Playing soccer with your head doesn’t mean going into the air and heading the ball into or away from the goal. Playing with your head means that you are mentally ready to play for the entire match and that you can get into your opponents head and make them play at a lower level than they are capable. That’s soccer psychology.
Players on the pitch must bring their best game to the match. This includes being physically fit, capable of performing at the level they are playing at and mentally prepared to play the match. During a match, mistakes are going to happen, shots and passes will go awry, tackles will be missed. It is up to the player to put the mistakes behind them and continue on with play as if nothing has happened. This ability that enables the player to minimize the mistakes made during a match is what separates mediocre players from good players.
To play at this highest level, individual players must recognize their strong and weak points are during play. It is incumbent that the individual players perform during the match and emphasize the strong points while minimizing the weak points. Once a player dwells on a mistake made by the exposure of their weak points, that player will begin to press and overcompensate for the weak points. This pressing or over extension will further expose the weak points of their game and produce further mistakes and the level of their play will be reduced.
Contrary to many parent’s concepts, soccer is a physical game. Soccer players are routinely kicked, pushed, pulled, slid into and generally manhandled. The referee will be on the pitch to insure that this physical activity is within the rules of “fair play”, however there is still plenty of fair physical contact. It is up to the player to mentally prepare for this physical contact. If a player is consistently subject to discreet shirt pulling or shoulder charges, that player must put the physical play out of their mind and continue to play. Few things provide a mental boost than to be fouled, continue on with the ball and hear the referee shout out “play on”.
Defensive players will utilize any tactic to take the offensive player out of a match. The better defensive players will utilize both physical play and psychology to minimize the effect of a skilled offensive player. During one state high school tournament, blue was playing against white. Blue had a highly skilled and dangerous striker. White had no individual defensive player to match the blue striker. In the pregame the white coach was trying to determine how to play against this dangerous player. The white stopper spoke up and said, “No problem coach, I’ve got him”. The blue team won the toss and elected to take the ball to start the match. The white stopper lined up on the center circle. The whistle blew and the blue striker got the ball. The white stopper took the blue striker down with a hard tackle. The referee called the foul and cautioned the white player. The stopper leaned down to the striker, offered to help him up and said “Hi, you’ll see me all night”. During the match the striker was totally ineffective. He was always waiting for the stopper to appear. The stopper in the first minute of the game had used soccer psychology to cause the striker to play at far less than his ability.
While soccer psychology works for the individual player, the entire team is affected by using soccer psychology. The players must buy into the concept that they are members of a team and individual play is part of the team effort. This team effort and the utilization of all every player on the pitch will provide team success as a whole. This team concept insures that the “stud” players do not need feel pressure to win every game by themselves. The stud player when confronted by a number of opponents must know they have the ability to release the ball to another team mate who has no opponents nearby and can help contribute to the team. Soccer psychology is utilized to both create and reinforce the team concept. This team concept provides any team the opportunity to succeed on the pitch.
Soccer is a free flowing, creative game. The application of soccer psychology insures that the players on the team are allowed to make mistakes without self criticism or doubt. One of the biggest factors in soccer psychology is that the players are part of a team and that mistakes are allowed. When an individual player makes a mistake, that player knows that there will be a teammate available to help correct the mistake. Proper application of soccer psychology will insure that the team as a whole will accept mistakes and that the team as a whole will remediate the mistakes without criticism by the player who made the mistake or the team being critical of the mistake.
Soccer psychology is an important part of the game. The team must know that they can play at their optimum level and that mistakes can be made. This confidence emanates from the team and can either consciously or subconsciously affect the other team, both individually and as a whole. The ability to apply aspects of soccer psychology to the opponents will cause the opponents to play at less than their optimum level thus insuring success for the team applying the soccer psychology.