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PRO INSIGHT SERIES: Mental Skills At The Pro Level

The biggest asset you have on the football pitch is your mind.

This is the realization I have come to from over a decade of playing football at the professional and collegiate level. Developing mental skills has given me the foundation for my career in professional football. To properly explain this process to you we will begin at the start of my footballing journey, when I was a young New Zealand footballer (like many of you).

I’m 12 years old and have enjoyed playing football since my dad introduced me to it at a young age. Suddenly I have this realization that if I want to become a professional, I should probably begin training harder to become one. So I start to go down to the local park by myself each day, kicking a ball against the wall and doing extra running. In this way I began to improve as a football player through this extra physical and technical training

If I want to be a professional, I should probably train like one.

However, the real breakthrough for my improvement came around a year later when I went to the local library and found a book about building mental toughness for football. This book gave an overview of why mental skills were important to football performance and how to build these skills. Just like building technical and physical skills (by practicing down at the park) I began to build mental skills through following the instructions and exercises of this book.

I noticed an immediate improvement in my footballing performance. With the addition of mental skills training I found that I could consistently implement the technical and physical skills I was growing from training into competitive games.

"Building mental skills allowed me to consistently express these skills and perform at a higher level"

As well as improvements in my performance, I noticed an uplift in my mental state and mood outside of the football pitch. Because I had high ambitions in football, I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well. This would often lead to me getting down if I didn’t make a certain rep team or made mistakes in a game. Building mental skills allowed me to deal with these disappointments and frustrations in a constructive way to my development.

At this stage you might be wondering what mental skills actually are. Simply put, mental skills are tools for the mind. They are the tools which allow your brain (your mind) to perform well.

"Mental Skills Are Tools For The Mind"

Examples include:

Self-awareness: understanding how you think

Focus: being able to pay attention to the right things for your performance

Confidence: a feeling of belief in yourself (that you can rely on your abilities)

Mental skills are the foundation for everything you do, on and off the football pitch. How clearly you can direct your mind results in how effectively you can perform (both for football and for every other performance task in your life). Moreover, building mental skills will allow you to feel better on an everyday basis. They will cause you to treat others better and become a valued teammate. Every aspect of your life can be improved by building mental skills!

Just like physical skills (such as running speed or endurance) and technical skills (such as passing or shooting), mental skills are something that can be improved with practice. Although practicing mental skills is relatively new in football, many research studies and experiences of professional (and youth) players are showing that it results in drastic improvements in performances and well-being.

My purpose in joining the team is to help you fulfil your potential and flourish on and off the football pitch through mental skill improvement.

I’m looking forward to getting started and seeing you down on the pitch!

"Franny" De Vries

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