One of the most important learnings of all sports is how to prepare and navigate the mental aspects of the game. This is often the most challenging and most complicated aspect of sports and life. Constantly, we are faced with questions of:
- How to keep mentally prepared and engaged throughout the game?
- How to respond to difficulties or conflicts during and after the game?
- How to navigate our own mistakes or other’s mistakes?
- How to listen to challenging feedback from coaches or other players?
- How to accept both winning and losing?
- How to respond to negativity and positivity from team members, family members, coaches etc?
As a family member, dad, soccer player, coach, I am faced with one or more of these questions daily. It is easy to focus on the aspects that you can achieve quickly. In response to these challenges, some soccer athletes will decide to practice more, go to clinics to enhance skills, watch games, research tactical aspects of the game. It is easier to focus on the technical and tactical aspects of the game because we see this in our minds as more doable and reachable than dealing with the mental aspects of the game.
It’s not easy. And often we are our own worst critics. As a player and a coach, I struggle with stress, sadness, anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed. We’ve all been there. And it is hard to know when to say something to your colleagues, teammates or captains. First, I think it is important to say: It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to express that feeling of sadness, frustration, etc. It is important to talk about it and not let it be. Everyone needs to have an outlet to talk about what they are experiencing inside and talk about their challenges.
As a team sport, we must all realize that we have to be serious about helping each other to find a solution. Every person is different. For me, I try to have the mindset to not let the negativity overcome me. This is extremely important. There are so many occasions that I feel that there are two Tibi’s. One that wants to succeed and do well. The other that says I am not good enough, I get overwhelmed with mistakes or I worry that I won’t be able to achieve the goals for myself and the team.
As soon as that voice starts traveling through my mind, I do my best to turn my mind the opposite direction. I say to myself, Tibi, you do not know how to fail. I remind myself that I will not accept that answer. This sounds easy but it is extremely difficult. I constantly work to train my body and my mind together to focus on positivity. I limit myself to a short-time period to understand what went wrong and what I need to do to change. We all make mistakes. Failing is a part of what we do and everyday life. But, it is important to let it go and move on. It doesn’t work always work but I constantly work on this.
Do I have a magical recipe to cope with the mental aspects? No. Each person has to figure out what works best for them to find the balance and let the negativity go. There is no written script or magic words but know that you are not alone and that we are here as a team to support each other.
That is why I try to create an environment at Excel where it is positive, high energy and supportive to build that confidence. It is an environment free of school, politics, worries and everyday issues. I want our athletes to come in, shut the door behind them, be happy, work hard and stay positive. Hoping that during the limited hours that we are together that we are building confidence and strength. My intention is that this positivity will translate to creating the right environment in everyday life.
And always remember you never walk alone and may the Force be with you.