Sean Gaffney - Soccer Notes
Feedback or Not
Does my feedback help or hurt the team? We all have different behavioral styles and ways of expressing ourselves. How do we learn to give the right kind of feedback to teammates? Do you know when your feedback is helpful and when it is not?
When we react to events in the heat of a game, we usually react instinctively. Our individual behavioral styles (something you can learn about with the our DISC profile) in combination with our emotions determine how we act. This combination is a powerful force, and unless we have trained ourselves to understand our style and to manage our emotions, we are at the mercy of our habits, for better or worse.
I was reminded about this in a recent game. I was playing well, working hard, focused on the play, attacking the goal and creating opportunities to score. After several mistakes by teammates, I got frustrated and started to let it show.
I let my negative feedback fly, adding to the worsening team atmosphere that was already getting tight and restricted. People began playing very stiff, uncreative soccer. What was the state of our Mental Game?
With no voices of positive reinforcement to balance the strong negative feedback loop that was being created, we were creating the perfect atmosphere for failure. Even though we were able to finish with a win, we did not enjoy the game and left the field without our usual camaraderie and high spirits.
I often pride myself on my sportsmanship and positive attitude on the field, but I was genuinely upset and was letting my defenders and midfielders know it. At the time, it felt like the right thing to do. They needed to get their act together and I felt like telling them all about it. But was that really helping the situation?
We were playing a team that we could not afford to give any room, and it was a difficult battle for all of us. I shrugged off the initial requests to "be more positive," feeling justified in "encouraging" my teammates with harsh and untimely advice.
The Coach Steps In
It took our coach pulling me aside and commenting on my behavior to help me see what was happening. While there were changes that needed to be made, we had our best team on the field and needed at that moment to relax and support each other, regain our composure and relieve the pressure that had been created by the mistakes. To put it simply, our players needed encouragement and I was being far from encouraging. I had slipped into bad habits and had lost track of my Mental Game.
How often have you seen this happen? Negative feedback can be targeted at our teammates or ourselves (negative self-talk), and it rarely helps the situation to improve. How do we create habits of positive self-talk and appropriate feedback to teammates?
The first step to making a change is noticing that there is something that needs to change. We must first learn to recognize our behavior. Watch yourself. Notice how you speak to yourself after mistakes. How do you speak to your teammates? Are you able to be the type of player that you would want on your team? Be honest.
If there is room for improvement in this arena, make it a goal to be an encouraging and positive influence on the team. Many players play better when they are mad, but we need to balance our better play with the overall health of the team. Focus on this before practice and games and notice how it affects your experience of the game and the team atmosphere. Can you be more positive and still be competitive? Try it out and see. Can you channel that anger toward an appropriate target that will actually help improve the chances of winning?
Become a student of your mental game. Notice the things that you do. The more that you can see yourself, the better you will get at making the changes that you need to make to succeed.
For more information about our system of developing the whole Mental Game, our Mental Game Profiles, and our Mental Game coaching services, please visit us at www.6dsports.com. Thanks, and have fun!
CPBA, CPVA, Certified Sports Axiologist
Six Dimensions Sports Consulting
Sean's Soccer Notes
Are you having fun yet?
I have discovered something about my Mental Game this season. Our season is short, with only 7 games before the playoffs, so there is no room to get off track or lose focus on the goals that I have set for myself. This past weekend, we were playing fairly well as a team, and I was feeling confident and fit, several things began to work together that caused me to lose track of my Mental Game, get down on myself and forget that I am out there to have fun.
Commitments and Goals
I made a commitment before the season began to use the Six Dimensions Mental Game Workbook to help me stay on track with my physical and mental training. This was very helpful, inspiring me to get to practices and games in the right mind frame, ready to focus on the goals that I had written out for the season. This is men's league and though we are all serious athletes, and the skill level is quite high, there is not much pressure from anyone but myself to perform.
The past two seasons, my fitness has not been at a level that I can play 90 minutes. Being unfit, I would get tired and sloppy toward the end of the game, leaving me prone to injury and poor performance. My first goal was to be fit enough to play 90 minutes each weekend.
I thought that reaching my other goals would fall into line if I was fit and training well, but they have not. I have been getting more and more frustrated with myself, not enjoying the success of our team or the opportunity to play quality soccer as much as I know that I can. So what is going on with my Mental Game? Is it time to go to a sports psychologist...first lets look inside my Mental Toolbox...Self Evaluation...what is there to learn from this weekends performance?
Old Habits Creeping In
This weekend, I recognized an old habit of negative self talk, frustration, and lack of enjoyment from my old days as a collegiate and professional player. In those days, winning was everything, and as a forward, that meant that scoring was everything. If I did not score, it did not matter how much I was contributing to team success, I was frustrated and not feeling good about myself or my performance.
For the first four games I was feeling excellent and on top of my game. People were commenting on the change in my play from last season. Despite this after a couple of games without goals, my old habit of negative self-talk began to effect my Mental Game and my play. In training last week I noticed that I was becoming more frustrated after each mistake. I made a note of it in my journal after our second training session. I was being very hard on myself and left the field feeling low and annoyed, remembering only the mistakes that I had made. Even though I noticed this and wrote about it in my journal, I did not make the shift in focus to enjoy the weekend game, but stayed focused only on my performance goals.
This stress and attitude carried through to the game. After I missed a good scoring opportunity at the beginning of the game, I jumped all over myself and started to become snippy with teammates, opponents, and the referee as well. Not a good combination if I was hoping to enjoy myself and come off of the field a better person.
Back on Track
This is an important concept that athletes at all level can use to benefit both their athletic careers and their life beyond sports. As I set goals for this season, I set mainly performance goals and failed to set enough goals for how much fun and enjoyment I want to get from the game. These non-performance related goals set the bar for the kind of person that I want to be before, during, and after the game. Can I find enjoyment in the camaraderie of the team? Can I make mistakes without getting down and putting more pressure on myself to succeed?
I am adding more non-performance goals into both my long range goals (BIG Goals), mid-range goals (CHECK Goals), and daily STEP goals. I love playing soccer. I have to work to remember that, especially when I am stressed in my daily life, or when my performance is not what I think it should be.
Fortunately, I have been able to bounce back from the negative self-talk, frustration, and other old habits by using my Mental Game tools. When I was playing more serious ball, I had only a passing interest in sports psychology and Peak Performance, and thought that I had it all figured out for myself. But looking back now, I realize what kind of player I might have been, if I had trained my mind with the same commitment that I trained my body to perform. I spent a lot of time angry and unpleasant to be around even after victories. In the end, it is WE who set the bar OURSELVES. If we can make sure that our athletic goals are helping us to become the type of person that we want to be, we set ourselves up for success no matter what the outcome of the game. What do you have in your Mental Toolbox?