What makes a great soccer player great? Is it just talent? Well, of course it isn’t!
A player obviously has to have talent to move up to the higher levels, but the mental side of the game is just as important when it comes to performance on the field. There are many examples of great talents never reaching their full potential simply because they never focused on the mental side of the game. This is what every player should aim to avoid as they are developing the other parts of their game.
It used to be that the most talented players would be recognized regardless of how hard they worked, but that is starting to change. Players like Liverpool’s James Milner, who are known for working harder than most other players, are now seen as core parts of their teams because all they do is add to their team's chemistry.
There is no such thing as a “perfect” soccer player, so you should not aim to be perfect. Soccer would be boring if everyone played perfectly, so you shouldn’t want that anyways. Instead, you should practice hard at both the physical and the mental side of the game to up your chances of doing the right thing during game situations.
Why do Players Lose Focus?
Before we get into how you can improve your mental approach to the game, it’s important to go over why players lose their focus in the first place. Knowing where these issues originate is the easiest way to fix them and become a better soccer player.
What’s interesting is that many players have negative mentalities all the way through their development, but they never realize it because they happened to be on good teams and/or no one ever pointed it out to them. Once these players reach higher levels, they put more pressure on themselves and allow mistakes to affect every other part of their game.
Other soccer players simply try to do too much and get frustrated when everything doesn’t work out perfectly. Watch any game and you will see at least one player who allows a mistake to impact how they play for at least the next couple of minutes.
Another common reason why players lose focus while on the pitch is because they disagree with a referee’s call. You might know that you did not commit a penalty of any kind, but the referee saw it a different way. Players at every level can have their entire game thrown off by one call that they don’t agree with, but the truth is that it is their fault for not being more composed.
Gaining a Stronger Mentality
One of the easiest ways to be a mentally tougher player is to visualize everything that can go right or wrong in a game. When you take the time to go through each of these events and prepare for them, you have a much higher chance of reacting like a winner in real game situations.
Imagine a referee makes a bad call that took away a goal from your team. It is one of the most frustrating things a player can go through, and there is a right and wrong way to react to it. Rather than allowing that bad call to bring you down, be the better player by playing even harder. That mental toughness often spreads throughout a team and greatly ups their chances of playing a better game.
Another way to have a winner’s mentality in soccer is to see the passes that you are going to make before you make them. Players like David Silva of Manchester City seem to know where players are going to move before they do, which gives them a huge advantage over their opponents. This type of skill comes from a lot of mental training, which can make your physical talents shine.
Be Patient as You Develop the Mental Side of Your Game
It’s important to know that becoming a mentally strong player does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of work to slow the game down to the point where you can consistently make good decisions, so plan on working very hard to make that happen. This is especially true when you are learning the basics of the game.
All of the work that you put into becoming a more complete soccer player can pay off in every aspect of your life. You learn to analyze things and understand the pros and the cons in the blink of an eye, which will make you more confident in the decisions that you ultimately make.
Check out our article 5 Players Who have Mastered the Art of Dribbling
|More on Perfect Soccer...