Football Psychology: Confidence before kick-off
Our Aussie man inside Fulham FC, SCOTT MILLER, discusses confidence in the English Premier League and how football players use different techniques to pump themselves up before a big game.
By Scott Miller
ALL professional footballers that I have worked with use numerous different techniques to develop and maintain confidence throughout their career. The majority of players get confidence from various sources and use different ways to find that extra motivation.
Believing is where it begins
It continually astounds me the level of self belief elite athletes have these days. Now, and I must stress this – it can’t be misinterpreted as arrogance – it is just a complete belief that they should be in the first 11 every week.
My position as a fitness coach is one that sees me as a conduit between the coaching staff and the players. I know the players come to me looking for information on how the manager is thinking for the next game. This can be a difficult situation as I am involved in discussions regarding players form and ability at that period of time, and on the flip side, the player telling you that he should be starting as he believes he is the best in that particular position, regardless of his current form in training or in games.
Belief and believing is crucial to any success you have in life. Every week in the Premiership these guys play against fantastic players – there are no easy games – and the standard is so high that if you do not believe in your own ability you will simply deselect yourself through bad performances.
Now we all know someone or another that talks about themselves all the time. Of course, this can be an annoying character trait, and a difficult one to put up with, however for professional footballers reinforcement is one of the biggest factors that can build confidence, especially if that player is out of form or possibly out injured.
Many athletes don’t give themselves enough credit for the successes and other skills that contribute to the team’s success. Season after season you play so many games that they can roll into one but it’s important to give or acknowledge credit when credit is due. We had a situation last year where we were playing well in the Premiership and in Europe. We were playing top European teams on the Thursday night, having great success but not recognising the achievement. A game that springs to mind is Juventus at home, beating them 4-1! It was a huge mini success (as we call it) however the opportunity to take a breath and realise what we had achieved was overlooked as we had to recover and prepare for a game on the Sunday in the Premiership.
Doubt, what doubt?
We, as individuals, all go through stages of self-doubt in life – it’s only natural. However sometimes we need to change our mindset or environment to improve the situation.
For footballers, doubt can destroy a career. And basically, it all boils down to confidence. Part of staying confident is battling your own internal doubt. No one is perfect and in times of adversity it’s tough not to have any doubts about winning.
Over the years I have listened to a number of guest speakers, all of which have worked with top tennis players, NBA basketball players and the obvious footballers.
A common theme from these professionals and from my experience is that a player only doubts himself when he is not in the starting 11. I have seen many instances where a player’s technical ability and physical ability decreases through self-doubt.
They lose all faith in the team, the manager, the backroom staff, and I always take an interest in player’s behaviour around the training ground when they have been dropped. You will find individuals will go either two ways. The first is where they simply work harder to get back into that team, and use every resource available to do so, such as fitness coaches, match analysis and coaching staff.
The second way is one where the individual feels sorry for himself. They don’t use the expertise on hand, they tend to leave the training ground very soon after training and they distance themselves from the situation.
Of course this is down to the individual’s personality and ability to deal with pressure and set back, but we all know which philosophy will lead to improved results and performances.
The old saying ‘you have to see it before you can achieve it’ is so true and one that all players utilise as a tool for success. Visualisation is very important – whether it be of being successful on a large scale such as winning trophies or focusing on smaller successes such as winning the next game or being selected for your debut.
It’s so easy for kids to have big dreams about the future, but as adults that same ability gets beaten down by others. However, the art of dreaming or visualisation is too powerful not to utilise.
Keeping the dream alive means seeing and feeling success close to hand. To win at your sport, you have to see yourself win over and over again. With that vision, comes confidence that it is all possible.
Talk about past successes, they’re important!
Use the past to feel confident today. Most football players would say that past success and experience in playing is the number one source for confidence today.
You can tap into your success in the past to help you feel confident today by replaying successful games, practices and conversations with other professionals.
Patience is a form of confidence. A patient player is a confident player. The challenge in football is to stay patient when things are not going your way.
It’s easy to give in to internal doubt and criticism when you are not on top in your sport. But the better choice is to stay patient with results and wait for
good things to happen. A patient football player says to himself that it might not be happing right now, but I know my form will take a turn for the better.
Scott Miller is an Aussie expat living in London and the First Team Fitness Coach for Fulham Football Club. Follow him on Twitter @ScottGMiller