|Ronaldinho: “Creativity will take you further than calculation.” I think Ronaldinho knows who to play the game with joy and confidence. He did score over 90 goals for Barcelona after all. And who did Ronaldinho mentor when he played for Barcelona, Lionel Messi of course.
When you’re playing against a soccer team you know you should beat, you probably feel confident, don’t you? This is good because you’re confident in your abilities and in your team’s abilities as well. But this is being confident in a game when you’re playing against a lesser opponent….
But how do you play well in big soccer games, against teams that are better than yours? Against those teams that are even intimidating. The Manchester United’s and Real Madrid’s of your league.
Or how about when you’re in a big soccer game, that’s being watched by family and friends and a large crowd? This can be nerve-racking, sure, but think about it this way: All these people are supporting you and want you to do well. In fact, they know you’ll do well, and are very proud that you made it to where you are. So think positively! This will help you play better.
If you’re playing a good soccer team, and you know it will be a difficult match, ease yourself into the game. But not in a lazy manner. Just play smart soccer and not outside your capabilities. In chess, this is called “playing the board.” In other words, pretend you’re not playing another team but rather playing in a way that does the most justice to your abilities and the game of soccer itself. This means getting back to the fundamentals of soccer, such as figuring out the right pass to make, playing the way you’re facing, playing one and two touch soccer, dribbling in the attacking third, and not playing dangerous square balls in the midfield.
But many times, related to nerves or confidence, some soccer players have difficulty getting into games. They might feel it’s necessary to make a good pass, a move or cut, to dribble by someone, get an assist, or even score a goal before really getting into the game and feeling comfortable. If you feel this way, that’s fine. It’s a completely natural feeling. But if you let it become too overbearing, you might find yourself obsessed with not making mistakes, and this can seriously hinder your performance and momentum. You might force things on the field and try to beat two or three players when you should just lay the ball off and play simple one and two touch soccer.
This can be made worse because of excitement. When we get excited about a game, we sometimes play too much as an individual instead of as a team. What happens is that you might play as if the focus or spotlight is directed entirely on you, and you then neglect the team aspect of the game. You may, for example, try to make that difficult long pass or dribble past multiple players in your own defensive third. Simply put, you’ll do riskier things when you’re preoccupied with your own nervousness and excitement.
We need to prevent this from happening. How? Well, to be blunt, cut the heroics. Think about what you do well and focus on doing that instead of trying new moves or new techniques that you’re not 100% comfortable with. Don’t think that you need to increase your contribution when things aren’t going well. Instead, take a step back and see what you can do to help the team. This is how you play smart soccer.
Don’t forget to have fun. Yes, this is something can easily get lost in the game when we worried about impressing the coach or not making a mistake. Get your head up and be strong in your body, ready to play smart soccer but also to fight and win the ball. Think about all the joy you get when playing the game and what you do well – what you offer your team in terms of skills and spirit.
TIP: At the same time though, sometimes you do need to take risks, just do it in the right parts of the field and when you’ve settled into the game a bit. This is when you can be cheeky. Take chances. Take shots. Take a player on in the attacking third. Do something ambitious. To see how it’s done, take a look at Alonso beating the keeper from inside his own half. Scoring a goal like this will lift your own as well as your team’s spirits–it takes some guts to even try it. Alonso won the ball, made a great defensive play and then took at chance on goal. That was the key, Alsono worked hard to win the ball.
But what if the circumstances were good enough for you to make a play, and you made a mistake? Isn’t it odd that when this happens, you somehow become a magnet for the ball? It’s like the ball is guided by a supernatural force! Well, this could be because you’re trying to make up for your mistake by seeking out the ball while in the midst of heavy coverage! Instead of doing that, you should adjust your play and focus on good simple soccer and on your positioning on the field. Remember, you’re playing as a team. There’s no room for personal vendettas on the field.
During intense times, you need to learn how to walk the tightrope between being confident and overextending yourself. Being confident means knowing what you can do, but more importantly, it means knowing what you can’t do. A confident person knows when to takes risks. Take the game as a challenge, when you’re confident your abilities are up to it. Don’t charge into risk you’re not ready to take. If the risk doesn’t turn in your favor, lift yourself up and prepare to fight again. Know that you evaluated the situation with a clear head and weighed your options well.
Again though, it’s important to have fun. Take Ronaldinho as an example, here’s someone who plays with joy and a love for the game, as you can see in the picture at the top of this page. Don’t forget to have fun while you’re playing. If something doesn’t go right, forget about it and get right back into the game with some hustle and hard work.
Learn more about mental focus for soccer:
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