By E-Perform | MINDSET | August 5, 2022
21 Quick Ways to Improve Mental Toughness in Football
Mental toughness in football is a critical trait to have in order to succeed.
Mental toughness has been proven to be one of the most important psychological characteristics related to success in football as it is the ability to cope with difficult training and difficult competitive situations, keep going and emerge without losing confidence when times are tough.
Since it is so important to enhancing your game, let’s dive straight into how to develop mental toughness. We have put together a series of 21 techniques to try to help develop mental toughness in football and sports.
What is mental toughness?
Mental toughness is the ability of an individual to keep pushing even when the going gets tough.
Even though the feeling of failure impacts virtually everyone, people with toughness are able to bounce back after a misstep and come back stronger than ever before.
Such people view failure not as a reason to quit trying, but rather as an opportunity to learn more about one’s strengths and weaknesses.
In research mental toughness refers to a collection of psychological characteristics which are central to optimal performance.
Athletes, coaches, and sports psychologists have consistently implicated mental toughness as one of the most important psychological characteristics related to success.
The quality of your mental toughness allows you to focus on the task at hand no matter what the circumstances.
It can be hard to stay mentally tough during a game with injuries and fatigue, but it’s something that has to be done. Mental toughness also means not letting the opponent get into your head and staying confident in your abilities. So let’s dive into how to train it and the specific techniques to get you started.
How to train mental resilience and toughness
In order to train mental resilience and mental toughness in football, there are a number of techniques which can be really effective.
It is important to note there is no “one silver bullet” which can solve this problem. Developing mental toughness comes from various techniques working across your entire football mentality and mindset.
We, therefore, suggest you read through the list of simple and effective techniques below and begin to slowly try them out. See which ones resonate and work for you & then aim to implement them consistently into training and games.
How to train mental toughness in football and sports
- Workout with intensity and don’t give up – An excellent and sports-specific way of training mental toughness is to complete fitness, conditioning or strength and power sessions which require grit and determination to complete.
Working through pain and learning to suffer during your workouts to ultimately push yourself harder and harder is an excellent technique to develop mental toughness in football. Using heart rate zone training is an excellent way of doing this.
Simply spending time at or above 85/90% of your maximum heart rate is HARD & learning to tolerate these extreme heart rates when you are fatigued and tired is an excellent way of getting used to working hard. Please only complete these types of sessions if you are well trained & slowly build up to utilising techniques such as these. Speak to your coach or fitness specialist for help before completing these sessions.
- If you have a bad day, don’t dwell on it – Instead of dwelling on mistakes reframe the mistake and turn it into a lesson to learn from. Determine what went wrong and make adjustments so that it doesn’t happen again. This improves your mental toughness in football as it means mistakes now become opportunities instead of failures.
- Visualise – When you visualise yourself being successful, it helps bring your goals into reality. Athletes who visualize themselves winning before the game often play better because they are able to focus on the task at hand and not worry about performing poorly.
Whether you do it in the few seconds before the whistle, or just before you go to sleep every night, making visualisation part of your training routine will bring you one step closer to mental toughness in football.
- Don’t compare yourself to others – Comparison is the thief of joy. Instead, concentrate on your own strengths and weaknesses and try to improve on them. Unless used as fuel to improve, comparison usually leads to feelings of not being good enough which can hinder your mental toughness in football.
- Reward yourself – If you have a good day but lose or you have learnt a lot but something went wrong, ensure you appreciate it. Reward yourself with something you enjoy or something that will solidify your confidence.
- Complete sessions you don’t want to do – Working on things or workouts that you don’t enjoy but completing them with enthusiasm and discipline is a brilliant way of developing mental toughness in football. It is easy to do the things you enjoy and like, but there is so much growth in doing the things you don’t like to do.
- Don’t be fearful to fail – Research tells us that Failing helps you get better as long as you perceive it properly. People often avoid doing things that put them at risk of failing. However, by avoiding these things you are not improving. Don’t be afraid to fail because it can build character, teaches you the lessons you need to improve and also prepares you for future failures.
- Don’t be afraid to try – Don’t be afraid to try because it will help you get better at what you are doing. Push yourself to do new and uncomfortable things. This is where development happens!
- Embrace your inner critic – If something goes wrong, don’t let your inner critic take over and ruin your day. Instead, embrace the criticism and learn from it. The best players are the ones that can learn and improve the fastest, these are the players that have the best mental toughness in football.
