The importance of psychological wellness in soccer

06/01/2014 15:41


The next subject is one I like to philosophize about. The subject is sport psychology. How does it work, how can we use it or develop it, is it that important, how can it be beneficial? All questions that keep me bothered for a long time. I would like to shine a bit of my light on this subject, so maybe we could start a discussion to share the different visions about this interesting subject.

Most of the times I think psychology is a bit underestimated in sport. It is often given the name as soft and not for top sport. But psychology in my opinion is a really broad subject. It has to do with focus, concentration, arousal, motivation, energy management, self-confidence etc. All of these factors can make or break the state of psychological well being. And this is necessary to perform optimally every training and every game. There are also lots of training programmes to enhance these factors. This training is called Mental Skill Training (MST).

MST can contain some exercises to  enhance the psychological state that is required to perform optimal every single time. Exercises like goal setting, imagery, relaxation and energization and self-talk.  These exercises are meant to enhance the mental skills like motivation, energy management, attention, stress management and self-confidence. This is not as easy as it seems. The athlete needs to believe it works, in the first place. Thereby he needs to train a lot, which needs to be done by someone who knows what he is doing (sport psychologist). Also every person has another optimal range of psychological wellness. It is multi interpretable. Someone can perform best with a really high arousal level for example, where someone else performs better with a lower arousal level. How do you know what you need to train, or how you approach your athlete best? Observation during training and matches can give a lot information, is what I experienced. Make some kind of profile of the athlete you will follow and train, so you know what kind of exercises you can do. Then line up the mental skills that need to be enhanced. After that, there can be looked for exercises to enhance these skills.


I want to explain my vision of psychology more, what I will do with the help of an example.
When a player for example has low self-confidence, what could help then? There could be made a SWOT analysis with the player, to light up his strengths. When the player knows what his strengths are, he can use this strengths. Also his mind set will be better if he knows what his strengths are. Also a personal hall of fame can help, line up the accomplishments the player already made in his life. It can be that he became champion once in a youth team or anything. But this can also be scoring a beautiful free kick or picking up his boots after a long injury. Lots of options are set to enhance self-confidence and that is only one mental skill that can be enhanced. Self-confidence can for example be impaired by stress. Stress means that there is a substantial imbalance between what we believe is demanded of us (competitive demand) and what we perceive our capabilities to be for meeting those demands (personal control). This stress is based on rather indistinctness. The player things he will never meet the demands that are needed to perform well during a match. Here we see another part that is important of psychological well being: the environment.

The environment

Every athlete has an environment, and the environments of all players in football are strangled up together. As a coach, you are part of all those environments. But also family, friends, girl/boy-friends, teammates are part of those environments. Every day there occur lots of things in the environment that distract the balance of psychological well being. This is normal, but important is that the athlete needs to cope with these distractions the right way. For every athlete there is a right way for coping with these distractions. In my opinion, it is important that every athlete find this optimal way that suits him or her best. So he or she can cope with the most suitable way that is preferred. This differs per athlete.

As I said, I can talk about this a long time, giving examples with solutions that I think are appropriate for coping with distractions in balance. Coming week I will give some more examples and work them out more deeply, so it will be clearer what my vision about this subject is.

Important to know for now is that the mind of a top athlete must be as strong as, and maybe even stronger than the body. When the mind doesn’t function well, the body can never execute the movements that are made up by the mind. That is my opinion.

Keep reading my blog, coming weeks there will be more about this interesting subject,