By Jenn Ireland. For more content from Jenn, check out ExpandYourGame.com
Confidence in soccer is vital. With it, you can best maximize your potential. Without it, you compromise your progress as well as your ability to enjoy the game.
Confidence is not one of those things that if you don't have it, you can never get it. While it might be elusive at times, it's not forever out of your grasp.
Best of all, confidence in soccer is something you can learn!
When you lack confidence in soccer, it can be because you have impossibly high expectations–only feeling good about yourself when you play the “perfect game.” A major step in beginning to grow your confidence is learning to attach it to the process of improvement and small, incremental goals of progression, rather than that “perfect game.”
Take action to build confidence
Confidence is a mentality that you can create for yourself with intention PLUS action. Many players have the intention part down, but lack the action. How do you take action? Focus on small pieces of the game and prepare yourself for those moments when you use them.
Both physical and mental preparation are key to confidence.
How to build soccer confidence with physical preparedness
You cannot manifest the ability to do a skill just by wishing you had it. You actually have to take action and go out and get it. You have to physically prepare.
The more physically prepared you are for something, the more you can trust in your ability to perform that action. Why? When you are physically prepared, you know that you can execute because you've already done it! You've experienced doing it hundreds or thousands of times already, so you trust you are capable.
Physical preparation is enhanced by putting in the time training on your own. Improve your first touch. Practice ball striking and shooting drills, placement on goal, 1-touch finishes, heading, crosses, 1v1 moves, changes of pace, etc. Get in the reps on whatever skill you want to grow your confidence in and add to your game.
How to build soccer confidence with mental preparedness
Most soccer players understand that a large percentage of the game IS mental, but they don't know how to do the mental training, or they simply don't prioritize it as much as the technical, tactical and physical parts of the game.
There are a few different ways to approach mental preparedness. The first is to consider what is holding you back from feeling confident. If you expect to perform perfectly, you likely have an unrealistic goal, one that prevents you from feeling good about yourself and your game. But you can’t reserve confidence and self-reward only for what you consider a perfect performance.
Understanding this is game-changing, since once you realize that you've attached your confidence to this unrealistic expectation, it’s then easier to understand that you MUST move away from that and focus on the process–on preparation–in order to build your confidence on the soccer field.
The second is to make sure you have a consistent, pre-game routine that you use before every match to help you prepare for your soccer game. This routine needs to be the same every game, no matter how big or small the match. Over time, the consistency of the familiar routine will become a comfort for you, allowing you to get into a headspace in which you are calm, composed, focused and ready to hit the field. With this composure, you can more easily access all the skills you've been training and minimize the pressure to perform.
When working to create your pregame routine, the most important thing to remember is that it needs to be something that works for you and helps you focus. Don't force yourself into something because you think it 'should' help you just because it works for other people. It needs to be something that actually resonates with you.
Here are some ideas for what you could include in your pre-game routine:
- meditation session
- listening to pump-up music or a calming audio track
- having a snack, getting hydrated
- pre-game stretching session
- going for a long walk
- general quiet time
Growing your confidence is not always easy. But it is possible! And it is an important part of your game that is worth the extra time it requires through dedication, reflection and deliberate practice.
Want more? Check out this article by Jenn, 3 actionable steps to gain confidence in soccer and get a free weekly soccer planner to help you grow your confidence through preparedness.