Dan Abrahams is a global sport psychologist helping people to high perform. Dan’s book "Soccer Tough 2: Advanced Psychology Techniques for Footballers" introduces soccer players to more cutting edge tools and techniques to help them develop the game of their dreams.
Champions in any sport never ease up. They are never satisfied. They are hungry for more, in fact they are ravenous. Their appetite isn’t just for success – that plays a part, that’s the end goal in mind. Actually, champions are fully focused on constantly improving their skills. They are always trying to learn and become better.
In the 1960s psychologists documented the three stages of the learning someone goes through when developing a new skill:
Stage 1 = the ‘cognitive’ phase (this is when you have to really think about what you’re doing while you do it)
Stage 2 = the ‘associative’ phase (this is when things become a little more natural, with fewer errors)
Stage 3 = the ‘autonomous’ phase (this is when things happen naturally without having to think about the move)
Now let me introduce you to the mindset that stops players’ developing, breaking down barriers and reaching the next level. This mentality is called the ‘good’ plateau. The ‘good’ plateau is when a player says “Hey I’m pretty good at this skill” and then withdraws her attention from that specific skill. She stops trying to improve it.
“I’m good at shooting; I don’t have to worry about it so much now.”
“I’m good at coming for the ball on crosses, I’ve got it mastered.”
Let me tell you a performance secret that the gold medal winners know – you’ve never got any skill mastered. You are never good enough. You can always get better. You can always improve.
Champions are champions because they never let good get in the way of great. I see this kind of attitude – the good getting in the way of great all the time as I work with soccer players at all age groups and at every level.
A goalkeeper who is a good shot stopper doesn’t work hard enough or effectively enough to become great! The defender who is a good header of the ball doesn’t practice her heading to become a great defensive header of the ball.
This mentality is all too common. Good players relax too much and don’t become great. Good players become too comfortable and too content and don’t strive for great.
Never ever let yourself settle in the autonomous phase. You can’t get better with no thought, you can’t get better on autopilot. Always stay in the learning zone as you train. Too do this, climb out of your comfort zone and try something new, something harder, something tougher to achieve. That’s what soccer psychology is all about. Stretch, stretch, stretch!
It might require you to practice taking shots under pressure. It might need one or two players closing you down quickly. In conjunction with this you may narrow your target by creating a smaller goal. You might also make it tougher for yourself by having balls pinged into your feet at pace. One touch then booooom…..
The amount of time I see shooting practice without any pressure infuriates me. That’s slipping into the ‘good’ plateau, and to my mind that actually isn’t good enough. Coaches and players need to create practice protocols and training drills that stretch players to the max – that take them out of their comfort zones.
There are things players in every position can do to get better.
A goalkeeper can ask a player to deliver whipped-in balls towards the danger area so he can practice taking tough-to-catch crosses. Asking a third player to act as a striker to add physical and mental pressure on the catch allows the goalkeeper to sharpen his skills. He can go beyond the ‘good’ plateau.
What do you need to do to stretch your game – to go out of your comfort zone? What extra training do you have to engage in to go beyond the ‘good’ zone and into the arena of ‘great’?
Get more from Dan at www.DanAbrahams.com.