Top 6 Soccer Mental Skills Techniques

top six soccer mental skills drills

View The Top 6 Soccer Mental Skills Techniques To Use In Your Next Practice

Here are six simple mental skills drills for any team practice that will help your players get mentally prepared for practice and the upcoming game:


1. The Hula Hoop

Whenever you see one of your players get upset about something that he has no control over (like the weather, behavior of another player, field conditions), bring out the hula hoop, lay it on the ground, and ask the player to stand inside of the hula hoop. Ask the player to think about the “circle of control” as an athlete, and the difference between what he controls and what he doesn’t control. The purpose of this drill is to impress upon the player, and the rest of the team, that there are only a few that he has control over and he needs to focus on those things that he does control – basically his own thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. You want your players to realize that if they worry about what they can’t control, they will lose control of themselves.


2. The Radio

Here is a mental soccer drill. First bring out a big radio. Tell the players that you are going to turn it on and tune into your favorite station. In fact, you tell them what station and number you are turning to. Yet, instead of tuning into that particular station, you keep moving the tuning dial up and down while stopping at one station after another. And, you also tune the dial and leave it when all you can hear is static. What you are showing your players is that once you turn on the radio, you have to pay attention to tune it into the station you want to listen to. If not, you will end up hearing something that doesn’t interest you or maybe even annoy you. And if you are not paying attention to what you are doing, you’ll end up getting static or no sound at all. Likewise, when you are an athlete during practice or in a game, you need to learn how to “tune in” to those things that are beneficial and essential to your performance while, at the same time, “tune out” whatever will distract you or take you away from your game. You tune into your goals, your strengths, what you control, positive thoughts, constructive criticism from your coaches, learning from your mistakes, and finding enjoyment in playing the game. You tune out any negative comments from opposing players, frustration over the last play, questionable calls from the referees or negative judgments about yourself.


3. The Oxygen Tank

Bring out an oxygen tank at soccer practice. Ask the players what happens to someone who goes underwater and stays underwater without the oxygen tank. Or someone with medical problems who has been ordered to use one of these tanks but refuses to do so. The message is that oxygen, or simply air, is important to all of us…especially athletes. Talk to the players about how just taking one deep breath can help them relax, feel calmer, stay composed, reestablish their focus, and see clearer. This will give them the opportunity to feel like they are able to mentally slow down and see what is happening in the moment, and thereby, get a handle of their options and what they plan to do next in a game. Whether it’s between plays, when there is a break in the action, or standing on the sidelines, remind your players of the importance of breathing, and taking a few deep and slow breaths.

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4. The Hula Hoop

At the beginning of a soccer practice, bring out a large door or wall hook and show it to the players. As you show them the hook, ask them what a hook is used for. Then, ask your players – “What hooks you?”. What is it about the game of soccer that they love and why do they want to play the game? Tell them that the hook is what fuels their desire to play and their devotion to the game. It directly impacts every facet of their preparation and performance. It will set the tone for how they approach their training and conditioning. The hook is the one thing that will “hold them up” when they are feeling down or when they are feeling frustrated. It is at the core of who they are as players and how they choose to play the game.

5. The Anchor

At a practice, have one of the soccer coaches bring out an anchor from a boat and put it on the ground. Ask your players what it is and what it is used for. After they answer your questions, talk about the importance of having a “mental or emotional anchor” as a soccer player. Given the intensity and speed of the competition, along with the physical and emotional stress of playing in a game, there will be times during that game when a player may need something like an anchor. It could be a verbal or visual cue to steady himself when he feels like he is struggling to keep his head above the “turbulent waters” of a very challenging and demanding game. Tell your players to find a word, phrase, image or piece of music that they can use throughout the practice or a game that will keep them steady, help them refocus and become reenergized. It can help them regain their composure and confidence during any game-time situation.

6. The Map

During the first few soccer practices, and at different times throughout the season, bring out a map, open it up and show it to the players. Ask them why anyone uses a map. They will probably say so that people can figure out how to get to where they want to go. Now, ask your players where they want to go with their game; what are their goals and how they plan to reach their goals. The message to the players is that if you are “goal-less”, you are “clue-less”. If you don’t know where you are going, then how do you know if you are in the right place right now. You want your players to know that to be a successful athlete, and excel in their sport, they will need to set and move towards their goals. Not having a goal is like looking at a map but not knowing your destination. The map is useless no matter how long they look at it. Prompt the players to identify a goal for each practice, and explore how everything that they will do in practice can and will support that specific goal.

Article by:
Anthony “Tone” Lanzillo

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