3 Steps to Playing Aggressive Soccer
Have you ever been on the field thinking “I should have made that tackle, or, I should have gone for the goal, but I passed instead, I wish had been more aggressive!” Playing too cautiously or with hesitation, is a common problem that doesn’t seem to have an apparent solution. Coaches yell, attempt to motivate and encourage, and nothing changes. As players, we tell ourselves “it’ll be different next game, I’m gonna go after it,” but nothing changes. Why? Because nothing changes unless we do the work to make a change.
It’s time to take a systematic approach to becoming a more aggressive soccer player. With these 3 steps and following through on the mindset exercises, you’ll be playing more aggressively as soon as you start building new habits.
1. Clarity – You have to know what you’re best at in every common situation you get into in your position. Can you name your go-to skills and techniques in a 1v1 situation? 2v1? 1v2, etc? If not start by writing out these scenarios and what exactly you will do when you get in them. You can use visualization to help you define your moves. Close your eyes. Feel the sun on your face. You are a little bit fatigued. Your teammate just passed you the ball and you’ve got not one but two defenders coming at you. Slow the time down and really assess your options. Can you go through the middle? Since there are two defenders, who on your team is open? Imagine lots of common situation in your position and know what you are going to do!
Your mind ultimately needs to be clear on the field. How can you be play aggressively if you are not sure what you are going to do? Second guessing your moves on the field will cause a delay in your decision making. During that split second where you are trying to decide if you are going to dribble or pass, may be the difference between your team keeping the ball or losing it, scoring or being scored on.
2. Confidence – It doesn’t matter how well you know yourself and what your go-to skills and techniques are if you aren’t confident in them. Do you believe you can execute your best techniques on anyone? If not, it’s time to start building confidence in them by increasing your competence in them. You become more competent at a move by practicing it more. Here the exercise is to commit to extra reps. Get specific with the areas you’re not confident in. Maybe you hesitate to go for tackles, maybe it’s your dribbling, or your ability to make a good run. Determine the areas where you don’t believe in yourself and make a firm commitment to executing extra reps outside of practice to increase your competence in those situations- therefore increasing your confidence that you CAN compete with the best of them. But remember, practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect! If you need confidence tackling with aggression, make sure you have a coach that will watch and give you tips on how to drive your shoulder into an opponent without getting a red card. Then, write down what exactly you’re going to work on, how many extra reps a week, when, where, with who- get specific with it. Make it hard for you to backdown on your commitment. It starts with writing down the specifics. Take it a step further by telling a trusted friend about your commitment and asking them to hold you accountable to following through long-term.
3. Aggressiveness – The last step is to actually take action- start playing your role on the soccer field aggressively. Even when we’re clear and confident in our abilities, sometimes there’s still a fear in games of making mistakes. There are different causes for this and different ways to combat it but here we’ll talk about one- perfectionism. Have you ever seen a perfect soccer player, who never makes mistakes? Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar maybe? Nope, they’re not perfect. A perfect player (or person for that matter) doesn’t exist on this side of heaven. Strive for mastery in the way you practice, but don’t be afraid of falling short in games. If it happens, learn from it and move on.
To increase aggressiveness, shift your focus from worrying about mistakes to playing your role with full effort and aggressiveness. Set process goals for yourself to make it easier to start taking more chances. For example- set an in game goal to attack the ball every time it’s in your third or take opposing players on at every opportunity. Stop fearing mistakes, they’re a necessary part of the process of improving. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not taking enough chances.
You can also think about aggressiveness on a scale of 1-10. You can find your ultimate level of aggressiveness for performance and clean play in a scrimmage. Start at a 4. Play for a few minutes in practice at a 4, then a 5, then a 6. Increase all the way to 10. First, you will realize that there are many more levels in you than you thought! Then, you will determine what level is optimal for you on the field in a game situation. Many players will lose control once they hit a 10. You want to make sure you are playing as aggressive as you can, while maintaining control, and playing clean.
Put these mindset exercises into practice and you’ll be 3 steps closer to consistently playing aggressive soccer!