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Fear Is Free. Faith Takes Work

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

When it comes to fear in soccer, it primarily manifests itself as playing to protect yourself from the embarrassment and humiliation related to not playing well enough to help the team win. The signs are blaming others when something goes wrong. Or disappearing and hiding during critical moments in the game.

In all these situations, fear and the lack of confidence that comes with it limit the player from reaching the next level. The key is for players to learn how to improve their mental toughness and resist something free in exchange for something that takes work.

There are two types of fear a player experiences—rational fear of getting hit with the ball, etc. And irrational fear, like being humiliated. It is an irrational fear that I'm addressing.

Generally speaking, you cannot experience two opposite emotions simultaneously. For example, You can't be scared and confident simultaneously. One emotion has to give in to the other. The good news is that you can reduce fear.

A player learns to accept fear during pressure situations or after letting the team down by their performance. But because this is a natural experience every player will have, helping the player overcome fear is an essential task for every soccer parent and coach.

Here is a proven strategy:

Be patient. In most cases, I discovered that fear had grown slowly over time because of several vivid and painful experiences a player had when making a mistake. Sometimes these emotions have been inflicted by teammates, coaches, or parents. In instances like this, it takes time and intervention before seeing this fear subside.

Chip away at irrational fear. Remember, irrational fear is the type of fear that comes from potential humiliation and embarrassment, not physical pain. It's essential to address this type of fear by addressing your response to a mistake. After a mistake, don't point out the error first. First, target your answer to the mistake. Encourage fight, not flight.

Direct your focus on faith. Faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Everyone has something they do well, something that comes naturally to them. So the player needs to build their game around what they do well. And every team has a system of play. So when players understand their role, it gives them something to build trust and grow their confidence.

Fear is free. Faith takes work. Every parent and coach has a role to play in helping players not fall victim to fear and the consequences fear you can have. Unfortunately, youth don't have the life experience to understand that they can overcome fear. It's your job, parent and coach, to help young players understand how to reach the next level on the field.

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