The Powerful Mental Techniques Ronaldo Uses

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Have you ever taken time to think about the mindset you want in your next match?

And when I say think…I mean REALLY think. I mean REALLY REALLY think.


This article was originally posted at DanAbrahams.com.

I’d like you to use your imagination. I’d like you to close your eyes and visualise yourself entering the mind and body of Ronaldo. But in doing so I don’t want you to pick any old game or training session as Ronaldo. I want you to project an image of yourself as Ronaldo on 11th April 2018, playing against Juventus in the semi final of the Champions League. And I don’t want you envisage making one of his marauding runs, or skilful plays that leave the opposition for dead. I want you to put yourself in the 97th minute of that game. Right at the bitter end. And I don’t even want you to think about playing soccer. I just want you to think about a cool, calm and clear mind coupled with a relaxed body…under the most intense pressure…

…because this is where Ronaldo was striving to put himself after Real Madrid were awarded a penalty with the last kick of the game. This is the mental state and bodily sensation Ronaldo was trying to climb into as pandemonium ensued all around him.

Put yourself there. You have the ball in your hands. Chaos crackling all around you. As soon as the referee had pointed to the spot your brain and nervous system went into overdrive. Your heart rate surged. Your stomach instantly started to churn. Your mind unlocked a series of images…some good, some bad. Some exciting, some fear mongering. Your brain and body realised this: the match now belonged to you. If you were to score Real Madrid would go through to the final. If you miss…

So where was Ronaldo when those Juventus players crowded the referee in protest at the last gasp penalty decision? Where was Ronaldo when some of the Juventus players tried to damage the penalty spot…the spot that was about to influence the destiny of every player on that pitch? Let me tell you where he was…

He was self-talk. He was body language. He was self-talk. He was body language…

He was ripping through the nerves by talking to himself helpfully, positively and constructively. He was shredding the fear by taking breaths, by holding himself to attention, and by keeping himself away from the distractions that surrounded him. He refused to look. He refused to engage in the emotion that encircled him.

Eyes forward, eyes down, eyes away. Juventus had nothing to do with him now. Focus on the spot. Focus on the ball. Focus on a great strike. “I’ve done it thousands of times before. It’s simple. Just a great strike. Just the sweet sound of the ball impacting the net.”

Because that is what pressure performance is. It’s a cocktail of great self-talk and body language. By combining the two Ronaldo managed to keep his attention on him and what he wanted to do. He managed to keep his attention on the now…and if it did wander to the immediate future, then on a successful outcome alone. Nothing else. Nothing beyond that!

And that is something every soccer player can learn. I’m going to say that again because it’s so important for your players to learn and to know if you’re a coach. It’s vital for your young player to understand if you’re a soccer parent. It’s a critical essential for you to know, to embrace and to deliver on if you’re a player.

Every soccer player can use self-talk and body language to perform under pressure and to high perform more consistently.

Not every player can play soccer like Ronaldo. And that’s ok. But every soccer player can develop the same mindset he has. Every soccer player can talk to him or herself like Ronaldo. Every soccer player can hold his or her body language in the same way Ronaldo does. Every soccer player can manage their heart rate and blood pressure like Ronaldo. Every soccer player can direct their focus of attention like Ronaldo.

Every soccer player can use self-talk and body language to perform under pressure and to high perform more consistently.

But the key is you have to take the mental side of the game as seriously as Ronaldo takes it. Because to watch him manage his mindset as every single player around him lost their head…well, it’s an overt demonstration of one of the things that separates him from everyone else.

And alongside a willingness to train your brain you have to have the basic techniques to be able to think like him and have the same mental competencies as him. That’s why I’m so passionate about players learning to have a Game Face, to use a Match Script, to take advantage of Controllers and to Squash ANTs. That’s why I’m so excited when I get to help players compete in their HPM, to draw up Training Scripts, to Raise their Matchday Bars and to develop their Soccer Image.

And that is what I want for you, whether you’re a soccer player, a soccer coach or a soccer parent.


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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.