Players Must Train with Intention

By Dan Abrahams

Soccer players must train with intention. They must walk out onto the training pitch with a mind focused on improving. They must engage their brain so the skills they’re learning stick…and stick hard!

This sounds obvious right? This sounds like something every footballer would do. But in my experience this doesn’t necessarily happen. Too often footballers are willing and able to train with physical intensity, but lack the kind of mental intensity that helps them develop skill.

Let me be clear, it is mental intensity and NOT physicality during training that will separate a player from his or her peers. It isn’t good enough to just train with physical intensity. That won’t re-wire your brain to learn the kind of skills you need to be the very best you can be.

“I trained hard” shouldn’t mean that you ran about a lot. Training hard should mean that you set yourself a goal to improve a specific area of your game. It should mean that you found a way during your training session to improve this specific skill. It should mean that it felt uncomfortable as you worked on this skill – you risked looking stupid, you risked failure.

That’s what intentional training is – it’s specific, it’s uncomfortable, it’s risky. It’s mental intensity…

I’ll give you an example. You’re right footed and you want to improve your left foot. So during a small sided or keep ball game you decide to pass with your left foot every single time you get on the ball. You have to adjust your body position to receive the ball in this way. You have to be aware of the players around you that you can pass to using your left foot. That will be uncomfortable…it will be risky.

You see, players who train with intention are no excuse players. They don’t wait for their coaches to tell them what to do. They don’t moan or groan about training because they’re too busy getting the very most out of each and every session no matter what.

So if you’re a player reading this I urge you to train intentionally. If you’re a coach I invite you to help your players to train with intensity.

Dan Abrahams is a global sport psychologist, working alongside leading players, teams, coaches and organisations across the world. He is known for his passion and ability to de-mystify sport psychology, as well as his talent for creating simple to use techniques and performance philosophies, and he is the author of several sport psychology books as well as the founder of the Dan Abrahams Soccer Academy. You can order his books and contact him at https://danabrahams.com/books/

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3 Simple Steps to Soccer Confidence

By Dan Abrahams

“Confidence takes constant nurturing. Like a bed, it must be remade everyday.”

So says the great soccer player Mia Hamm. I think she’s right. Confidence is an every day thing. It’s an every week and an every month thing.

I feel that many soccer players (and soccer coaches and parents as well) think that confidence is some magical, mystical thing. They think that it can’t be nurtured and it can’t be worked on intentionally. They think it’s something you either have you you don’t! In my opinion they’re wrong! Confidence can be worked on. It just takes time and effort. It must be worked on constantly, it must be an every day thing.

Here are three simple steps to help you develop confidence:

1. Use your memory. Possibly my number one tool for developing confidence is to take time out every day to remind yourself of you at your best. This should comprise your personal highlights. You might include games you’ve played well in, or training sessions when you’ve been on fire.

Whatever you include in your daily reel of inner images, make sure you make your mental movie big and bold and bright. Enhance your images by asking yourself these questions:

“What does my very best look like?”
“What does my very best feel like?”
“What do others see when I play at my very best?”

2. Just as it’s important to exercise your memory, it’s vital to use your imagination. I’d like you to take time every day to picture your dream game. And when I say ‘dream game’, I don’t just mean you at your best, I mean you surpassing your best. I mean you being quicker and stronger. I mean you showing Lloyd-like ball control, Neuer-like bravery in goal or Ramos-style defending.

“What does 10/10 look like? Feel like? What does 12/10 look like? Feel like?”

This is your opportunity to make your images unrealistic. It’s your chance to feed your brain a mental map of excellence that surpasses your current game. By doing so you create a blueprint on your mind to strive for. Don’t sweat the bad moments, the mistakes made so much. Focus your mind securely on the future standard you want for your game.

3. Finally, the third tool in my confidence toolbox is perception!

Mistakes WILL happen. You WILL have bad games. You WILL PROBABLY get dropped at some point. You MAY get injured. Bad stuff happens in soccer, it’s inevitable, and that’s ok. Accept the tough times, the bad games, the hairy moments. Be patient. Be persistent. Learn from them, but don’t dwell on them.

“I know I’ll make mistakes…that’s ok. I may be slightly disappointed when I do, but my job is to carry on playing, to carry on working at my game, to carry on getting the most from my ability”.

Great soccer players are, in part, great because they accept the rough with the smooth. They accept that along their soccer journey there will be some tough times. That’s part and parcel of striving to find out just how good you can be in the game we love so much.

Dan Abrahams is a global sport psychologist, working alongside leading players, teams, coaches and organisations across the world. He is known for his passion and ability to de-mystify sport psychology, as well as his talent for creating simple to use techniques and performance philosophies, and he is the author of several sport psychology books as well as the founder of the Dan Abrahams Soccer Academy. You can order his books and contact him at https://danabrahams.com/books/