- Stay positive – If you reframe everything that happens to ask ‘what was the lesson?’, ‘what can I learn from this’? Then no matter what you are going through you can always improve and grow as an athlete.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Don’t be afraid to ask for help because it will help you get better at what you are doing.
Coaches are paid to help you so don’t be afraid to ask for help because it can teach you new things that you may have never learned otherwise. When you are struggling to find the solution or need help with a specific technique, Mental toughness in football can often just look like asking for help. It will give you a new perspective and ensure you don’t give up.
- Improve mental toughness in football through Positive self-talk –Focus on the task in hand, not how difficult it is. You are most likely to have negative thoughts when you are under stress, it can be easy for negative thinking to take over such as “I Can’t” or “Just stop”. During a difficult game, training or conditioning session try to say things to yourself like “you’ve got this” “Keep going” Stay strong” “Breathe” etc.
- Take cold showers – Mental toughness in football is the ability to tolerate being uncomfortable, whether mentally or physically. Taking a cold shower is a brilliant way of beginning to get used to getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Delay eating when you are hungry – Another really easy way to get used to being uncomfortable is to allow yourself to feel hungry and embrace the hunger without reaching for a snack. Just this small change builds your tolerance for being uncomfortable. If you can tolerate the simple things, it will build your ability to tolerate more difficult things.
- Do things you do not want to do – When there’s something you really don’t want to do — like go to training, workout, or tackle a boring report. Tell yourself you only have to do it for 10 minutes. When the 10-minute mark rolls around, allow yourself to stop if you want to. 9 times out of 10, you are likely to keep going and often just starting is usually the hardest part. Generally your brain underestimates you. Go for it.
- Try Training Without Music – Whilst music is great for motivation, on occasion try to workout without music. Music can distract you from the pain however this is also an opportunity to develop your resilience.
Instead focus on the pain, the breathing and how it feels. Learn to enjoy the suffering & learn to tolerate it. The Marines have a saying “Train hard, fight easy“, we love it. In a Football context “Train hard, play easy”
- Nasal breathing – Breathe Deeply – This allows you to regulate your thoughts, and feelings, by reducing your cortisol levels. Deep slow breathing has a calming effect. Two excellent breathing techniques to try are:
The 10-second pause, where you breathe in for three seconds and out for seven seconds.
The box breathing method; Breathe in deeply for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and breathe out for four seconds.
- Talk to Someone – Mental toughness in soccer can sometimes come in the form of admitting you don’t have all the answers. While it might feel uncomfortable, talking to someone such as a teammate, coach or friend can help you see things differently and positively move forward.
- Practice Gratitude – Gratitude can improve things such as immunity, sleep quality, and mental strength.
Try to look for things you can be thankful for every day and you’ll boost your mental muscle. Finding the silver lining shapes how we think about the world which allows us to become more mentally tough in adverse situations.
- Short-Term Goal Setting – This isn’t an extensive goal-setting session, more session by session, workout by workout goal. By setting small short-term goals on a sessional level can help you review and reflect on your short-term performance and make small tweaks and changes. Setting specific short-term goals on a regular basis will take your training to the next level of performance!
- Create Stress In Training – Every athlete will tell you that it doesn’t always go to plan. Whether it was too hot, the crowd were too loud, you went down to 10 men within the first 5 minutes. Whatever it is these things cause stress and it can become uncomfortable.
A great way to become familiar with these feelings is to train for them. It is not uncommon for professional teams to play the day before at the stadium with fake crowd sounds or to create situations in training when you go a player or a goal down and have to find a way to come back. All these methods are specific to you and can often be replicated in training. An excellent way to develop individually specifically mental toughness in football components to your training.
How to train mental toughness in football
Now you have a ton of ideas about how to build mental toughness in football it’s time to put them into practice. Go ahead and pick 1 or 2 of the mental toughness training techniques we have described and try them in training.
Conclusion to mental toughness in football
- Mental toughness in football is the ability of an individual to keep pushing even when the going gets tough.
- Mental toughness has been proven to be one of the most important psychological characteristics related to success in football as it is the ability to cope with difficult training and difficult competitive situations, keep going and emerge without losing confidence when times are tough.
- There are many ways to train mental toughness. Most techniques revolve around becoming comfortable being uncomfortable or remaining cool, calm and collected when the pressure is on.
- To improve mental toughness in football or sports slowly begin to practice some of the techniques we have given you in this article
- Please feel free to comment with any questions or points you might have about the content In this article. We love to hear from you and if you need any help we are always here to help leave no doubt in your game.
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