DAN ABRAHAMS ON THE INVISIBLE TATTOOS OF SOCCER PLAYERS
Soccer Coaches: Help Your Players Feel Certain and Feel Great
SoccerToday’s columnist Dan Abrahams shares his insights and advice for success on the soccer field for players of all ages. A global sport psychologist and author specializing in soccer, Abrahams is based in England and works with professional soccer players in the English Premier League (EPL).
Abrahams has helped hundreds of soccer players – many of them who play in the English Premier League (EPL) and others who play across Europe. A recent example of his work includes helping Yannick Bolasie make an enormous impact on the EPL for Crystal Palace. Abrahams has held contracts with QPR, Fulham, and West Ham among other clubs and works quietly, behind the scenes with many coaches from top clubs across Europe.
Having lingered around lots of EPL clubs for the past decade and consulted with hundreds of professional soccer players throughout Europe, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in modern day body art. I don’t have any tattoos myself, but I’m struggling to think of a client who doesn’t have a picture or pattern meaningfully sculpted onto an arm, chest or limb. Art in soccer comes in two forms it seems – quick feet and decorative body designs.
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I ask managers and coaches who want to improve their relationships with their team and want to get better results to agonize over the body art of their players. No, not the visible lions, tigers and tessellations that overtly appear on shoulder, hip and back.
I want youth soccer coaches — an ELP soccer coaches — to imagine that every players has two invisible tattoos – one on the forehead and one resting on the chest above the heart. And I want them to adhere to the message these tattoos spell out:
‘Help me feel certain’, ‘Help me feel great’
I want coaches to envisage a tattoo on the forehead of every player saying “Help me feel certain.” Because certainty is your rod and staff as a coach. Certainty, as a branch of confidence, is the sleep easy mind medicine that players need to believe in themselves and believe in you.
How do you give them certainty? Simple – be a great coach. Be a great technical coach, a great tactical coach and a great coach of skill. How many coaches lose the changing room because they are poor at the fundamentals? A lot!
How many coaches lose the changing room because they fail to take a player on a journey of individual development? Even more! If you want to help players feel ‘certain’ then co-create an individual development program with them.
Give soccer players a vision of excellence then guide them there. Lead them there.
Great soccer coached who develop players accompany them on this journey to success. Be with them every step of the way.
A striker wants to score more goals – sit down with him or her and help them develop the tools to deliver. A defender wants to be better in his or her role – develop solutions that will ease the pain of ordinary. Show them the extraordinary and take those steps with them.
That is how you create certainty.
I want coaches to visualize a tattoo on the chest above the heart that says “Help me feel great”. Because great soccer requires feeling great. So does great golf and great football, and great baseball and great basketball and great tennis and great cycling and great rowing…..shall I go on?
Help players feel great by learning the soft skills that foster deep relationships. Care for them. Be person centered.
This means you — as a coach — need to become world class with your communication.
Know how to praise and what to praise, know how to correct and when to correct.
Coaches need to know about them and when to approach them. If body follows brain, then soccer follows people. You are not a coach of soccer, you are a coach, first and foremost, of people. When your people skills shine then you give permission for the soccer to shine.
Help your players feel certain. Help your players feel great. Be soft to create the toughness they need. Care for them and the soccer will take care of itself.
Dan Abrahams is a global sport psychologist specializing in soccer. He is based in England and has some of the leading turn-around stories and case studies in English Premier League history.
Abrahams is sought after by players, coaches and managers across Europe and his 2 soccer psychology books are international bestsellers. He is formerly a professional golfer, is Lead Psychologist for England Golf and he holds a degree in psychology and masters degree in sport psychology.