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CONFIDENCE IN SOCCER
 
INTRODUCTION
 

Any coach or player will tell you that one of the most important elements in successful soccer performance is the level of self-confidence. Vealey an expert in sports psychology describes confidence as "the belief or degree of certainty individuals possess about their ability to be successful in sport". When players are confident they can performs at their best level and it is rare for successful players to have a persistent lack of confidence. Fig 1 below shows various factors both in and out of soccer which may affect confidence levels.

Developing a good general state of confidence is vital for withstanding and recovering from setbacks such as a defeat or a poor performance.

There are many characteristics which reflect a player's confidence and this can be observed during training and games through body language and verbal comments. The following is based on Beswick's (psychologist in English professional soccer) work in top level soccer and lists the messages sent out by players who are high in confidence:

- high self-belief - a real "I can do it" attitude
- projecting a positive image through good body language
- enjoying and having fun in competition and training
- not unduly worried about losing or consequences
- calm, collected, concentrated, and high self-control
- don't feel the need to impress others
- accept themselves for the way they are whilst understanding their strengths and weaknesses

These characteristics may be attained through good coaching and management of players and are essential for attaining success in soccer.

 
WAYS OF BUILDING CONFIDENCE
 

There are several methods to build up confidence in your players and team. One of the most influential sources of confidence is often past performance - success breeds confidence and vice versa. Thus what we might call a positive confidence cycle can be developed and this is highly linked to the technique of "goal setting". This technique involves planning and setting goals in training for a player to achieve. These can be short, medium or long term, must be challenging but obtainable. For example, too difficult goals will result in players becoming frustrated. Coaches should try to make training both fun and enjoyable. They should also reward good performance with compliments and when failure occurs use praise/criticism techniques to advise the players, e.g. after a poor shot:

Praise the player: "Good power in the shot..."
Criticise the player: "But I think you can improve the..."
Praise the player: "I know you can do it..."

Verbal encouragement and treating players with equal respect can play an important part in attaining the right level of confidence, especially coming from experienced and respected coaches. Players can also encourage themselves through positive self-talk - remember Mohammed Ali's "I am the Greatest !". Transforming thoughts such as "What if I miss the shot" into "I will get the next one in" or "I don't think I am good enough" into "The coaches must think so and trust me as they picked me" will help remove inner doubt. Another source of confidence can be provided by channelling the nervous energy produced from the stress-response into positive thoughts. Feeling your heart beat strongly can be thought as "I am up for this" rather than "I am scared". For more on preparing for stress and anxiety in soccer, click here. Players must also place total trust in their personal skills (as well as in others) to win and be able to screen out distractions.

Another means of building up confidence is the observation and imitation of successful players. Coaches may want to organise demonstrations, videos and practices based on what players have seen. However, care must be taken to ensure that players feel they cannot match that player for skill or become frustrated through failure. Also, Mental Imagery may be employed as a means of mentally rehearsing correct technique, click here to read more about this topic. The old saying practice makes perfect is also important as a correctly prepared player will start a match knowing they are at the peak of their form and are ready for all situations that may occur.

It is important as well that players who lose confidence do not concentrate too much on the one area of their game where they are struggling and hide the other areas where they are doing well. A good example is a centre-forward who is missing chances, concentrating on all the aspects of his game such as build-up play and creating chances for others can avoid over-emphasing the one big problem and allow the player to see their overall importance to the team. Beswick calls this seeing the Big Picture.

Finally, a player's personal lifestyle will affect their self-confidence. Parents of younger players must never let their egos and dreams get the better of themselves. Children need love, support and understanding whether they win or lose. It is essential for players to have someone in their life to share their feelings with and who can also help guide and provide encouragement.

 
CONCLUSION
 

Both the coach and player have an important role to play in building confidence. Players must always look at the positive side of things, be correctly prepared, committed, see situations as challenges not problems and trust themselves. Making sure of a correct lifestyle will also help maintain confidence. A coach can heavily influence player confidence through a positive philosophy as well as providing demanding yet attainable goals in training and competition. A coach must through correct praise and criticism encourage players to better themselves and to concentrate on every part of their game.

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