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Being in Control

A good athlete, in no matter what sport, performs close to their true potential most of the time. And how do they do this? They have learned to control their focus, they know how to channel their emotions, and they know how to bounce back from setbacks in a constructive way. In other words, they are flexible and positive at all times. They know how to shift from negative thinking into positive thinking quickly and easily. It does not mean they never have negative thoughts, it means only that when they recognise they are having them, they can switch their focus of attention to something else, to something more positive, and that they can do this quickly and easily. And this too is something you can do.

The most important change in thinking is that required when you have a setback or you make an error. Errors, even if done by yourself, are natural. But you must learn from them rather than accuse yourself of stupidity or whatever. You need to say to yourself, “why did I do that, and how can I prevent it in the future?” That is the constructive and positive attitude you must take on any mistake you make no matter how small or how large. When a football game goes against the way you hoped, don’t mope about it; learn from it and pass on. Each and every game of football is independent. The only thing you carry from one game to the next is what is in your head. Put each game behind you, it is in the past. Certainly learn from the mistakes you may have made, but then forget about it. It is something from the past, it is to be forgotten. The game to come is a new game, an independent game, a game that requires all of your attention all of your focus.

With errors and setbacks you may feel disappointment, anger, or frustration. But the good athlete, and that is what you want to be, learns from them and then to put these things behind them quickly. Of course you will have these feelings; and why not? They are quite natural. But what is important is that you do not let them dominate your thinking and your behaviour. Certainly you do not let them influence any game in the future which is not yet played. Emotion occurs at the time it is experienced. You are annoyed at yourself for something you did during the game or are disappointed that the team did not win. But that is all it should be. There is no reason whatsoever that this should occur in the next or any future game. And it will not occur if you learn from it so that you do not repeat it.

What is even more important is that you do not condemn yourself while the game is taking place. If you make an error, accept the error quickly, learn from it quickly, and get on with the game. Do not keep thinking that you are stupid for having made such a mistake, that you are not the footballer your thought you were. These negative feelings, these negative suggestions can only reduce your performance. More than that, they are shifting your focus from the game being played to yourself. You can only perform at your full potential if all of your concentration, all of your focus, is on the game in hand and not on yourself. The animal going in for the kill is fully focused and is not thinking about itself, and that is how you should be... that is how you will be in each and every future game....

Responding to setbacks and errors by redirecting your focus of attention is something you need to learn... it is something every good athlete must learn... it is not something you are born with... it is something you learn to do... No matter how good you are physically and technically... you will never be a good athlete if you cannot control your mental state... and that is the point of these suggestions... it is a training in achieving control of your mental state...

Metaphor for control

When you come to play a game you take off your everyday clothes so that you can put on your football kit. When you do this, think to yourself that you are also taking off all negative thoughts and feelings: that you are putting these too in the locker. Any errors and disappointments from previous games are being left behind in the locker with your everyday clothes. When you put on your football gear... it is a new game... you are a new person... ready for the match ahead with a clean slate... when you lace up your boots and are focusing on lacing them up as you must do... so you know you will be focused on the game to come... when you put on your football gear you are a new person... positive, confident but not over confident.  You are fully energised and with just the right amount of arousal...with just the right amount of adrenaline flowing at each and every moment in the game... The only thing that matters for the next period of almost two hours is the game... the game you are ready for... the game you have trained for... the game you are going to enjoy... no matter what the outcome…

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