Don’t Get Caught up in the Fan Mentality
Stop approaching soccer as a spectator! Each person involved has their own role: players play, coaches coach, administrators administrate, referees ref, parents parent, etc.
Know your role – You are a player, an athlete, a participant. This means you must think like a participant, not as a coach, not as an administrator, and certainly not as a fan.
Most athletes have never experienced being a coach or administrator; however, most of us have experience being a fan. We’ve watched soccer on tv in the World Cup, or at a college game, or even at games that some of our friends or siblings are competing in. Because we’ve been exposed to soccer from a fan’s point of view, the “fan mentality” is difficult for us athletes to shake.
Fans talk about the importance of the game, streaks, wins, losses, upsets, records, predictions, rankings, and war stories of individuals. They spend countless hours watching television, listening to the radio, reading articles on the internet, participating in forums, debates, gambling, etc. etc.
We learn all about stats and what indicators to look for in teams and individuals so we can win bets. We know all the stories about girls/guys on our favorite teams and past records. We figure out stories and streaks so we have things to talk about while watching these games with our friends.
We learn very quickly how to become a great fan.
What we do not learn is how to think like an athlete. The best soccer players learn to block out these thoughts, and also learn what thoughts to replace them with.
You can only control what you can control. You have no control over what has happened in the past, or other’s expectations of you or your team. When you compete, you cannot think about the stories, and records, and kill ratio, etc. You need to stop looking at the newspaper, predictions, forums, and rankings. What do you have control over? Your sleep, what you eat, your effort and intensity, etc.
Many people say paying attention to these outside factors and stats do not affect them, so they can still be a competitor and fan at the same time. If that is the case, I challenge you to think of past poor performances. Think of at least 3 of them. What were you thinking before and during the competition? If your mindset had to do with how good or bad your opponent was, this is partly a result of getting involved in the hype. Ultimately, many poor performances are when we either respect our opposing team too much, or too little. We either go in defeated, or unexpecting and lazy. Walk away when friends and teammates start talking about the sport as spectators. Do not let that garbage into your mind. Remember that looking up stats on another team sets expectations, and expectations going into competition is almost always a negative thing. You should be going into the game with the same killer instinct, 100% effort and positive attitude no matter your opponent. You should not be changing anything about how you approach the game with more knowledge about your opponent.
Sometimes knowledge of a great team is undeniable. Everyone knows who the previous state champs were, even if you did not look it up. However, focusing on this fact or subscribing to the mentality that they are better than your team, will only be detrimental to you and your team. You will feel deflated, and will have lost the game before you set foot on the field. Remember that anyone can be beat on any given day, and if you believe you can win no matter who is on the field that day, you have a much better shot.
The “fan mentality” is a difficult habit to break, but it can be done. This will take active work on your part, but the results are well worth it. Stop placing emphasis on what other people think of you, how they will view your performance, what this all means, records, rankings, predictions, streaks, and stories. You can use your position on the field (sweeper, goalie, forward) to specify even further what kind of thoughts you should be having prior to a game or in the middle of the game. In order to keep my mind off of thoughts that will negatively affect my performance, you can think about being fast, getting break away, and taking a lot of shots on the goal.
Read a book on technique or mindset instead of box scores and newspaper articles. Start thinking like a soccer player. Destroy your “fan mentality,” and live in your own reality!