Dan Abrahams On the Importance of Emotional Control and Learning Life Skills in Soccer – Part 2
A global sport psychologist and author specializing in soccer, Dan Abrahams is based in England and has helped hundreds of professional soccer players – many of them who play in the English Premier League (EPL).
Recently helping a Crystal Palace player succeed on the field, Abrahams has held contracts with QPR, Fulham, and West Ham United among other clubs and works quietly, behind the scenes with many coaches from top clubs across the Atlantic. Abrahams is a columnist for SoccerToday and wants to share his expertise on player development with our readers — Here is important info on how to mentally manage yourself for development on and off the pitch.
Soccer is like life. It’s competitive. Sometimes you feel you’re on the front foot, other times fixed firmly on the back.
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
Freedom is more appropriate than fear, but occasionally your anxiety gets the better of you. It’s great when it’s fun, but it’s unrealistic to think it will always be so.
In the last article, I examined the relationship between life skills and soccer. I discussed the similarities between everyday focus and concentration on the pitch. I introduced techniques that soccer players of all ages can use to raise their self-belief and confidence on and off the pitch.
The skills relevant to life and soccer interlink. In this article I’m going to introduce one more crossover mental skill that is a critical essential for life as well as for soccer.
Soccer Players – The Importance of Emotional Control
Soccer is an emotional game. Whether it’s fear, frustration, anger, anxiety or despondency that a soccer player feels, all can impact in a negative manner.
On the soccer pitch, unmanaged emotions can be destructive.
Destructive because they damage the intelligent, front part of our brain. This is the part that sets goals. “I want to tackle my opponent” comes from this area. Pattern recognition is also a job of the front brain — seeing the play in front of you and acting appropriately in accordance with tactical understanding.
Awareness and decision making are functions of the front brain – seeing and deciding, seeing and doing are quite important on the soccer pitch.
Perhaps most importantly, the front brain is the area of the brain that regulates our emotions. It’s the part that, when a footballer senses an emotion, enables the player to do something about that emotion.
Emotions MUST be managed as the game progresses.
He or she can choose to manage the internal experience they are feeling. Without that capacity a player will play from one minute to the next in a state of over-emotion. Awareness lessens and decision making suffers. Muscles tighten and fundamental skills start to fail.
This isn’t dissimilar to your everyday life. A person engulfed in emotion fires the middle brain. Rationality disappears and a sense of intelligence can be lost. Anger and frustration can drown out the sensible and reasonable. Despondency can sink the logical. The balanced, cogent front brain is nowhere to be seen.
Let me give you an example of when this happens in our everyday lives.
At work, school or college when you have to deliver a presentation, yet are crippled by fear. With a front-brain that’s shut down, you forget your lines or the points you wanted to make.
You say thins half-heartedly and when questioned you struggle to find the answer that ordinarily would come to you with ease. The front brain really is a powerful bit of kit.
So how do you keep that front brain switched on and managing your emotions?
There are so many ways – many of which I highlight in my books and in my online Soccer Academy.
On the soccer pitch, when it comes to anger and frustration I recommend you take the attitude of using it or losing it. By that I mean, appropriately directing the energy you feel from anger and frustration.
“I’m feeling really angry right now. That’s great news, it means I’ve got a lot of energy inside of me. Let’s focus on my role and responsibilities. Get on my toes and start using this energy appropriately”
On the soccer pitch you get to choose exactly what you want to do with your emotion. Use it or lose it.
If losing it is appropriate, use your self-talk to calm yourself down:
“Ok, I’m getting really frustrated right now and it’s not helping me. Calm down and focus. Calm down and focus. Calm down and focus. Get my head back in the game, focus on my plays and start being effective for the team”
In your everyday life body language is a really effective way of keeping your front brain switched on and managing yourself.
When you walk into your presentation do so with confidence. Act like you’re full of belief.
As much as your psychology affect and impact your physiology, so your physiology influences your psychology. By being confident and by doing confidence you will portray confidence.
You will give others confidence in you. This will further inject your own personal sense of confidence.
The front brain is heavily influenced by how you hold yourself. By how you portray yourself to others. By how you manage yourself in the moment. If you want the capacity to use this tiny but powerful part of the brain in soccer and in life you have to take charge of you in the moment.
You have to choose to use or lose the motion. You have to use techniques like your body language, your self-talk and your attention resources.
Related Articles: Dan Abrahams on SoccerToday
Originally published on March 9th, 2016