When a player loses form or performs below expectations in a couple of games, panic and a lack of confidence begin to set in. When this is not properly managed by the player and/or his manager, it causes the player to overthink things, worsening his playing form.
Every player has experienced a loss of form or a sudden lack of confidence at some point in their career. Lionel Messi, for example, faced it during the 2013-14 season while playing for Barcelona FC.
He failed to score in eight consecutive La Liga games, which at the time was quite unusual for him. Although it was only a temporary setback for him, it created a series of physiological frustrations as the pressure to score goals mounted.
Many other players have had to struggle with the pressure of performing greatly in soccer. Unlike Messi, some players have had to cut short their careers because they were never able to fully recover.
Overthinking and the resulting lack of confidence are caused by factors other than the pressure placed on players who are out of form at the time. Injuries or a manager who does not believe in your abilities at the moment could also be blamed.
As a result, doubt would creep in on the affected player, clearly taking advantage of the lack of confidence, and it could be difficult to shake. The manager-player scenario was once played out between Pep Guardiola and Joe Hart, England’s then undisputed first-choice goalkeeper.
Before Guardiola arrived at the Etihad in 2016, the Englishman was a key figure at the club. However, the new manager was skeptical of his abilities.
Joe Hart would later be demoted from first-choice goalkeeper at the Etihad. He never truly regained his confidence after this and would continue a downward spiral in his goalkeeping form.
Soccer players can avoid overthinking by conditioning their minds and employing specific techniques. This article discusses how to stop overthinking by soccer players, a condition that affects performance and can lead to permanent loss of form.
The advantages and disadvantages of each method are also included to provide a clear understanding of each of them and to determine which one is best for different situations.
Remember, you’re not alone in this struggle with overthinking. Many great players have experienced and overcome it with the methods we will discuss in this article.
Read more: How to Increase Soccer IQ?
- How to stop overthinking in soccer?
- Method 1: Visualizing success and reminiscing about past triumphs
- Method 2: Identify what relieves you
- Method 3: Build trust
- Method 4: Concentrate on the task at hand
- Method 5: It’s not about you!
- Method 6: See a therapist
How to stop overthinking in soccer?
Coaches are likely to be the first to notice overthinking in their players. In addition, some soccer teams have separate coaches who are dedicated to understanding and resolving the psychological issues of their players.
They tend to observe their normal performance and well-being, and when changes are discovered, they attempt to correct them to boost the player’s overall performance.
Certain actions, such as the uncertainty in the gameplay of affected players, are easily visible to onlookers. These players, who rely on instinct and muscle memory normally, begin to overthink things.
Goalkeepers fail to stop the simplest of shots on goal, and cool-headed strikers waste chances or take too many touches when a first-time finish would have done the job.
Most coaches’ first attempt to keep their players from overthinking is to yell from the sidelines. With a few other encouraging words, the coach may be able to help the player return to normalcy and stop being too hard on themselves.
However, if these thoughts occur midway through the game, there is little chance that negativity can be stopped from spiraling in the player’s mind. The best way to defeat it is to prevent it from happening in the first place by enforcing a few simple strategies.
Method 1: Visualizing success and reminiscing about past triumphs
Overthinking can be defeated by increasing your self-confidence, which can be accomplished by recalling past successes and putting yourself right back in those successful moments.
The brain’s memory function is the area of the brain that is being targeted here. Composed of several specialized cells or neurons that can communicate with one another via synapses, the connections between them.
This communication system is designed in such a way that it can be altered by the individual’s actions. Given this, it is possible to overcome negativity by engaging the inner voice and thoughts, and by constantly reinforcing it; confidence is achieved, and overthinking is avoided.
Players gain confidence when they have to imagine themselves scoring a goal or outperforming themselves on the field. As a goalie, imagining yourself making crucial saves or recalling memorable saves from the past can help boost confidence.
Midfielders and defenders can both recall previous excellent performances or imagine themselves simply being successful on the field of play.
