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?