For over 10 years of my soccer career, I have been afraid of so many things that ruined my performance.
Today I am going to share with you few tips on how you can overcome your fear in soccer and be the player you always dream to be.
To overcome your fear in soccer first you need to define your fear. Then practice exercising to deal with your fear by- meditation, visualization, autosuggestion,talking about your fear, and getting help from your teammates and coach.
But let’s face it! No matter we are children, youth, adults, men, women, beginners or advanced… at the end of the day we all have the biological design of experiencing fear. And it is that fear is one of our main survival mechanisms .
What is fear in soccer?
First I want to start by giving a definition of fear: it is the reaction that appears in the face of danger, and this can be figurative or real.
It is an emotional reaction and in the specific case of the Soccer player, it is a fear of failure or defeats for not achieving the proposed objectives, whether personal or team.
Common fears in soccer
- Sometimes the fear is about participating in an important competition like a crucial league match or the elimination round of a cup.
- Others, it may be because of the overwhelming talent of the opposing team’s players who are characterized by having consistently good games.
- Or perhaps for taking responsibility for executing a play that can change the course of the game such as saving a penalty or taking a decisive free-kick.
The fear paralyzes and in the capacity that we have to overcome it, it will be in the measure in which we will be successful.
By this, I do not mean that facing our fears is an easy task.
To begin with we must be aware of recognizing the emotion of fear; when and where it appears, so that we can act and face it.
Fear, as I said before, paralyzes the person (and is not always associated with a bad previous experience), but to be more aware of the commitment of action.
Parents, guardians, coaches have great power in teaching children to take risks, without FEAR comes in their mind.
95% of fears are emotional fears, which means that they are created by our minds and therefore we give them that power to maintain and even grow, as well as to set our limits.
We will carry out three levels of action:
1- Acknowledge it: Define your fear:
“I’m afraid to go out and play”
The player thinks:
- what if I have a bad pass and the opponent scores;
- what if I don’t play well and in the next game I am on the bench;
- what if I get nervous when I take a penalty;
- what if I don’t play well and then my father scolds me? Etc…
2-To overcome- analyze your fear .
We need to ask ourselves:
- what is the best thing that can happen?
- If I am focused, attentive, happy, and play with effort and passion, I don’t have to fear anything.
- And what is the worst thing that can happen to me?
My mistakes today will be corrected for the next meeting and I will gain experience.
With this second level, we have to focus on “what can happen”, which is the opposite of being afraid, with that confidence you add to what “the best can happen”.
In our need to eliminate fears and keep them well away, we will make use of the third level.
3-Modify your experience:
We will make a mental image remembering the first time we felt fear and what was its end.
Then we will create a new situation in which the end is effective.
This new situation must be taken into account and repeated constantly, to create confidence, eliminate fears, and strengthen tools to be used in front of a situation, thus overcoming your limits in front of fear.
Best methods to overcome your mental fear in soccer
There are other factors that intensify our sensations and lead us to states of stress and constant pressure and we cannot ignore them in order to solve our difficulty.
It becomes really intimidating to play in a crowded rival stadium, right?
Everyone feels that. Even the greatest ones.
So if we can’t help it, what can we do to lessen its influence?
- Eliminate self-doubt through exercise
- Mental preparation for the upcoming game
- Relive the successful games again
- Learn it from the best
- Meditation as a way to deal with nervousness.
- Positive thinking.
Eliminate self doubt through exercise
So what is self-doubt? When it comes to football, this is a huge omission in our system of training athletes, in which often, while developing physical qualities, we completely forget about mental ones.
And if during a match our players experience trembling knees, we must radically change the routine of training.
Each exercise should affect both the development of physical and mental qualities equally.
Tip: One of the most significant methods is – memorizing successful games and writing down your reactions to them. Learning to evoke these feelings in yourself before each game in the future is the key to success.
Mental preparation for the upcoming game
Physical warm-up before any game is a common thing, but almost nobody remembers the psychological preparation for the game.
Wayne Rooney during his Manchester united period,once said, he used to ask the stuff about the formation of the game and go back his room to imagine how will he be playing tomorrow.
I always felt like something is running inside my stomach the day before the match. Most of the time I used to try to ignore and not to face those thoughts.
That’s a wrong approach. You should always face it and analyze why you are worrying. That’s the way it is. SELF TALK!
Visualization is a very important tool to stay focused. If you are playing against a big team you need to visualize exactly how you are playing that day.
Do it over and over specially before the match. Also watch all the situations over and over like a movie in your mind and watch how you are easily overcoming those situations.
After repeating this exercise regularly you will be blown away seeing the results.
Arjen Robben said after the Champions League final match against Dortmund that he visualizes the night before that he was scoring the goal and winning the match for Bayern.
Guess what! he did it.
Re-live the successful games again
After each successful game, try to reproduce everything that happened as soon as possible.
It is very important to do this in a quiet place, to try to remember all events and actions in every detail.
Write down your feelings in a notebook. Reproduce the experienced sensations as often as possible.
You can sit in a chair, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths to start meditating. Now, go back to the match and collect all the successful scenes.
Learn it from the best
Many well-known players regularly review the matches of their idols (mostly playing in the same position), so that later, when they go out on the field, “try on their boots”.
Daniel Sturridge once said he used to review Maradona’s game video before going for the match.
It helps you to play and imitate exactly how your idol player had done successfully in his game.
The following exercise helps you to use this method more effectively:
- After reviewing the cuts of the players in your position, write out 3 of their strongest qualities.
- Reflect on questions: what makes him who he is?
- What strengths does he have that you lack?
- How does it work when the team is in possession (defending)? What psychological qualities does he possess?
Meditation as a way to deal with nervousness.
It is the increased heart rate before matches that creates knee tremors and other unpleasant sensations.
But nervousness is not that bad for you. It makes you ready for the game.
Nervousness indicates that our body is ready, this is a simple circulation of adrenaline through the body, nothing more.
We cannot overcome our body, so if you are feeling anxious then so be it.
Tip: Try abdominal breathing. Take each breath deeply and release for 10 seconds.
“Today is not my day, I will try at the next game.” Sound familiar?
Great players do not give up until the last seconds.
Those thoughts can come but you need to replace these thoughts with the positive ones.
Tip: Practice autosuggestion more often. When a negative thought comes terminate and replace it with positive thought.
Like if your mind says, i can’t do it. Say (even loudly) I believe i can do it!
How to overcome fear of tackling?
It will vanish fast with the experience of being tackled a number of times on the soccer field and by getting recovered after it. Also do not forget wearing shin-guards.
How to overcome the fear of being hit by a soccer ball?
Do not close your eyes before heading, practice heading the ball with your forehead and mentally prepare to take some hits.
Many times an athlete does not progress or abandons, not because he does not have qualities or talent for that sport, but because the excess of fear blocks him and he could not advance and therefore prevents him from being happy.
Now, if in case, you suffer from episodes of terror, your situation probably requires the attention of a specialist since these suggestions that I make only contemplate the fear that arises naturally in our day to day life.