BY DR. VIRGINIA SAVAGE FOR FLORIDA TODAY
No doubt, the biggest barrier between you and your goal in soccer (or anything else) is your brain. It is also your biggest asset. The most critical element in accomplishing goals and overcoming difficult odds is your ability to BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds. Wanting to achieve and believing that you CAN are two different things. Desire can be a powerful motivator but if there is any doubt in your ability to play against formidable odds, or even to perform without your lucky socks, then desire can quickly turn into frustration and anxiety… and ultimately even work against you.
Believing is much more than hoping. Michelle Akers, a Central Florida high school graduate, is a great example. In 1999, she overcame the debilitating effects of a chronic disease (CFIDS) to lead the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team to another World Cup victory. Although her disease is invisible to the observer, Michelle made it especially invisible as she gave the game 110% of her available energy, finally collapsing at the end of regulation time (the game was won in overtime) after preventing a winning goal by the Chinese team. “Impossible is just another word for Work Harder” writes Dan Voss, one author of her story.
We marvel at our “heroes,” not just in soccer but in all walks of life, who have made the “impossible” possible and inspired us to believe in our own potential. If you read or listen to their words take notice of the language they use and begin to reflect on your own. Words like “determined”, “faith”, “commitment” and “inspired” pop up everywhere.
Likewise, listen to the language of people who always seem frustrated and limited in their achievements…. “I could never do that”, “if only…”, “who cares anyway.” Luck and fairness seem to define the arguments of failure. Believing in the “possible” defines the character of success. This leads us to the next practice session of mental toughness… developing a language of BELIEF.
Notice the language of your friends and fellow players, adults, and generally everyone around you… negative or positive? What is their accompanying attitude and motivation?
Begin to notice your own words and change negative statements to positive ones (change “I can’t” to “I will”… even if you don’t quite believe it YET).
Add the word YET to any negative statements that escape your head. Notice how this change creates a subtle difference in the way you feel.
Omit the word “try” whenever you can. It implies that you don’t really believe you can, that you are giving yourself an excuse to fail if it happens.
Omit the word “but” and replace it with “and.” The word “but” dismisses everything said before it.
Begin to focus only on what you WANT. Avoid focusing on the “what-if’s”.
Post notes on the wall in your room, on your mirror, in your locker, in your books… that say I BELIEVE. Practice repeating it to yourself over and over.
And finally, change takes time. What seemed impossible two years ago may seem entirely possible now that your ability to succeed is just a matter of time. Henry Ford (founder of the American car industry) once said, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.” Indeed, your thoughts determine your destiny.