“Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success, it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure, and the temporary failures.” Vince Lombardi
The best skills in the world aren’t valuable if athletes can’t perform in when it matters most – in competition. Two player with very similar skills and training can perform drastically different when faced with high-pressure situations. Why?
Research on football psychology shows that it’s all in the way you initially respond to stress.
The initial response to stress occurs unconsciously and automatically based on your initial rapid evaluation of the situation. Some player are able to respond in a manner that helps their performance, known as a challenge state. But, others enter into a threat state, which hinders their performance.
Any athlete performing at a high level has to learn how to effectively deal with performance anxiety. Without moderate anxiety it is difficult to compete optimally in football.
According to the sport psychologists for football, performance increases with pressure but only up to a point, after that football confidence and performance rapidly deteriorates and we start making mistakes.
How to get better at managing pressure and coping with football mental challenges:
Optimize anxiety: Become more conscious of the effect your anxieties have on you. Use positive posture and body language as well as draw on ‘labeling’ techniques to control anxiety by associating these former negative thoughts and feelings as positives. For example, you can learn to recognize your increased heart rate as a positive sign that you are ready for competition. Practicing under stress can help you feel comfortable in such stressful situations.
Reframe perspective: People with performance anxiety tend to be overly focused on outcomes. Pressure starts to build when the stakes become higher and instead of focusing on what you are trying to do, you tend to focus more on the outcome itself – winning or losing. Try and slow things down and use metaphors so greater focus is on the process rather than the outcome goal.
Use dominant positive thinking: Instead of using negative language which lacks direction and can become white noise, use productive language. This helps recognize what you do well and reinforces positive behavior using ‘how to language’. Try to ignore ineffective behavior and give extra focus on correct behavior you want to encourage (e.g., talk about out it, write it down, celebrate, and store it). When under pressure these positive behaviors and feelings will then be the ‘default setting’ rather than ignoring when things are going well and throwing a tantrum when things go wrong.
Successful players are able to thrive because they enter into high pressure situations in a challenge state. The good news is, we all have the ability to control our football mind.
We just need to understand and apply the proper techniques and strategies to help us all become winners.
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