Learning to Apply Psychology

This article was originally posted at DanAbrahams.com and is a guest post to Dan's blog. Read the Original Post. 

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. 

Read Dan's latest article, "Gaining Player Trust," in Best of Amplified Soccer Training Volume 1.

It’s always great to here from coaches on twitter – to learn from them and to give them the opportunity to tell their story. Here is a great little narrative from Irish coach Phil Kirby on what he learnt from his coaching job. Funnily enough, he knows he should have used more football psychology. Here’s his story:

When I first started coaching football some years ago sport psychology wasn’t something that would have sprung to mind for why I chose to take up helping young footballers to improve their soccer. But now that I reflect and look back, my decision to get involved in was without doubt intrinsically linked with my decision to step in with a wonderful local club.

My Coaching Journey – A Tough Start!

I was working as a qualified electrician in Ireland when the doom and gloom of the global recession kicked in. Full time went to part time, which in turn turned to sporadic days here and there where I was required to work. Tough times!

So what has that got to do with sport psychology you might ask? In a nutshell, I was bored at home and my mind needed stimulation. In many ways coaching a local team was my form of therapy…my form of football psychology that positively impacted on my life.

I have always loved football and had played football myself – although I never quite reached the dizzying heights of anything other than a local lower county division and mostly B teams as a school boy.

A great friend of mine who is now a ‘super coach’ started at the same time as me (He too an out of work tradesmen) with our local grassroots club. The club couldn’t have been any more welcoming to us having both played schoolboy football – they knew our character and we were a welcome addition to the coaching team.

So having done some coaching badges and gained lots of hands on experience with my local club I continued to try and grow as a coach but, I must admit, at the time, sport psychology was never near the top of my agenda. I can honestly say I hadn’t a clue about it.

However, the more and more I got into coaching the more and more I started reading books and websites dedicated to my new found passion. I would try to come up with different sessions as often as I could for my young players. And at the time I felt these traditional training session were enough to give them the competitive edge in games.

But I was wrong!

We would continuously finish second to another local team. We usually went our whole season unbeaten bar these two games against this local Rival!! Why?? What was their edge?? I couldn’t understand given that their players weren’t better than mine? If anything I would say that I had the better team or at least a team on par with them. But time after time they would beat us or we would draw with them and lose out on the league by a small margin.

Answers Elsewhere – Football Psychology

When I reflect on those coaching times I remember vital clues that I missed related to player confidence. The look of concern here, the look of fear there. The quiet conversations in the corner of the changing room that demonstrated a lack of certainty.

Having read Soccer Tough and several other publications on sport psychology, I now know I missed a massive topic to use within my coaching sessions. I believe I neglected an important part of training and that is to help players develop self-belief and belief in each other. The earlier you put this into practice the sooner you reap the rewards.

If I could serve my time again I would have used simple visualization techniques and perhaps cue words for the players to remain focussed under pressure. I would have helped them develop what Dan Abrahams calls a match script.

Pressure is something we all feel differently so I could have explored with the players how they feel in these big game situations and could have given them exercises to do, Like focusing on what they do well, what their strengths are…their best moments and their dream performances. I could have tapped their imagination and helped them envision a brand of play that inspired and motivated them.

Would these differeces have guaranteed better results and quicker development of my players? No! But I think using soccer psychology with my players would have helped them have more fun. I think it could have given me a better opportunity to help them become better players – as individuals and as team mates!

Phil can be found on Twitter (tweeting some great advice to coaches) here: https://twitter.com/coachesfriend1


Dan Abrahams

Dan Abrahams is a global sport psychologist who works alongside some of the leading players, teams, coaches and organisations in the world. He is known for his passion and ability to de-mystify sport psychology, as well as his talent for creating easy to understand and simple to use techniques and performance philosophies. A former professional golfer and PGA golf coach Dan has a First Class Honours degree in psychology and Masters degree in sport psychology. Academically he is visiting lecturer at several universities and he holds registration with the HCPC (meaning he is legally safe to practice as a psychologist). Dan works in all sport but specialises in football/soccer and golf. He is Lead Psychologist for England Golf and he works with players from leading amateur through to Tour players. In football/soccer psychology he is regarded as a leader in the field. He has some of the leading turnaround case studies in Premier League history and he has written two international bestselling books. One of these books, Soccer Tough, has been heralded one of the most important books in football. He currently works with players, teams and organisations across 'Planet Football.' Dan also works in the Corporate Sector delivering his sport psychology techniques and philosophies to individuals and groups.