However, as with other techniques, boosting your confidence through visualization of success or recalling a memorable performance of yours takes repetition and time. As a player, you must constantly find a way to recall your near-past excellence, which can be replicated in the present.
To accomplish this, it is suggested that players who suffer from overthinking keep records and search through archives to learn about their mistakes and see ways to improve on them. It accomplishes this by suppressing self-doubt by activating dopamine, a mood enhancer.
The mood-boosting act of recalling a memorable event is not different from cultivating habits that promote happiness. Overall, being in a good mood enhances player performance.
Visualizing success can help create a euphoria, albeit momentarily, that will help boost a player’s confidence. The player just has to remember how good he was and believe the drop in performance is a phase that’ll eventually pass.
This can be counterproductive and create more pressure in the mind of the player. Trying to replicate past successes and failing can leave a player having imposter syndrome.
Method 2: Identify what relieves you
Overthinking is accompanied by panic, which causes uneasiness and underperformance. This is undesirable and, if not dealt with quickly, can result in long spells of depreciating playing form.
From missed opportunities to rueful defending; it can all go in circles, but it can also be easily checked. Most of the time, when panic sets in, the mind is automatically programmed to calm it down by expending too much energy, thereby doing the opposite of what it was designed to do. The body would tire out, resulting in ineffectiveness on the field.
Certain steps should be taken to combat overthinking by calming down to achieve the best results.
Step 1: Acknowledge your anxiety
The first step is for the player to admit that he or she is anxious and concerned. This ensures that he or she effectively expresses the emotion.
Step: Confront negative thoughts
After successfully admitting to being anxious, the next step is to confront negative thoughts to release those negative emotions.
This is accomplished through a question and answer session in which the player asks himself how important or rational the thoughts are. It gives you the grip of positivity by also asking yourself about the likelihood of those negative thoughts occurring.
Step 3: Create mental pictures
Visualizing yourself as calm can also help to calm you down.
Step 4: Just breathe
Breathing exercises are a simple way to accomplish this. The anxious and overthinking soccer player must take a few deep breaths and relax the body with his eyes closed. If he can imagine himself or herself working through anxiety-provoking situations while relaxed, it can always be referred to when anxious in the conscious present.
Step 5: Focus on a distraction
Calming down can also be accomplished by listening to soothing music. So, the next time you’re feeling down and worried about your performance, put on your earphones for a few minutes and listen to some music.
Last-minute panic, which is always the result of overthinking, can be alleviated by calming the body. Furthermore, by challenging those negative thoughts that arise as a result of overthinking, you will be presented with alternatives as well as reasons to pursue the best of those considerations.
Calming down can cause a player to rest on his oars. If this technique is not used correctly, morale can be lost, and energy and desire to win the game can be taken for granted.
Method 3: Build trust
The role of team management in combating overthinking by players is to build trust. Players who lack trust are more likely to experience anxiety and underperform.
Overthinking on big game days and in the days leading up to them is usually caused by uncertainty about the future and how well the team will be able to overcome what lies ahead.
If things continue in this manner, the team will be united solely by their uniform colors, with no faith in their abilities. The players will tend to play games in a way that makes them feel comfortable, and if it doesn’t work out, frustration and acute overthinking will set in.
Trust can be instilled in the squad, beginning with the players’ trust in the coach handling them, trust in the team as a whole, trust in one another, and trust in themselves. A coach can gain the trust of his or her players by creating a well-respected team culture.
The team culture should include the beliefs and behaviors of the team’s players and assisting officials, as well as how they communicate with one another.
As the leader of the pack, the coach’s role in fostering trust is to shape the physical aspect of the sport as well as get the better of the psychological factors within the team.
Aside from a thorough understanding of the sport’s techniques, tactics, and strategies, the coach must ensure that the psychological well-being of his or her players is prioritized at all times.
Most of the time, the coach must lay out a clear vision for the team. This ensures that the players are aware of the team’s direction as well as what is expected of them. Trust is thus built when each player accesses the yardstick and sees that it is being followed by everyone on the team.
