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“Confidence takes constant nurturing. Like a bed, it must be remade everyday.”
So says the great soccer player Mia Hamm. I think she’s right. Confidence is an every day thing. It’s an every week and an every month thing.
I feel that many soccer players (and soccer coaches and parents as well) think that confidence is some magical, mystical thing. They think that it can’t be nurtured and it can’t be worked on intentionally. They think it’s something you either have you you don’t! In my opinion they’re wrong! Confidence can be worked on. It just takes time and effort. It must be worked on constantly, it must be an every day thing.
Here are three simple steps to help you develop confidence:
1. Use your memory. Possibly my number one tool for developing confidence is to take time out every day to remind yourself of you at your best. This should comprise your personal highlights. You might include games you’ve played well in, or training sessions when you’ve been on fire.
Whatever you include in your daily reel of inner images, make sure you make your mental movie big and bold and bright. Enhance your images by asking yourself these questions:
“What does my very best look like?”
“What does my very best feel like?”
“What do others see when I play at my very best?”
2. Just as it’s important to exercise your memory, it’s vital to use your imagination. I’d like you to take time every day to picture your dream game. And when I say ‘dream game’, I don’t just mean you at your best, I mean you surpassing your best. I mean you being quicker and stronger. I mean you showing Lloyd-like ball control, Neuer-like bravery in goal or Ramos-style defending.
“What does 10/10 look like? Feel like? What does 12/10 look like? Feel like?”
This is your opportunity to make your images unrealistic. It’s your chance to feed your brain a mental map of excellence that surpasses your current game. By doing so you create a blueprint on your mind to strive for. Don’t sweat the bad moments, the mistakes made so much. Focus your mind securely on the future standard you want for your game.
3. Finally, the third tool in my confidence toolbox is perception!
Mistakes WILL happen. You WILL have bad games. You WILL PROBABLY get dropped at some point. You MAY get injured. Bad stuff happens in soccer, it’s inevitable, and that’s ok. Accept the tough times, the bad games, the hairy moments. Be patient. Be persistent. Learn from them, but don’t dwell on them.
“I know I’ll make mistakes…that’s ok. I may be slightly disappointed when I do, but my job is to carry on playing, to carry on working at my game, to carry on getting the most from my ability”.
Great soccer players are, in part, great because they accept the rough with the smooth. They accept that along their soccer journey there will be some tough times. That’s part and parcel of striving to find out just how good you can be in the game we love so much.
Do you recognise something familiar about this article? That’s right! The three tools (or steps) I talk about in this article I elaborate on in my first soccer book “Soccer Tough”. Memory, imagination and perception are, what I call, my three most important tools in my toolbox as a sport psychologist. If you’d like to know more about them check out my books and my Online Academy.