Needless to say that the right mindset is very important for performance in a football match.
In his book Soccer Tough, Dan Abrahams sums up simple sports psychology principles. He explains how elite football players think to improve their game. One of the core concepts from this book is the 3 F’s: Focus, Fun & Freedom. Please allow me to explain the idea behind it.
During a game, always focus on the task at hand. Ignore everything that’s out of your control or circle of influence. For example, don’t bother about the weather, mistakes by the referee, the condition of the playing field, what the opponent is doing, etc. Because all these things distract focus. You need maximum focus to be the best player you can be for your team. Focus on yourself and stay in the moment. Focus on everything you can do. Ignore past mistakes & don’t think about the future.
Keeping 100% focused is difficult, but there’s a trick you can apply to prevent your mind from diverting even the slightest second and that’s what Dan Abraham calls “match scripts”. A match script is an aspect of the game that you’re going to focus on and that you keep in mind like a mantra. Some examples of match scripts that you can constantly keep in mind during a game: remembering to look over the shoulder, repeatedly put high pressure, focus on staying on your toes, always defend the backline, etc. You can keep 2 to 3 of these match scripts in mind during a game and this helps to keep focus.
The game must stay FUN! Never allow anyone or anything to suck away the fun. Also, keep it fun for yourself.
When the game stops being fun, players stop improving and eventually stop playing football. This is the main reason why fun is so important because it keep players playing and it’s the highway on the road to improvement.
Football is a game of errors. We need to accept that players make errors. Perfectionists are scared of making errors, so they fold back and keep playing it safe. But hey, you need to take risks in a game in order to make the difference. Play free like a bird! Simply be creative, trust your skills and just give it your all.
In short, those are the 3 F’s.
The concept of Focus + Fun + Freedom is explained in much further detail in the book Soccer Tough by Dan Abrahams. The funny thing after reading this book is that when you hear an elite football player taking to the media (like Kevin De Bruyne from Manchester City for example), you recognize many of the psychological principles that drive them. Dan Abrahams explains in his book why it’s important for performance that players need to think differently than the fans watching the game. An interesting read!