Seven Suggestions on Improving Soccer Performance

The 2018 World Cup is in full swing. If you haven’t caught any yet, you can stream the last few games here on Telemundo.

The world’s best players are out: Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar – unable to mesh with their national team, unable to pull those teams ahead on their own.

England’s national team, once a soccer powerhouse and the inventors of ‘football,’ has had abysmal international performance since 1996.

Apparently a missed shootout in 1996 has cursed the national team ever since.

Complicating the matter, that failed kicker from 1996 is now the head coach of England’s 2018 World Cup team.

Gareth Southgate isn’t letting his past failures define him. Instead he is using this as a stepping stone to teach his team about mindset and stretching past their comfort zone.

Persuasion is all about changing minds for better outcomes.

A friend recently asked how she could improve her own soccer performance. She felt that her skills were deteriorating and in need of a boost.

"IMG_1093" by Peter, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
“IMG_1093” by Peter, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

Here were my seven suggestions, based on self-persuasion.

1. Power Pose

Standing in a power pose with you feet wide, head high, hands up in victory for 30 seconds, before and after performance or practice. Everyone wants to feel like a champion. This gets you started.

2. Positive Self-Talk

Positive self talk and affirmations keep your mind focused on the outcomes you want. Do not create a space for failure in your thinking. Frame every outcome as success. View your challenges as opportunities.

You can’t change mathematical odds with positive thinking. You will change your own behaviors though — the key being ‘behaviors.’ You still have to act!

3. Mistakes are Necessary

Recognize that mistakes are learning opportunities, not negatives. See the good in those mistakes and that they’re necessary steps towards improvement.

4. Focus on Others

Talk up others achievements and efforts without any focus on self. Focusing on others gets you out of your head, helps you to understand how others play well, and helps to build team cohesion — all of which make you a leader. Good leaders have confidence and support from others.

5. Ask for Feedback

Humbly asking for advice from teammates on how to play as a better teammate. You will gain respect from people who understand your drive, and they will have legitimate suggestions to offer. You have to let go of your ego to allow in reality.

6. Practice the Physical

Practice, practice, practice. As obvious as this sounds, practice improves our average performance. We tend to circle around our average (regression to the mean). Increased practice creates muscle memory and strength. You can’t be a first-time player in the big leagues and expect any of these six other tips to make a difference if you haven’t put in the practice.

7. Practice the Mental

Visualizations of excellent performance, as detailed as you can manage, is practice for the brain. Your brain will relive experiences and circle around that average. If your brain thinks the average is frequently winning, then it will frequently win to maintain that average.

Be careful with this one though — if your brain thinks it’s winning and gets a little hit of dopamine, it might give up on trying any more. It thinks it’s already succeeded! You need to keep working!


Creating the right mindset, the right frame, is essential towards successfully navigating all circumstances of your life. Frame control is difficult in any high-pressure situation, even more so in the face of defeat.

Only by seeing a challenge as an opportunity to improve can you overcome that challenge.

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