Dan Abrahams is a football psychologist with English Premier League team Queen’s Park Rangers, and a host of top level players throughout the professional ranks in England. Dan works alongside managers, coaches, academies and individual players. His task is simple – improve the performance of the players and help win more games.
He offers a free football psychology e book on his own website. The link is below:
His method is simple – teach easy to use psychology techniques to improve focus, intensity and confidence. I asked Dan what advice would he offer players on how to prepare mentally for a game. Below is Dan’s response:
MENTAL PREPARATION FOR A GAME:
One of the questions I’m most often asked as a football psychologist is “How should I mentally prepare for a match?” So here are three tips to help you get your brain in gear.
Tip One: Stop thinking about the game
That sounds a strange one doesn’t it? Stop thinking about the game! A couple of years ago a very famous England international player took some time to speak with me to help him improve his football psychology. He mentioned that he felt lethargic when he started a match. After he explained a little more about his match preparation it turned out he was spending the whole morning of the game thinking about how he wanted to play. He would restlessly picture the runs he wanted to make and the movement that would help him find space. But spending
the morning of the match over-thinking happens to be a big mistake. Why? Because the nervous system can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined. So when you picture yourself perform your nervous system releases the chemicals and hormones associated with those pictures. Just by thinking about your performance you’ll release adrenaline into your bloodstream. Too early and your body won’t have enough stores to play the match at the level of intensity that is required. You’ll feel lethargic and tired before you’ve even started. My advice as a football psychologist is to start thinking about the game a couple of hours before kick off, not before. Relax in the morning and take your mind away from the performance.
Tip Two: Questions, Questions
Now this is football psychology in action. Let’s say kick off is at 3pm. It’s 1:00pm and its time to get your mind in gear. Here’s a very simple tip. Ask yourself a question: “What will it look like today if I play my dream game?” This question will open up a wealth of pictures of you playing at your very best. This will not only focus the mind but also increase your confidence for the game ahead.
Tip Three: Use your warm-up
You’d never let yourself play without going through a rigorous physical warm-up, but do you commit yourself to warming up mentally? Probably not! A very simple way to be mentally prepared by kick off is to use your physical warm-up. How? Well as much as your football psychology affects your football physiology, it’s important to understand that your football physiology affects your football psychology. The more you are on your toes, the louder you are, the sharper you execute your movements the more confident, ready and focused you will feel. If your warm-up consists of a heading drill then jump higher than ever and try to head the ball back to your team mate as powerfully as possible. If your coach gets you doing a small sided game then be loud, constantly communicating with your team mates. Be constantly on the move, trying to find space to receive the ball. When you have an upbeat warm up like this you will feel upbeat. Remember, your mind follows your body so get your body moving.