I’ve had my fair share of really tough losses and horrible games. Losses where we have gotten destroyed and it’s absolutely embarrassing. And I’ve made terrible mistakes that have resulted in goals. Especially as a defender, you feel 100% to blame for it all. It’s the hardest part of the position. One mistake can result in a goal that gives up your lead or causes a loss.
As a professional, this is my livelihood. So, it’s hard not to get stressed out over a bad game. But obviously stressing can do more damage that leads you to lose your confidence and more bad games. So how do you flip a switch after a bad game? How do you not lose your confidence? How do you emotionally overcome the embarrassment of mistakes and the feeling of letting down your teammates and fans?
Let me tell ya, it’s not easy. This season has been a hugeeeee challenge for me. I have made some major errors, and have learned the hard way how to not these mistakes affect me. Unfortunately, I’ve let these mistakes get to my head and have suffered from lots of negative self-talk which destroyed my confidence. It’s been difficult digging myself out of this hole, but here are some things I now implement into my post-game routine and daily life that help build my confidence, even after a shitty game:
- Do not look at social media! After a bad match, DO NOT read the comments on Instagram or Twitter. I repeat, DO NOT read the comments. I’ve made this mistake before and it truly will destroy your confidence in .5 seconds. After a big loss, I will delete my social media apps to bite the curiosity of reading people’s reviews and hate comments about my playing. I usually keep them deleted for a few days until posts have died down and I know I won’t be seeing anything about the game anymore, or am emotionally ready if I do see a mean DM or comment.
- Game Analysis and Journaling. Right after the game or the next day after, I analyze my own game film and journal about it. I will write down every error I made, and how I could have made a better decision. This turns my mistakes into learning lessons. These mistakes will only make me a better player if I learn from them. I also write about how I felt mentally during the game. How was I feeling? How was my confidence? How did my confidence shift throughout the game if I made a mistake or had an excellent play? How were my energy levels? How was my pregame routine?… All these questions help me asses my mental game and how it contributed to my playing. After watching game film and journaling, I am able to stop replaying my errors over in my head which helps me move on faster.
- Positive Self-Talk. You are talking to yourself constantly throughout the day and unknowingly, all these thoughts have an impact on your play and life in general. Having positive self-talk is something that I really struggle with. This season, my negative self-talk took over my game. In my head, I thought that I didn’t deserve to be a starter because my mistakes made me a bad player. I also told myself that the new center defenders were automatically better than me because of their previous stats and records, even though I was considered one of the top defenders in the league last season. And guess what…? My level of play decreased immensely, and I stopped being in the starting lineup. I literally self-sabotaged myself with negative self-talk. So how am I changing these negative thoughts? Being aware of your thoughts is the first step. I have been taking note of what I’m saying to myself on and off the field. Being aware when my thoughts are negative allows me to flip them to something positive faster and understand why I’m thinking that way. I’ve also realized that I need to hype myself up constantly, especially when I am playing. For example, I am constantly saying things like: “I am confident”, “I am a beast”, “I am going to kill it at practice today”, and “I am going to give everything I got when I go in”. When I am continuously feeding myself these positive affirmations, there is little time for the negativity to creep in!
- Meditation. Meditation has become a part of my daily routine I started to help understand myself on a deeper level. I have found that meditation especially helps me get into the present moment, let go of the past, worry less about the future, and heighten my feelings of gratefulness. This has helped with the mental aspect of soccer because, through this, I’m able to shift my mindset quicker from dwelling over a bad game to focusing on the present moment. There’s nothing I can change about the past, but I can change how I feel in the present moment about a specific situation.
- Love the game. Win or lose, good game or bad game, I absolutely love this sport and playing brings me so much joy. It’s one of my favorite things to do in this life. So, even after tough games, I can truly say I loved playing out there every time. I may feel pain, embarrassment, and even heartbreak at times, but no matter what, playing will always be fun for me. Remembering at the end of the day that– this is just a sport that I love doing– helps relieve any pressure that I am feeling.
- Go into the next week of practices with fire. I use the loss or my mistakes as motivation to go into training ready to give it my all. 100% concentrated on the next opponent. Going in with no fear of making mistakes. Because mistakes are how you learn, and confidence is the willingness to try, even if you failed before.
Every player goes through lows in their career. It is almost impossible to be at the peak of your game at all times. Learning how to push through the lows and keep a positive mindset is not easy. I hope some of my tips help any player that is also being challenged mentally in their sport. Feel free to message me if you have any questions or would like to share any other tips you may have! Thanks all for reading once again<3.