Training The Soccer Brain: Managing Your Emotions in 3 Steps
There is a lot that goes into performing at peak level – and managing your emotions on the soccer pitch is super important. What your body language says, how you respond to mistakes or momentary failure, and how you let pressure impact you – all adds up to knowing how to manage your emotions while performing at your peak.
A global sport psychologist and author specializing in soccer, Abrahams is based in England and has helped hundreds of professional soccer players – many of them who play in the English Premier League (EPL). Abrahams knows what it takes and gives pro players advice – the importance of keeping your emotions in check. Working with professionals from Crystal Palace, QPR, Fulham, and West Ham United, among other clubs, Abrahams works quietly, behind the scenes with the top coaches and players from top EPL clubs. Working with professional players provides invaluable insight which can also help American youth soccer player. Here is Abrahams’ advice for being your best on the field.
So here we go again. The soccer season in England has kicked off – the adrenaline is coursing through the veins of all of us involved in the beautiful game over here. It’s destined to be 9 months of heaven and hell, of pure pleasure and pitiful purgatory.
The soccer season for any player in any team in any league around the world is an emotional rollercoaster ride. I guess that’s, in part, why we love it so much.
In soccer, how can you have the highest of highs without the lowest of lows?
The defeats, the bad games, the poor moments make the wins, the great game and the best moments that much sweeter.
But as a soccer player your job is to strive to manage the emotions you experience as you train and as you play. It’s tough to do – so here’s my three point plan to help you do so:
Aware – You wanna get better at managing your destructive emotions on the pitch? Then you’re gonna have to catch them fast. Anger, frustration and despondency are silent killers in soccer. They prevent you from seeing the whole pitch, they stop you from making great decisions.
They can sap your energy and most damaging of all they can distract you away from playing your normal game. But you’ve got a catch ‘em quick if you’re going to cut them off.
You can only do this if you’re aware of them. The best way to improve your emotional awareness on the pitch is to set a goal to notice any destructive emotions you might have before you actually play. Most soccer players, if they set goals at all, do so for their performance. I’d like you to set a goal to spot the emotions you experience as you compete.
By improving your ability to notice your unfolding emotions as you play, so you give yourself a better chance to manage the challenges that are thrown at.
Anticipate – It was the great basketball coach Mike Kryzrzewski who helped his players improve their in-game focus by insisting on reinforcing a ‘next play’ mentality. This is an incredibly effective way to manage any negative emotions on the pitch that you may have.
Having a ‘next play’ or a ‘what next’ mentality is akin to focusing your mind on anticipating the next couple of seconds. And this is how great players play. The Barcelona midfielder Iniesta said this of his team mate Xavi Hernandes “Xavi plays in the future’.
This means he was constantly focused on the next couple of seconds – he was constantly anticipating how play was going to unfold. By doing so, not only could he play quicker than most midfield players, he could also manage his emotions. His emotions weren’t tied to past mistakes or poor periods of play.
Action – The final process I’d like you to engage in is to take action. Once you’ve spotted a negative emotion and shifted your focus onto the next few seconds of play, then it’s time to completely squash any destructive emotion by doing something….anything!
Move, stand tall, make a positive gesture, communicate with team mates, go get the ball back, check your position…just do something. Something positive!
Positive action is the enemy of emotion. It cools the emotional brain, and focuses your mind on the task at hand.
And interestingly, if you do have any pent up energy running through your physical self … then using this energy on taking positive action is a useful thing to do. It can help you and it can empower you.
Related Articles: Dan Abrahams on SoccerToday