Has this ever happened to you?
Your playing your first game for your new team. Your coach was impressed by your ability in practice so he put you in the starting 11.
A teammate passes you the ball and while it’s rolling the thoughts “I’m going to mess up” and “I can’t do this” pop into your head.
You take a bad touch and give the ball away.
Low confidence can be debilitating.
Without confidence you won’t be effective as a player. All your hard work developing skills and fitness becomes useless.
Having low confidence is like playing with a weight on your ankle. It lowers your reaction time and makes skills harder to perform.
I know how it feels to deal with low confidence. It can be embarrassing and extremely frustrating. It takes the fun out of playing soccer.
This article covers 6 steps you should follow to develop confidence:
6 Steps to Building Confidence in Soccer
1. Figure out the problem
There is a spectrum of confidence issues.
In other words, some problems are easier than others.
Think about why you lack confidence. It may be a specific problem. For example, you fear giving up the ball with your first touch but you can defend, shoot, and dribble fine.
Maybe you feel weak or slow compared to other players and this makes you feel insecure.
Maybe you feel tons of pressure when on one vs one opportunities vs the goalkeeper.
Sit down alone and honestly access your issues.
You may discover that your problem isn’t as big as you thought. You may simply need to practice a skill over and over in a gamelike situation to fix your problem or improve your fitness (see step 2).
On the other hand, you may have a general feeling of insecurity (see step 3). This is harder to fix, but still doable.
2. Address your weaknesses
Focus all of your effort on addressing your weaknesse(s). Put in the extra effort and time during off days or after practices.
Do whatever it takes. Fixing your weaknesses(s) can have a huge impact on your game. Fixing just one nagging issue will make you more confident and effective.
3. Address your insecurity
General insecurity comes from worrying about what others think and believing you can’t satisfy their expectations.
Whether you know it or not, you are worried about teammates, parents, scouts, or fans reaction to your play.
This is why you are somewhat confident in practices and confident while playing alone (there is less or no judgement).
There are two things you need to do:
- Care less about what other people think about you
- Believe that you can meet or exceed their expectations
It’s impossible to stop caring completely about what people think but you can greatly reduce how much you care.
There isn’t a concrete way to do this.
I can tell you “people care about you less than you think, they’re more focused on the team,” “thinking about their expectations makes it harder to reach them”, and many other words of wisdom.
But I know from experience that taking these words to heart is hard. So focus on caring a little less every game or practice. You will care less over time.
If this isn’t very helpful, don’t worry. You can largely block out expectations when you follow steps 5 and 6.
4. Develop a pregame ritual
It will help calm your nerves. For some reason following the same steps before each game or tryout makes players more confident. Try it. It works.
Read our article, How to Become Less Nervous Before a Soccer Game or Tryout for more information.
5. Develop a single-minded focus
This is the most powerful way to build confidence.
In a way, it’s not really building your confidence – it’s blocking your thoughts.
When you are playing focus on every detail you can. Focus on where the ball is, your breathing, your heart rate, your teammates.
In other words, be present. When you are present on the soccer field negative thoughts are eliminated.
Developing a single-minded focus doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something you need to work on every time you play.
At first thoughts will pop up quickly. But as you practice being present, you will notice thoughts happening less and less when you play.
The work is well worth it. You will eliminate confidence issues forever because you will be so tuned in to what’s happening around you that your brain won’t think.
The best players act on instinct. Thinking will only slow you down. Be present and you will improve rapidly and develop unbreakable confidence.
6. Use adrenaline to focus
If all else fails, adrenaline is the quick secret to becoming confident on the field.
You have probably felt adrenaline in key moments during games or when you are pumped up before the game starts.
You can use adrenaline to transform nervous energy into power and confidence.
When you feel nervous on the pitch, tell yourself “this is a good thing. I can use this to my advantage.”
Think of the game, practice, or tryout as a battle ground. Think of yourself as a warrior fighting or an animal hunting.
In my experience, talking to your teammates constantly and working hard transforms nervous energy into adrenaline.
Shout for the ball as much as you can, encourage your teammates, sprint for the ball, punch the ground and yell “lets go baby,” trash talk to the opposition, etc, etc.
Do whatever you can to get in touch with your primal “fight or flight instinct. When you choose “fight” you use adrenaline; when you choose “flight” you feel nervous and make mistakes. Choose fight.
Every player feels nervous, but the best players turn this nervousness into adrenaline, not negativity.