Have you ever seen young soccer players getting ready for a match and noticed how confident they are? How they’re ready to win that match, and overcome anything that their opponents might bring to the game? The way that players regard soccer as a sport and as a game has a huge impact on their attitude, and as a result, on their performance. Can you affect and increase confidence in your players? You bet! You can start by learning how to spot indicators that tell you which players are displaying healthy confidence.
Why is this important? A successful team starts with confident players who can cope with the challenges of the game.
If a team goes behind a goal, can they bounce back? When they lose a key player, how do they handle it? These, and other, similar situations are bound to arise and test the team’s resolve. But there are plenty of factors that affect the confidence level of your players, individually and as a team. Here are some examples:
Mistakes and decrease in form
Change of position
Adjustments to system or tactics
Injuries and personal problems
Not being chosen
Problems at home or at school
When a player’s confidence is low, the checklist above can be useful in determining if any of these factors are affecting the player. But confidence is a state of mind. A player has two choices in terms of attitude. One of these is the “you can do it” attitude; the other is “you can’t do this.” Try infusing your training with confidence-inspiring epithets like “if you think you can, you will, but if you think you can’t, you won’t.” Positive thinking is the first step in building confidence.
The second step is to help players understand that their choices are o.k. Once they’ve made a choice in terms of which path they’re going to take, they must then take responsibility for it. Blaming others, or blaming circumstance is neither good for confidence or for establishing a sense of responsibility. Instead, let the players know that if something doesn’t work out, they can learn from it and resolve to make a better decision next time.
For example, I was working with a player in the under fourteen level, and he was one of the most confident players I’d ever seen; he was brimming with confidence, full of it really. If he put a shot wide or high, his reaction was typically something like “I’ll bag the next one!” If that didn’t happen, he’d make the same proclamation again, and again.
Setbacks are great learning tools and challenges are opportunities to increase confidence. In coaching your players, teach them that sometimes things happen that aren’t desirable, but that’s part of life, and it’s what you take away from an experience and how you learn and grow from it that matters.
Below is a list of attributes to look for in players, which signal that they’ve got a strong level of confidence. Try using this list during your next session with the players.
Has an open and can-do attitude
Smiles often and has an easy laugh
Enjoys competition and challenge
Engages in positive self talk
Responds well to constructive feedback
Good concentration during practice and games
Motivates and encourages others, has a supportive manner
Stays calm and collected even in a hot situation
Isn’t overly concerned by failure
Doesn’t berate self about what should have been done
Doesn’t blame others; takes responsibility willingly
These are some of the attitudes, traits, and characteristics that will be evident in players who have high levels of confidence. Remember that high confidence fuels positive thoughts about oneself and this improves self image, which influences performance, both on and off the field.
I’d like to share with you a story that I heard about a golfer. I think this story engulfs all the confidence factors in one funny episode that demonstrates what a great impact confidence has on performance. I can’t say for sure if this is a true story, but any golfers out there will be sure to appreciate it.
A golfer is having an excellent round. It looks like he’s going to complete the best round he’s ever scored. His fellow players are giving him high fives as the puts are dropping and the drives are booming down the fairway. As they approach the 17th green, this player takes a look at what’s just up ahead – maybe 165 yards. That’s not much, probably a well hit seven iron. But the green is a bit small, and completely surrounded by water. Without thinking too much, the player reaches into his bag, grabs a club and another (cheaper) ball to tee off with.
Something in his mind upsets his confidence on this particular hole. At this point, everyone expects him to stride up to the tee and strike the ball onto the green. But instead, the player sees the ball going into the water. That’s why he reached for a cheaper ball, he saw it go into the water in his mind. And that’s exactly what it does; goes straight into the water.
This story shows how one’s state of mind can affect performance. It also demonstrates how visualization can impact our actions, a topic we’ll cover in greater depth during future articles.