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Football Psychology: 6 Key Mental Qualities for Academy Footballers

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

Psychology and mindset are critical in academy football. From a young age, players are pressured and expected to perform in a demanding environment. Whether they make it or not, every young player in a football academy will face challenges every day that a robust and well-rounded mindset will help to cope with. Through mental training, alongside training their other skills, your child will be ready to take on the challenges of academy football, play at their best, and enjoy the unique experience. But which qualities are beneficial to develop? Read on to find out.

Footballers from opposing teams trying to win possession

6 Key Mental Qualities for Academy Footballers:

1. Commitment

Your child may be in the academy system for an extended period, meaning they will be exposed to large amounts of training and competition which would be demanding for any young person. With that comes a need to be persistent and show a strong work ethic, even when things are challenging and they may not feel like they're succeeding. Commitment to the academy is also likely to mean making sacrifices in other areas of their life, such as spending time with friends, and your child will need to commit to sacrificing that if it's their wish to pursue developing as an academy footballer.


2. Emotional Management

Academy football will throw challenges and adversity in your child's way constantly, and these experiences can cause strong emotional reactions. So, an important quality for academy players to develop is emotional management. Strong emotional reactions are a perfectly normal response to a challenging experience, especially for developing young people. However, in academy football, there's an expectation on your child to perform, and strong emotions can take them off their game. This leads to more unpleasant emotions and far less enjoyment of football, which doesn't sound very fun. So, learning to understand which emotions show up when, and having the skills to manage and prevent them from taking over performance behaviours is a great quality to take into the academy journey and broader life.


3. Confidence

Your child is likely to have a more successful and enjoyable academy football experience if they develop a belief in their ability to do the things that are asked of them. Confidence is not fixed. It's not a case of 'you have it or you don't'. It can be developed with training and drawing on the right sources. Sure, some players seem to just breathe confidence whilst some may find it more difficult to believe in themselves, but those less confident players don't need to just accept that they're not 'born confident.' With work on increasing confidence, your child is more likely to take positive risks when they play, want the ball more, ask more questions, and perform better. Again, this sounds a lot more enjoyable than them turning up every telling themselves 'I can't do this.'


4. Motivation

Your child needs something to drive them on their journey through academy football. As I've already mentioned, they will face daily challenges and numerous setbacks on the way, so it's important that they have good motivational fuel for that journey.

The flavors of motivation graphic

There are different 'flavours' of motivation (see above), and whilst a mixture of different flavours is common and positive, the more internal your child's motivation is, the more likely they are to persevere towards their dreams despite suffering setbacks. By internal, I mean driven by pure enjoyment and interest in football, whereas more external motivation comes from wanting to be wealthy, win trophies from the game, or being driven by wanting to make their parents proud. Whilst these external motivators can be powerful and helpful, they are less controllable and lower-quality forms of motivation. If those fuel sources run out, and your child doesn't value or enjoy the game anymore, their motivation is likely to plummet. So, it's key for your child to stay in touch with their love of the game, as there is no more powerful driver than that.


5. Focus and Concentration

Developing the ability to focus is key for your child in a number of ways in academy football. Firstly and obviously, performing well in football requires players to stay highly focused on their role for the entire time they're on the pitch, no matter what distractions come into play. Lapses in concentration lead to mistakes, which your child wants to avoid for very obvious reasons! So, training the ability to focus is a key part of performing as well as possible in academy football. Alongside this, focus is really important on the training ground and in the changing rooms. Your child will spend a lot of time in team talks, being given feedback, and observing demonstrations and training drills. To make the most of this education, they must be able to remain focused, so that they can listen and observe as well as possible and apply what they've learnt on their game.


6. Resilience

Resilience is the quality of being able to withstand or bounce back from adversity and setbacks, which we know are common in academy football. At some point, it's likely your child will face an experience such as getting injured or being deselected from the team. If your child can learn strategies to respond well to these experiences, they're more likely to persist towards their goals, view adversity as an opportunity to grow instead of a threat and interpret their experience in the academy as more positive. Developing resilience at a young age through mental skills work and the experience of academy football is also beneficial to your child when they are faced with challenges later in life.

 

Whilst this list is not exhaustive, developing these mental qualities will give your child an amazing base for thriving in academy football. Whilst it is a challenging experience for young footballers, it's an amazing opportunity for them to chase their dream, learn valuable football and life skills, and enjoy playing the sport they love at the highest level they can. Through developing key mental qualities, your child can be in a position to make the most of the academy football journey.


If you want to join a community of like-minded sport parents looking to discover ways your child can handle the challenges and pressure of sport so they can become the best version of themselves, subscribe to the Challenger Zone email newsletter here! With this, you'll receive a FREE mental imagery checklist to help your child discover the transformational effects of mental imagery with just your email address! Alternatively, if you feel your child may benefit from mindset training on any of the key mental qualities in this blog, book a FREE 20-minute enquiry call here, or, get in touch via Whatsapp at 07950378048 or by emailing Ross@challenger-mindset.com.

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