Sport Psychology for Football
Updated: Feb 24
Psychology in football is one of the most important aspects of the game yet by far the most neglected discipline of sport science. The importance of the mental side of the game is often spoken about, yet very little is ever done when it comes to applied sport psychology for football.
What is Sport Psychology in Football?
A football psychologist works with individuals and teams to teach mental skills, tools, strategies and techniques to optimise performance.
Sport Psychology isn’t just for a footballer who ‘loses his head’ at the referee after a bad decision, someone who can’t be bothered to turn up to training or a player who is going through a dip in footballing performance. Sport psychology can benefit all footballers and should be a pro-active approach rather than reactive when things go wrong.
The importance of Sport Psychology
“Football is played with the head. Your feet are just the tools” - Andrea Pirlo
In order to be successful at football, players must possess certain physical skills. These include physical attributes such as speed, strength, agility, balance, coordination and endurance. However, there are other invisible skills that are perhaps even more important. Players must be able to think quickly and accurately, react appropriately to changing situations, and maintain focus during long periods of play.
What does a Football Psychologist do?
A football psychologist can help athletes develop mental skills and strategies to improve their game. These include learning how to manage pre-match nerves and anxiety, enhance and sustain confidence in football, and develop self-awareness so players can better understand how to utilise their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses.
Founder & Performance Psychologist Jake Brown working with professional footballers
What are the common challenges Sport Psychologists help footballers overcome?
Performance anxiety and pre-match nerves
Reacting to mistakes and not being able to let them go
Confidence issues after a poor run of form
Dealing with conflict and managing negative comments from teammates and coaches
Managing negative self-talk
Losing focus and concentration
Dealing with negative feedback and criticism
Comparing to other football players who are better than them
Developing leadership and communication skills
Beating themselves up after a bad game or training session
A common issue that footballers often face is reacting to mistakes. Mistakes are an inevitable part of football but too many players let the first pass or touch they make dictate their mindset and performance for the rest of the game. One mistake causes negative self-talk such as “don’t give it away again”, players slip into an avoidance mindset - so focus on what they don’t want to do rather than what they do - become tense which only increases the chances of more mistakes and causes a negative spiral that’s hard to get out of.
Having a mental framework and tools in place to cope with mistakes, adversity and things going wrong is one of the most important attributes a footballer can possess.
What are the benefits of Football Psychology?
Put simply, the benefit of working with a football psychologist is to help you think better, feel better and perform better. The use of psychology in football can create a huge impact on how you think before, during and after a football match. Benefits include:
Managing nerves and pressure so your brain and body work for you and not against you
High and stable levels of self-confidence and self-belief
Responding well after a mistake and not letting it affect the rest of your game
More positive self-talk and mental imagery
Being able to detach and let go of negative thoughts and the inner critic
Improved concentration so you can stay sharp for the entire game
Mental skills and tools to use when things go wrong
Being able to critically reflect on a bad performance and not let it ruin your weekend
Enhanced self-awareness so you understand your own triggers, habits and processes
Greater consistency and clear routines
What are mental skills for football?
There are many different mental skills that can be utilised in football psychology. For example, sports psychologists can help players improve their concentration levels, reduce anxiety, and increase confidence. Sports psychologists use various techniques to help athletes become better performers. Some of these techniques may include thought management, goal setting, attentional skills, visualisation, and stress management.
How can I improve my mental game in football?
Working with a performance psychologist helps you get out of your own way. Our football psychologists work through various tools and techniques to improve the mental game of footballers. These include cognitive restructuring and psychological skills training (PST).
We train, develop and help you execute vital mental performance skills so you can:
Be proactive with your confidence and don’t let one bad game shatter it
Let go of negative thinking patterns so they don’t spiral
Accept you will make mistakes - just look at professionals % passing accuracy!
Let go of negative identities or stories holding you back from performing
Set healthy intentions that aid and don’t inhibit performance
Use helpful self-talk that aligns with your performance objectives
Change your perception of ‘negative’ situations
Enjoy it! Enjoyment frees you up and performance then follows
Enquire about working with one of our Performance Psychologists today
Do footballers have Sport Psychologists?
Yes! Many of the best footballers in the world work closely with a football sport psychologist to enhance their performance and improve the quality of their thinking on and off the pitch.
Almost every premier league club and the majority of EFL clubs employ sport psychologists for football, with the best in the world often seeking out private support.
Private sport psychology consultancies and football psychologists are popular amongst professional, semi-pro, academy and amateur footballers, as loyalties lie with the players and not the clubs, meaning confidentiality and trust can be established quickly.
How important is psychology in football?
Footballers are always looking for a competitive edge and to add that extra 1% to their game. But saying sport psychology can only add 1-2% is doing it a complete injustice. Many of the footballers that we have worked with throughout the different tiers of the footballing pyramid have seen a complete transformation in their game, mindset and development.
Is Online Football Psychology effective?
Online Sport Psychology is an incredibly effective approach for developing the mental skills needed for football. Footballers live busy and hectic lives, and working with an online football psychology consultant is the perfect solution to train your brain for football, no matter what level you play at.
Is football psychology worth it?
Now I’ll admit, I am biased. But I am a footballer and a performance psychologist so I’m fairly well placed to answer this one.
Sport psychology is 100% worth it. Psychology is widely seen as one of the most important aspects of the game, yet it is by far the most neglected aspect of training.
Sport Psychology is a growing area and we’ll always be up against it because psychology isn’t tangible, it’s hard to measure and you can’t physically see the results like you would from a strength & conditioning coach.
But this landscape is changing for the better, with more players speaking openly and honestly about the transformative effects that sport psychology has had on their game.
Why work with us?
Our team work with clients from the Premier League, EFL, Academies, down to grass roots and everything in between. We work in the game, we play the game, we watch the game, we study the game and we love the beautiful game.
We understand the mental demands of football, the experiences that you’re going through and what it takes to develop a football mindset.
What clients are saying
"I came to Jake struggling with low confidence and negative self talk playing football. He has great knowledge, is extremely genuine and friendly and made me feel immediately at ease in out first session. After a few sessions with Jake, where we analysed my mindset and discussed mental strategies, I have noticed great positive changes in my mindset. I could not recommend him enough, thank you Jake!" - Female Professional footballer
"My son has found Mindframe Performance invaluable in his development as a footballer. The analysis and mental strategies they developed have had immediate results and he has become a significantly more confident performer." - National League footballer
"Over the years I've spent a small fortune on new boots, new kit, extra coaching, 121's etc. but the sessions that he's had with Jake have been worth more than any of these things combined. He's better equipped now to deal with mental 'traps', criticism / negative comments and negative thoughts, and its beginning to show in how he plays. He's much more positive now, he's taking more risks, he's getting forward more, he's started scoring goals again, and he's getting more and more confident with each and every game. My only regret is not doing this years ago." - Academy footballer
"These sessions made such a difference to my son's game. His confidence has improved no end and he is way more consistent in his playing now. Highly recommend" - Academy footballer