5 Coaching Tips to Develop Mentally Tough Footballers

Sports Psychology Tips: 5 Coaching Tips to Develop Mentally Tough Footballers

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Is your communication helping or hindering your team?

In lots of clubs and teams, from the management team, the coaching staff down to the players, you often find many people getting caught up in behaviours associated with Mental Sensitivity.  When this happens, individually players may go on to struggle in matches and the team are less likely to work cohesively.  The result may be that performances will suffer and you as a coach will be scratching your head as to know how you can get the most from the group

This can even occur with highly motivated and the most talented players, especially when they feel that they are not 100% supported by their managers and coaches and cannot be authentic.

So how can managers and coaches help their players?

1. Develop a Learning Culture

By developing a culture where everyone from the TOP of the club down to the bottom actively encourage positive responses to challenges and mistakes.   Where talk of “blaming individuals” is banished.  Where everyone recognises mistakes are part and parcel of the game and communicated in a way to help develop the individual and the group as a whole. 

2. Permit Risk Taking

It would be stupid not to acknowledge that tactics, formations and structure play a big part in a team’s success on the pitch.  However, many footballers who play season after season under “rigid” instructions end up playing within themselves.  For instance, a young player who signs a professional contract you would expect would keep on improving until they reach they’re prime at 28-30 years of age.  Yet, so many players skills and abilities are “reduced” by consistent and indifferent communication from coaches, meaning they retreat into their shells and stop “playing off the cuff” and taking risks as they would when they were a care-free child.  

3. The Right Goals are Encouraged

It’s important for any footballer to know that there they have hope and feel valued.  To be able to achieve the ambition of becoming a professional footballer, doesn’t come easy, it takes courage to set goals and work hard towards pursuing them.  When you then get comfortable playing at professional level for a period many players motivation can dwindle and stagnate.  Coaches can help them by spending time with individuals, understanding where they get their motivation from.  Understanding what success is to the player.  Challenging players to keep on improving.  Encouraging each player to set their own goals and supporting them to achieve it.  Belittling players in front of team-mates and sarcastic comments about their dreams and ambitions are a sure way of destroying this process.  

4. Showing understanding that the route to success is not a straight line

Encouraging players with your communication to commit to their individual and collective goals and be tenacious in trying to achieve them.  Helping them chunk down these goals, simplifying them into manageable tasks is important too.  Whilst showing empathy and understanding, recognising that setbacks and losses are part and parcel of sport.  Therefore, rather than getting carried away with too many messages about winning and losing, helping players appreciate where and why they may get distracted or lose concentration is a much more beneficial approach.  As well as coming up with strategies to support them. 

5. Help your players feel good

Many professional footballers will have had spent periods of time and experience working under coaches that have helped them feel good and worthwhile as a person.  Coaching that has developed their confidence and self-belief so that they have genuinely felt like that they could see killer passes and execute them or feel what it’s like to implement and perform successfully specific game plans and tactics.  So are you as a coach, providing your players with the messages that can help them in this regard or are you allowing pressures to control you.  Are you guilty of letting your league position make you feel powerless and as a result becoming overly critical of your players and zapping the confidence out of them.  Consider how and what you are saying!

If you’re enjoying reading our sports psychology blogs to help coaches improve themselves and their players, please do forward them on to other coaches who would appreciate them or why not sign up to the Mental Edge for regular tips.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends, team-mates, parents or coaches.  

You can also join our online community – THE SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY HUB – for regular Sports Psychology tips, podcasts, motivation and support.

Best Wishes 

David Charlton

Global Sports Psychologist located near Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK and willing to travel Internationally.  

Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence and Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub.  With over 10 years experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to achieve their goals, quickly.  

T: +44 7734 697769

E: [email protected]

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