Trust can also be built when team members’ roles and responsibilities are clearly defined to ensure accountability. This results in a scenario in which the coach is accountable to the team while the team players are accountable to each other, which is the hallmark of trust!
To combat overthinking in soccer, coaches must establish trust by ensuring proper communication and an equitable reward system within the team.
Aside from preventing overthinking, trust-building ensures that a player’s activities are consistent or aligned with the team’s vision and goals. This results in an impressive domino effect on performance in the team.
To some extent, trust can prevent overthinking, but it does not always. Given the variety of characters among the players, adhering to instructions aimed at enforcing trust is always difficult to achieve.
To rely on someone else to help fight overthinking is putting too much hope on others.
Method 4: Concentrate on the task at hand
When overthinking takes hold, even the simplest tasks can become overwhelming and more difficult than they should be. If not addressed properly, this leads to confusion and underperformance on the field.
To address this, players should try to focus on the present task rather than worrying about the past. The reason for this is that while one can change the present while hoping for the best in the future, nothing can be done to change the past.
Coaches understand how important it is for their players to focus on the present, seeing as things can change for the better if all eleven players focus on improving their game on the field.
Focusing on tasks entails letting go of negative thoughts and committing to the completion of the current task at hand. The present task, if followed and executed correctly, results in a slew of positivity!
Focusing on the present helps to prevent overthinking since the mind is wired to stop thinking about negative past events when thoughts are superimposed. As a result, both body reaction and performance on the pitch improve.
When the brain is forced to focus on the present, it can cause anxiety and overthinking if the technique is not yielding desired results.
Most of the time, this technique for preventing overthinking is used in conjunction with other techniques to ensure the desired effect is achieved. This could cause a distraction from the game.
Method 5: It’s not about you!
One good way to get yourself out of overthinking is to understand that a game doesn’t solely lie on you. No matter how skilled or gifted you are, if your other 10 teammates don’t bring their A-game into the field of play, you’ll struggle to make an impact.
Using Lionel Messi as a good example here, he’s regarded as one of the best (some argue he’s the best) to have ever played the game. We have seen him do extraordinary things beyond human understanding on soccer pitches. Club-wise, he can be regarded as a god!
When it comes to playing for his national teams, in general, this same Lionel Messi struggles. His Argentinian teammates are not all mediocre players but Messi takes on the weight of the entire team on his shoulders in every single game.
The Argentinian press does not make things easy with their constant comparison with Diego Maradona. This pressure has not allowed the Messi-led Argentinian team to make meaningful success.
Take yourself out of the picture. Irrespective of the outcome of games, try to remove yourself from the center of it all. Less anxiety, less self-pressure, results in improved confidence. You’ve got this!
Taking the pressure off yourself allows you to focus more on improving your game. Why carry a mountain of worry over your shoulders when you alone do not make up the 11 players of your team?
Focusing on thoughts like these helps build togetherness in the team. You’ll be amazed at the level of support you’ll receive from your teammates and coach when you begin to align your thoughts outside of yourself.
If not properly handled, it could lead to a lackadaisical approach to games. Since collective effort is needed, you may become too relaxed and inhibit putting out your best efforts.
Method 6: See a therapist
As a soccer player, accumulated pressure to perform could cause the player to overthink. If this starts to after your confidence in and out of the pitch, you may consider seeing a therapist.
Many professional soccer clubs provide psychotherapists for players to see and talk to. Depending on the nature of your mental breakdown, you can get to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. It’s a medically proven way to help a play overcome fear and overthinking while on the pitch.
As professionals in the area of counseling, you’re better positioned to overcome overthinking if you open up to them.
There are no cons to seeing a therapist. It helps unload your thoughts and worries
Because overthinking is a psychological issue, the key to overcoming it in soccer players is conditioning the brain to exude positivity, which leads to confidence.
Dictating how the brain should function may take time. Whatever method is chosen, it should be kept as simple as possible to avoid loss of concentration, which can eventually be counterproductive.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!