By Dan Abrahams, a global sport psychologist helping people to high perform. Dan’s recently released "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.
We all know that feeling…there’s five minutes to go and you’re one-nil down. Now’s the time to throw caution to the wind. Now’s the time to put your foot on the accelerator. Now’s the time to play front foot soccer.
And we all know the reverse feeling…there’s five minutes to go and you’re one-nil up. Now’s the time to play conservatively. Now’s the time to retain possession. Now’s the time to tighten up the team shape.
Without a doubt there is some value in dwelling on the score and acting on it during certain periods of the game. The last five minutes is one such time when players and team should be driven by the game’s scoreboard standing.
But here’s a paradoxical notion for you that I wholeheartedly believe in. Soccer is all about the score…and that is why it is preferable to ignore it. Sounds weird, right? But I firmly believe the quickest and fastest way for you to develop a winner’s mindset is to ignore the score as you compete. Doing so lends itself to an optimal mindset. So let me tell you why.
I argue the case for not dwelling on the score as you compete on the pitch because the score is one of the primary stressors as you play. Thinking about the score as you perform can cause a stress response. If you’re losing you can become despondent or angry, worried or fearful. If you’re winning you can become complacent or tentative. Trust me…the score is a killer…focusing on it or thinking about it as you compete can be destructive.
This isn’t particular to one single sport – it isn’t particular to soccer. A golfer who focuses on being under par can become steer-driven in an attempt at trying to avoid dropping shots. A tennis player who is thinking about being a break down can become angry – muscles tightened, coordination lost, intelligence squashed. A basketball player who dwells on being twenty points down going into the fourth quarter can become anxious about losing destroying awareness, anticipation and attention.
The key to managing your brain’s innate wish for certainty (and subsequent focus on the score) is to quiet it. Find out how to do that in the rest of Dan's article and get more training resources in the March 2016 issue of Amplified Soccer Athlete magazine.