Soccer Brain: The 4C Coaching Model for Developing World Class Player Mindsets and a Winning Football Team | Dan Abrahams
Soccer Tough: Simple Football Psychology Techniques to Improve Your Game | Dan Abrahams
Soccer Tough 2: Advanced Psychology Techniques for Footballers | Dan Abrahams
Dan Abrahams: I talk in my books and I talk at my own Soccer Academy about a match script. A match script is two or three actions / behaviours that players can control (very important word, control) that he or she will run onto the pitch and focus on, as they train and as especially as they play. So, let’s break that that down. There are two or three actions or behaviours. Specific things, and those actions or behaviours can be related to the technical, tactical, physical and psychological sides of the game that they can control, so rather than “I’m going to win my headers today” it’s “I’m going to jump strong in the air, I’m going to be positive with my jumps into the air to give myself the best chance to win my headers, so positive jumps to win headers”. Rather than “I want to score today” it’s a non-stop movement to find space. Rather than ‘play with confidence’ it’s great non-stop positive body language.
So, it’s things that players can control that are scaffolded out so they get to the heart of what they can do to give themselves the best chance to play at their best. Control is the important word here and we come back to how do coaches help players focus? How do you help players play with confidence? Developing a match script is one way to do this.
Too often players run onto the pitch and they’re just trying to play well or they want to be man or woman of the match or they want to score they want to keep a clean sheet. I always hear “I want to score”, “I want to keep a clean sheet”. What are you going to do to do that? What things are going to help you to do those, to achieve those things? So, they’re what we call in sport psychology ‘process goals’ rather than having ‘performance goals’ (complete my passes, score a goal) or outcome goals (win the match, be man or woman of the match) process goals, things that they can control. This gives them the best chance to perform towards their best but it also gives players a great chance to focus, when they’ve made a mistake come back to your match script. If it’s not going so well, come back to your match script. Remind yourself.
It can aid communication between coach and player “come on, I want to see what’s in your match script today”. Empower players to make their own match script, help them develop their match script. You can co-create! What a great way to enhance your relationship with a player. What a great way to help them become students of their game and students of the game and that’s what I love about psychology. Rather than “it’s just about confidence” or “it’s just about concentration”, actually you can take a psychological tool like a match script and it works on confidence, it works on communication, it works on concentration. It works on those all those little psychological areas. That’s what a match script is.
Justkickin’ it Podcast: Without digging in personally, would you be able to share with us a story of a match script you’ve used with the player at the highest level?
Dan Abrahams: Absolutely and as I’m sure your audience can appreciate, being a psychologist a lot of my work is confidential but I’m very lucky whereby I have several players who really enjoy sharing their story. One of those players, he gave me permission to write about his story in Soccer Tough 2, and that’s Yannick Blasi who last season got a 25 million pound move from Crystal Palace to Everton. He’s a great guy. We’ve been working three or four years and he’s a winger, as people will know and one of his big challenges and I think a challenge for any winger especially at the very top level is patience. You’re not always making an impact so you don’t feel you’re making an impact on the wing. When he was at Crystal Palace (because you know at that time the reality was Crystal Palace with the newbies in the Premier League and a lot of times they conceded possession to the opposition) he wouldn’t see much of the ball and at times she was a say to me “Dan, I’m getting so frustrated. I’m not getting the ball I want to make an impact. I want to be the best that I can be”. So, there were there were a number of match scripts that Yannick had but one of those was ‘be patient’, ‘always show great body language’, ‘stay lively and alert’ and another one was ‘act Ronaldo’. I know that sounds a little bit corny and a bit cheesy but honestly when he thinks of that player, it was bang, “okay, how can I impact the game when I’m off the ball, when I’ not seeing the ball? How can I be the best teammate? Is it where I’m looking? Always be ready to make an impact. I might not feel I’ve made an impact but Ronaldo would always be ready to make an impact”. So, it was those kind of little things that when he ran on went onto the pitch, no matter how the first half went or the first 70 minutes, he would keep saying those things to himself to keep himself in the game.
I’ll finish on a little story here with regards him and he doesn’t mind me saying. I don’t know if your listeners will remember this…Crystal Palace vs. Liverpool a couple of seasons ago. Liverpool went to Selhurst Park and they were a couple of games from winning the title. They needed a couple of wins, they were three nil up after 70 minutes at Crystal Palace and throughout that game Yannick so wanted to make an impact, but he had to keep reminding himself ‘stay patient, what would Ronaldo do?, stay lively, stay on my toes, stay alert’. He kept talking to himself in an effective way. Yes, these players do talk to themselves, they have to! 70th minute he’d done nothing in the game and then suddenly ball came up to him, he broke away, crossed the ball, I think it was Gayle who scored. Then there was another assist, I think Yannick got and he made a big impact on those last 20 minutes. He said to me “if I’d let that first 70 minutes get to me, if it had emotionally got to me, if it would have sapped my confidence, I would have been distracted”. So, I think control, concentration, confidence. It was all he managed it all wrapped up in that match script because it helped him to keep talking to himself about what his responsibilities were. How he had to keep being. How he had to stay focussed.
So, that’s the kind of impact it can have and that works for an under eight, if you just have one little player in their match script. It can work for an under 15, maybe you can move up to two little players. It can work at the very top end with the guys who play in the big games that make a big difference to the biggest leagues in the world, so there we go.