clear your mind, learning how to enjoy the present moment, and learning how to be with yourself are great ways to get into flow, which is what will allow you to play by instinct because you will no longer be overthinking your actions.

Soccer Mindset

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Flow States

The concept of achieving a flow state, a heightened state of consciousness where everything “clicks” and performance skyrockets was first introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.”

Imagine a soccer player entirely absorbed by the game. The ball moves fluidly from foot to foot; there’s no conscious thought about what comes next because it all unfolds naturally at the right place and at the right time. This is known as achieving a flow state, an optimal psychological state where peak performance is at its highest with little to no thinking, mainly reflexive behavior.

Getting into a flow state allows you to tap into your instincts and it stops you from overthinking. Achieving this mental state requires complete focus and a calm mind, similar to flipping an internal switch that silences distractions while unlocking full focus.

When athletes reach this optimal mental state during sports, they commonly describe it as one of the most fulfilling experiences.

The Science Behind Flow States

Your prefrontal cortex is like an orchestra conductor that manages critical thinking, self-awareness, and decision-making abilities. But sometimes, even conductors need a break. During flow state experiences there’s less activity from your prefrontal cortex.

This silences the thinking part of your brain to help you not overthink, or underthink, and allows other parts of your brain responsible for skill execution and focus to take over. Basically, the part of your brain that second-guesses actions goes offline, and the inner you, the footballer inside of you, takes over, and you play more by instinct.

When you go into flow, your brainwaves change frequencies, due to specific parts activating while others slow down, and your brain is better able to stay in the frequencies that allow for improved awareness, focus, creativity, etc.

Another critical aspect of achieving flow states for peak performance is a balance between the challenge level and skill set. When tasks are too easy, they lead to boredom, but if they’re too hard, it can lead to stress and both of these factors can impact your ability to get into flow.

You need challenges that stretch you just enough without overwhelming you – what psychologists call ‘the sweet spot.’ This is also why you have to be in a team environment or be playing a lot of pick-up games which are at the right level for you.

The level needs to be just right for flow to happen and of course, over time, the goal is to be able to get into flow as you play against better and better players.

Strategies to Achieve Flow States as a Footballer

The main reason you want to get into flow is because it helps you play by instinct and when you play by instinct that is typically when all players play at their best. Using the psychology techniques listed in this blog will help you be better able to get into flow, but also how you train plays a huge role in being able to achieve this state.

  • Play the game as much as you can in an unstructured way, which can be in the form of:

Limit individual cone drills and ball mastery that have you doing too much training against cones and not real opponents. This format of structured and robotic training makes it much harder to get into flow although there is a time and place for individual training, especially if you don’t have the basics of the game down. With that being said cone drills can help sharpen the skills of players that still have not mastered the basics.

Getting into flow is a skill that has to be practiced just like with any other skill.

Soccer Mindset

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Develop Discipline In Every Aspect of Your Life

If you want to have a better mental health and a stronger soccer mindset, you have to take care of every aspect of your life because everything you do affects your mind directly or indirectly and this includes:

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best psychological techniques to develop a winning soccer mindset?

Developing a growth mindset, positive self-talk, learning from your mistakes, self-reflection, visualization, and meditation are the best ways to become mentally tough and achieve soccer success. These techniques will also help you get into flow states much easier.

What separates great players from average players?

Although the physical part of the game is obviously very important, having a winning mentality and mental toughness is what will help great players stand out from the crowd.

What is the best soccer training program?

The best online soccer training program and soccer app is Football Entangled. There is no other program like Football Entangled on the market and this community, much more than just an app, will help you get closer to making your dreams a reality, plus they have an entire section on improving your mindset.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is very important for soccer players to use sports psychology techniques to help develop their mindset. Each player has their preference for what type of mental training they want to focus on based on their desired outcomes. In this guide I provided you with various tips to help you develop confidence, better control over your emotions, and a growth mindset.

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