Introduction - Why Mental Skills?
If you’re here on the New York Red Bulls' website we know you’re interested in soccer and want to improve your game. There are four main pillars to your personal game you want to develop to become a top class player.
The first is your technical game including practicing passing, juggling, shooting, and receiving.
Second is the tactical side where we learn about formations of play, the role of individual player positions, and game strategies.
The third pillar is the physical aspect. We all know the game of soccer is not much fun when you're not fit. That's why we train hard to build up our strength and endurance.
On the New York Red Bulls' website you can find lots of videos, challenges, drills and exercises to help develop these three pillars of your sport. But there’s one more pillar that needs to be addressed that supports and is an integral part of the other three, the MENTAL SIDE!
So take a moment and think about how much time you’ve invested in your technical, your tactical, and your fitness and conditioning. Now, how much time have you spent developing your mental game? If you are like most players, the answer is, “not that much time at all."
It’s been said that in practice it’s 90% physical and 10% mental. When it’s game time and the pressure is on, the percentages switch! It’s 90% mental and 10% physical. Your body’s been trained and you’ve worked hard to know what to do and how to play, but something happens that jams your circuits. You don’t play your best when it matters most. Some players become frustrated, lose focus, and get angry, while others choke in the big moments.
It is important to understand that the four pillars of your sport are not independent. Each pillar works in concert with the others. It’s like the four legs on a chair, you need all four pillars to support a balanced game. Whether it’s tactical, fitness, or technical, you’re using your brain and mental skills to focus, make decisions, control emotions, analyze movements, deal with adversity, and even talk to yourself.
Some of you may think mental skills are something you either have or you don’t – you're either mentally tough or you’re not. Even some coaches think this way.
That is incorrect!
Mental toughness comes from strategies that can be learned, practiced, and improved.
At the highest levels of the game such as our Men’s and Women’s National team, the BPL (Barclays Premier League), MLS (Major League Soccer), and even at many college programs, players are trained in mental skills strategies by sports psychologists and mental skills coaches. We all have the ability to develop mental toughness!
Here are the basic steps:
1. Develop your awareness- Learn about different mental skills strategies from this site.
With some helpful strategies and tips, you will start being aware of what you’re thinking, what you’re focused on, and how those thoughts and feelings are affecting your performance.
2. Become a student of your game -Decide which mental strategies work best for you- Remember, one size doesn’t fit all! It’s personal. Skills that work for someone else may not work for you. You have to take an active part in deciding which skills help improve your performance.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice- Like any skill or strategy, practice improves performance. The one difference and a bonus with mental skills is you can practice many of the strategies in your everyday life as well is in your game. The more practice, the more the skills become automatic. Some of these mental strategies will start showing up in practice and in your everyday life before they will show up in a big game.
By visiting the New York Red Bulls Training Programs website regularly, each month a new strategy will be posted for your mental toolbox, it is our hope we can help in your soccer development.
Gary Pritchard, C.M.C.
New York Red Bulls Certified Mental Coach