Dealing with your Soccer Emotions…Quickly!!

A pressure game – anxiety! A mistake made – frustration! A poor refereeing decision – anger! A goal against – despondency!Soccer is an emotional game. Every match is packed full with incident – moments of action that cause your brain and nervous system to drive energy through your body. Energy with nowhere to go, energy that is hard to dissipate.

Emotions in soccer, especially negative ones can be sticky and they can cause a player’s feet to fuse to the turf…lethargy, sluggishness, slowness. Negative emotions can also be mentally destructive causing a tunnel vision that limits pitch awareness. Anticipation dulled, decision making weak.

Negative emotions – anxiety, frustration, anger, despondency – must be dealt with, and they must be dealt with quickly.

So how does a soccer player do that? How does a soccer player snap out of an emotional funk that is damaging his or her game, with speed?

Allow me to introduce you to something called symbolic labelling.

Very simply this technique refers to the ability to find the right word to identify an emotional sensation. For example, “I am feeling anxious” or “I am getting angry”.

This is fascinating and so important for a soccer player. 

“I can’t believe we let that simple goal go in. I’m getting frustrated. STOP. Let’s focus on the my game, let’s get on my toes for the next five minutes”

“I keep making mistakes today, I’m so angry with myself. STOP, I’m getting angry with myself and that won’t help. Let it go and focus on the next minute.”

It’s such a simple thing to do…label your emotions when you start to feel angry, frustrated, anxious or despondent. By doing so you’ll give yourself a better chance to stay focused on what’s relevant, to stay aware of the movement of your team mates and the runs of the opposition, to keep anticipating quickly and to make speedy, effective decisions.

From Dan Abrahams. Sports psychologist working with top players, teams and clubs around the world. 

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