top of page

Mental and Psychological Training; MOTIVATION

As previously promised, I will now embark in explaining the importance of motivation and how and why all athletes should perfect the method in which they can motivate themselves. Regardless of the sport played all participants, at one time or another experienced an accelerated heart beat, a dry mouth, butterflies in the stomach, trembling muscles, or the inability to concentrate and think clearly. The reason for this is tension. For this reason I always asked myself as a coach, whether prior to games, should players be fired up or as relaxed as possible before a game? I find that the best state is a happy medium somewhere in the middle.

Students of sport have researched this subject in depth and are convinced that a well balanced emotional state helps the psyche send out the right signals, which are essential for a magnificent performance. On the other hand, negative thoughts such as frustration, fear, anger, or worry normally cause more possibility of muscular injury, lack of concentration and numerous errors.

These can all be addressed by motivation, which can be seen as a real energizing force that is responsible for making the most of the body's resources when up against vigorous and intense activities. This state is also perceived as a continuous feature from dreams at one extreme to panic attacks at the other.

According to Landers, there is a strong link between motivation and performance.As we progress from sleepiness to a state of alertness performance improves. But once the motivation goes beyond the state of alertness into a state of over-excitement there is a progressive decline in performance. This phenomenon is very evident in many of our players during our games. Simple tasks that are almost performed automatically during practice, with and without pressure and counter pressure, become cumbersome and almost impossible to perform during the game.

It was always thought that the emotional state was a mere reflection of how a player was performing. Over the years people believed that performance had a direct link on how the player was thinking and feeling.

Although these points of view seem to have nothing in common, to a certain extent, they could both be right. It is reasonable to suggest that positive thinking helps produce a better performance and a good performance produces confidence and positive thinking.

However; there is no doubt that a certain psychological profile is linked to brilliant performance. Although it is true that each player will differ physically, technically and psychologically, in nearly every case, the psychological characteristics are these:



  • Great self-confidence


  • Great powers of concentration


  • Great self-control (highly charged but not overly so)


  • Positive concern about the sport (imagination and thinking)


  • The ability to make difficult decisions.


Acquiring these qualities is not easy, and most athletes have to be shown the proper techniques. But fortunately sports psychologists have made these techniques available to athletes, although they take some time to learn.


However; Loher maintains that these qualities come easily to the truly great player. They have been learning to increase or maintain this state so that they are able to spend time practicing and perfecting physically, technically and psychologically.


In summary, motivation for athletes (or anybody) is a necessary as wheels on a car; it gives us energy, strenght and direction, Hare are a few thought on the subject:



  2. According to research, most people say that their best performances have been when they had nothing on their mind. They were so immersed in the action that not a single conscious thought was going through their mind.


However; the sport-psychologists suggest that athletes have irrelevant and disturbing thoughts during practical training (practice), during matches, and even afterwards and that this thinking affects their self-confidence and performance. For this reason it is important for the coaches to help show the players how to have more control over their thoughts. Let's make it clear, it is not the fact that they are thinking that impacts on their performance, but it is the negative thoughts we need to banish from their minds. If the soccer player followes this advise and mental training it would not only help his game but would also have a positive influence on his personal life. The question is not "Should he think?" The questions are: What should he think? When should he think? and How should he think?

2. It is a good idea to use the relaxation technique with self praising thougths from the CD. The majority of negative thoughts arise when we are under stress, and suffering from lack of motivation. Under these circumstances the player should banish these thoughts and take a deep breath. As he begins to relax he should breathe out slowly and replace the negative thoughts with positive ones. A player can only banish bad thoughts and negative thoughts by talking to himself and forbidding through self-conversation these thougths to enter his mind.

Having negative thoughts is perfectly normal but the people who succeed are those who can defeat and deal with them. They stop them from spreading and replace them with positive thoughts. The most important thing is to not let them enter the mind and take hold and get the better of you.

3. Earlier in our mental training sessions (winter) I mentioned how to achieve total or localized relaxation (CD) We were trying to rid the muscles of the tension that has such a great impact on performance. This relaxation also serves to calm the mind and the rest of the body. To achieve the right motivation before games and during practices I try to use relaxation techniques to get players to believe in their own ability and their own qualities and to lessen or eliminate the undesirable negative thoughts and feelings they might have.

4. The researchers have discovered that effective shouts of encouragement can have a significant impact on performance. They are very useful when trying to keep performance levels high or when seeking extra effort. Some players find it difficult to "get going" in training or in a game. Others find it difficult to change pace or keep up the effort. This type of encouragement is often all that is needed: "That's the one", "Just keep going", "Good job". It has also been proven that when a runner says with confidence: " Fast!" or "Lets go!" then he goes faster.

The best type of encouraging words are those that come spontaneously. These words help players recapture the sensation of a previous experience that was better or successful. "I'm as strong as an ox", "I'm the best", "We're going to win" are examples of these words of positive encouragement.

  1. When things are going wrong a player begins to realize that his mind has been conditioned to failure by self-doubt and negativity from others. The body was just doing what was expected of it. It only acted according to how the mind was thinking. If before a competition, a swimmer thinks: "I never do well in this pool"or players conclude: "This team always beats us (exactly what happened prior to the E. Fishkill game), then usually this is exactly what happens.

  2. Perhaps this negative thinking is more common in soccer on a collective basis. At the start of the a game the teams line up with the same goals. But once a team scores a goal they take the initiative and become dominant with the other team adrift. The goals keep coming until halftime, with the opposition now looking a shadow of its former self. The break, the advise and words of encouragement from the coach and the team's own reflection usually leads to a better contest in the second half with the teams more evenly matched. I am convinced that if there was no break, even if the game had gone on for another 20 hours, then the winning team would have become more and more dominant.

  3. A problem that can seriously affect a player is when he wants to always perform brilliantly, bordering on perfection. As nobody is perfect the frustrations he is bound to face will affect his self-esteem and eventually this could lead to him being scared of failure itself. Furthermore; because he puts himself under so much pressure, his enjoyment and his performance will suffer. He is only interested in trying to reach perfection.

  4. Another psychological problem that accompanies this attitude is that these people are never far away from catastrophe. If they do not achieve perfection then they see it as a disaster and feel humiliated in front of their family, friends, and supporters. These pessimists always expect the worst and this in the end makes things worse!

  5. Both the perfectionist and the pessimist can overcome their problems by taking stock of their current circumstances and by setting more realistic and achievable targets. It is important to calculate carefully the chances of success or failure and any possible repercussions if these targets are not met.

  6. I have also stated many times that it is important for the players to concentrate in the here and now and focus on the match he is currently playing. It is impossible to predict the future and what has gone before is now in the past, so it is essential for him to ONLY concentrate on the PRESENT. If players worried about things that happened in a previous match - "If only I had scored that goal!" or if they are looking ahead - "If we win the next match we'll be top of the table!" - then they will be unable to focus on the task at hand.

bottom of page