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The mental side of the game is often not included in our session planning as coaches, or seen as an issue, until it is! Great coaches include mental skills training into sessions without players even knowing it.

What are mental skills?

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As coaches its part of our job to teach the wonderful game of soccer, although sometimes we focus so much time and energy on the technical and tactical side of player development, and we forget about the mental skills training.

So what are mental skills?

Essentially it mental skills covers things such as developing self-confidence, positive mindset, effective goal setting, positive self-talk, and visualization.

How can we train mental skills within our coaching? 

Mental skills training in simple terms is techniques we can use to improve performance on and off the pitch.

Mental skills training doesn’t have to be complicated, or done as a stand alone session. It’s something that can be done slowly within your sessions to start to introduce it to players as part of their overall development as a player.

As coaches, developing our players mental ability is no different enhancing their physical skills, its all in the process. If we know what we are looking to develop, we have an idea of what a good version of that skill looks like in football terms, and we are consistent with implementation and monitoring of the skills, then we give players the opportunity to get better at whatever it is we are teaching them. 

What would a basic mental skill implementation look like? 

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An example of how to teach mental skills consistently without it being a stand-alone practice, is in relation to a player’s positive self-talk.

As coaches we want our players to believe they can get better at whatever it is they are practicing, so listening for any negative language from players throughout sessions when challenged is a great way to start to introduce positive self-talk.

For example, how many times have we heard players of all ages say they aren’t as proficient with their non-dominant foot?

As coaches if we hear players say things such as “I can’t do that with my left”, this is a great opportunity to introduce some positive self-talk to the player.

If we replace that negative language for the player with something such as “You may not be able to do it right now, but that’s why we keep working on it”, this gives a subtle cue to players to change start to challenge their mind set, refocus them onto the positive thoughts, and allow them to know its ok to have an area they may need to develop. 

 

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Written By

Tanya Oxtoby

UEFA A license coach and sports psychologist who is the current Bristol City WFC manager and England U19s Women assistant coach. She has extensive WSL and international experience across Australian, English and Scottish national.

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