Welcome to the X-FACTOR

18 October 2023

Developing The X-FACTOR To Transform Your Football Performances

Introducing You to Football Psychology so That You Perform Better

A warm welcome to our first X-FACTOR email.

Let me introduce our concept firstly, we aim to deliver lots of detailed guidance, how to information to footballers, football coaches and football parents around the globe so that everyone gets the most from their experiences of being involved in the great game.  I sincerely hope that you enjoy the emails and gain a lot from them.

Where to start with the mental game?

  1. Many football or soccer players, coaches and administrators can be confused about the field of sports psychology and the role it has on performance.  Sports psychology is a part of sport science.  It is an area that focuses on human behaviour in the sporting environment, the influence the environment has on a person and the effects of interventions on football performance.
  2. The goal of a Football or Soccer Psychologist is to help football or soccer players to perform at their best more often by improving the necessary mental skills to excel on the pitch.
  3. Mental game coaching is a portion of Football Psychology that concentrates specifically on helping people break through the mental barriers that are holding them back and keeping them from performing up to their peak potential.  By focusing on the mental skills needed to be successful on the pitch, mental game coaching seeks to achieve the overall goal of performance improvement.
  4. In the past I have preferred to use the title of “Performance Enhancement Specialist or Performance Coach” because I believed athletes could relate better to those titles rather than “Sports, Soccer or Football Psychologist”.  My experience comes from playing many sports competitively (football included in my youth), from coaching (football or soccer in my twenties), from mentoring and managing people in a business and sporting environments.
  5. The area of psychology can be perceived negatively, though it is changing rapidly, because many people that use the services in the field have abnormal traits or disorders.  This is far removed from my role where I work with football and soccer players who are striving to perform to their maximum.
  6. The goal of our work as Football or Soccer Psychologists is to empower players to learn how to be more confident, to focus better, to stay composed under pressure, to train more efficiently, to develop effective pre-performance routines and transfer their skills easily from training to matches.
  7. Could Football or Soccer Psychology benefit you? I’d start by asking yourself some key questions.
  • Are you performing up to your ability?
  • Do you perform as well in matches as you do in training?
  • Can you stay in control of your emotions or thought processes when the pressure is on?

I’m sure you know many footballers who have been labelled as “great talents” but haven’t fulfilled their potential.  This is a huge sign that their attitude towards their football may be getting in the way.



Being open-minded means being receptive to new ideas, perspectives, and experiences, and being willing to consider and accept differing viewpoints and beliefs. It involves a willingness to question your own assumptions and prejudices, and to engage in thoughtful, non-judgmental exploration of different ideas and viewpoints.  Open-minded people are often more adaptable, creative, and empathetic, as they are not limited by rigid thinking and are more open to personal growth and learning from others.  Open-mindedness is an important quality for fostering understanding in what is a sport that could be played in a simple manner, yet, is becoming increasingly complex.


⚽️ “This is a MUST win game.”

⚽️ “We MUST win.”

⚽️ “I MUST perform at my best for us to win.”

⚽️ “It would be a DISASTER if we lose such a big game.”

⚽️ “The trip back on the coach will be TERRIBLE if things don’t go our way today.”

These sentences are common things that you’ll hear from footballers and also describe the way a lot of pundits present their views too. They arguably capture the win at all costs mentality of football at the elite end. 

Competitiveness, passion, heart, desire all link back to these statements. 

Are they helpful though when you go out onto the pitch? For some yes, it will get them hyped up and psychologically ready.  They’ll then perform to their maximum.

For others NO! These statements equal pressure.  As a result, they’ll likely hide, their movement will be poor, they’ll disappear from the game, demanding the ball won’t happen, communicating with team-mates will happen very occasionally.  Fear will take over.

Welcome to the world of our mind.  Every player on the pitch is different and believes, thinks, feels and acts differently.

Recognising that psychological flexibility is required is a skill coaches can benefit from.

Statements or questions like so may help some players:

⚽️ “This is another game, another opportunity for us to showcase our skills”

⚽️ “What a great opportunity this is to put into practice what we’ve been doing on the training pitch.”

⚽️ “What if we play to the best of our ability today?”

⚽️ “Could we return home, with our heads held high?”

Some may look at these statements as intelligent and well thought out, others may say they are soft.  

However, I’d argue they dampen down expectations levels that are connected with the magnitude of the match.

They also shift a person focus from the outcome (winning/losing) so there is less chance of fear of failure kicking in.

A challenge mindset is more likely to take over too rather than a threat mindset.

One other thing to add, is that a win at all costs mentality can open up serious self-criticism and be very difficult to shift after a match has finished. 


WATCHCoaching on Match Day! Modern Soccer Coach Podcast with Dan Abrahams

LISTENEp 194: Demystifying Mental Toughness with David Charlton – Footballers: How To Ensure Playing Out Of Position Is A Walk In The Park

READGoalkeeper Psychology Tips: Do You Focus Too Much on the Opposition as a Goalkeeper?

EXPLOREFrequently asked questions on Football or Soccer Psychology

FACT – Kevin De Bruyne has put in 1659 crosses in Premier League Matches to-date (14/10/2023) courtesy of the premierleague.com and has failed to find a team-mate 74% of the time.

TIP – The best players in the world make a lot more mistakes than we think and are not robots.  Allow yourself 2-3 mistakes each game and watch how you start to release the pressure valve.

QUOTE – Pep Guardiola – “The best football is the one that is played with your mind.”

THOUGHTS – Pep’s quote encapsulates his philosophy, football or soccer in his eyes is not just a technical, tactical and physical game. It’s a game that is played with intelligence.  Guardiola believes that to be successful as a team it is important to look to outsmart your opponents, to be clever with your decision making.  Pep pushes his players to switch on mentally, to engage their brains always looking to make their opponents life as difficult as possible.  Guardiola also encourages his players to become great problem solvers and to focus on solutions on the football pitch. Lastly, football is complex and changeable, many factors are outside of your control therefore Pep looks to cultivate mental flexibility in his players.  The result is a group of football players who are able anticipate challenges and adapt to them very quickly.


Share The X-FACTOR with your friends, family and colleagues, and create a positive difference to the lives of more football players, coaches, parents and enthusiasts.

David Charlton Sports Psychologist

Best Wishes 

David Charlton

Online Sports Psychologist | Mental Performance Coach who supports many highly motivated athletes, young and old, developing their skills or who are already highly skilled so that they gain a mental edge and get the most from their talent across the globe from USA/Canada to Great Britain and Ireland to UAE, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, using ONLINE Video Conferencing.    

Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence

Host of Demystifying Mental Toughness Podcast

Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub 

Author of The Mental Edge

With over a decades’ experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to transfer their skills from training to competitive situations, under pressure.

T: +44 7734 697769

E: [email protected]

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