Can other people throw you off your game?

1 November 2023

Developing The X-FACTOR To Transform Your Football Performances

Stop the Mind Reading on the Football Pitch so That you Perform Better

Welcome back to our second X-FACTOR email.  Depending on your role in the team your job will naturally be different.  For example, for a defender it could be argued that stopping the opposition is the most important part of your job, whereas for a striker it is putting the ball in the back of the net.  It’s simple right!

Not so, some people have hidden agendas and can let their own ego get in the way potentially making it more difficult for others.  For example, the controlling and aggressive coach, who rules with fear, demanding unrealistic things from his or her players, leaving players frightened to voice their opinion and express themselves.  Or the football or soccer player who doesn’t fully understand what their coach is asking of them yet doesn’t act on their concerns and confirm with the coach what they mean.  You also come across footballers who are shamed and embarrassed with “put downs” by team-mates, coaches or support-staff.   

By not voicing their concerns and opinions to others, I find many football players as a result are never truly comfortable in their own skin when the pressure is on, in crunch moments and in important matches, so they go on to struggle to show off their true skills and potential.   Young footballers, in particular can struggle with this when they lack support and are challenged too much. Mindreading often becomes a habit for many.

Interpersonal confidence a small but vitally important element of mental toughness

A soccer player with a high degree of interpersonal confidence will:

  • Have the ability to deal confidently with their team-mates when they are challenged. 
  • Be better at dealing positively with their coach and won’t get too embroiled in mind reading.
  • Promote themselves and the things that they represent.
  • Be more assertive in dealing with vocal opponents.
  • Likely be more comfortable in social settings. 
  • Stand their ground when they need to.
  • Not tolerate others dominating them.
  • Take criticism in their stride.
  • Be happy to have a debate or discussion and not worry if they are right or wrong.

How do we improve interpersonal confidence?

To ensure that footballers have the ability to deal more confidently with others, be more assertive, communicating expectations and important messages in a more open and honest manner, it is firstly, important to recognise patterns of behaviour, good and bad that you display in your day to day life or when you are training or playing.  The following steps are designed to help you:


Start by getting a pen and some paper out and consider the following questions.

  1. Make a note of behaviours which typify a football or soccer player who has high levels of interpersonal confidence.
  2. Make a note of behaviours which typify a football or soccer player who has low levels of interpersonal confidence.
  3. Describe people that you know who have high levels of interpersonal confidence.
  4. Describe people that you know who have low levels of interpersonal confidence.
  5. What traps can you fall into?

Now what are you going to do about it and change moving forwards.  Feel free to reach out and let me know by email. 



Sarcasm can be used by coaches and football players and is a form of verbal irony where someone says the opposite of what they really mean.  It’s often used as banter in football, with the intention of ridiculing and drawing a “bite” from someone.  For example, if a coach says, “You’re on it today,” on a day a footballer is having an off day.  Or “I saw you track back with maximum effort there” when the soccer player slowly jogged to catch an opponent up.  There’s a danger when you use sarcasm a lot, it can cause hurt, if it’s used insensitively or the context isn’t clear.  There’s a fine line between humour, when sarcasm is expressed in a light hearted and playful way and the latter.  Also, it’s important to be aware of what is going on in a person’s life.  Football, the pressure to perform, personal issues, and low self-esteem and/or low-confidence for some can mean they are very sensitive to sarcastic jibes and it enhances the mind reading that takes place in their heads.  So the message here is be careful with the sarcastic comments you may be doing more harm than good.


⚽️ Are you a footballer who is obsessed by the game? Do you enjoy scrolling on YouTube watching different clips of football matches or your favourite players? 

There’s an argument that you should also watch your own clips too and regularly. Not the ones where you play poorly or where you are looking to improve specific skills. The clips of you at your best should be a “go to” for every player.

Why do this? 

🧠 Our brains have a negative bias and this is a great way to override it. 

🧠 By replaying your best bits, you train your brain and your body to remember how good you are. 

🧠 Your brain doesn’t recognise the difference between physical and mental training so it’s an added training session without wearing yourself out. 

🧠 You create more and more positive memories therefore hypnotise yourself into believing in yourself. 

WATCHBeckham The Series on Netflix – A truly inspirational journey he has been on

LISTENEp 198: Demystifying Mental Toughness with David Charlton – How To Help Footballers Who Feel Flat On Match Days

READHow To Conquer Self Doubt On The Soccer Pitch So That You Perform With Confidence

EXPLOREProfessor João Carvalhaes – football’s first World Cup-winning psychologist

FACTIt is not necessarily about having a six-pack, but physical activity needs strong abdominal muscles. This includes playing football of course! Well trained stomach muscles help you perform better and can prevent some football injuries.

TIP – The best players in the world do the boring things well.  Yes they are talented but it is what they do on the training pitches and at home in their own time that can make a huge difference to their careers. 

QUOTE  Lionel Messi – “You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it.”

THOUGHTS – Messi’s quote when broken into smaller parts reads for me like so.  That there will be many challenging moments in a players career, whether the coach doesn’t fancy them, whether they are played out of position or may be they are released.  Fighting in this case means that you will bounce back from setbacks strongly and positively.  In terms of sacrifices and working hard, consider these questions – Am I doing more than my team-mates to improve? Am I doing more than Messi to improve? Am I doing more than Ronaldo to improve?  Then put in place a plan to improve and take massive action.


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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