Managing Your Expectations in Soccer

By Dan Abrahams

What do you expect from yourself on the pitch? To score? To keep a clean sheet? To be man/woman of the match? To win?

These are the obvious answers aren’t they? They sound confident. They appear to deliver a message that as a soccer player you’re competitive, you’re ambitious, you’re ready to go play without inhibition.

But here’s the problem. When you expect to deliver on things that are out of your control you’re increasing the chances of experiencing a stress response when you compete.

If I expect to score, yet I haven’t done so deep into the match, then I may become stressed. If I expect to win, yet the opposition are in the lead, I may get stressed. When I expect to keep a clean sheet and I come up against a striker who is on fire I may become stressed.

In soccer, experiencing a stress response can be a killer. It can damage technique, slow anticipation and ruin decision making.
And experience a stress response in soccer is a killer. It damages your technique. It slows your anticipation and ruins your decision making.

Stop expecting to achieve things that are out of your control on the pitch. Instead, place demands of yourself on the things that are within your control.

This is what so much of my work is about with soccer players. Almost every player I have worked with tends to set their expectations around the things they can’t control.

If you’re a player STOP setting expectations that cause a stress response, damage your focus and ultimately kill your confidence. Align your soccer expectations with the things you CAN control on the pitch. In my books I dedicate quite a few chapters to the science and art of focusing on what I call ‘controllables’. Controllables are things that you can focus your mind on which are under your control.

When you align your expectations to the things you can control you give yourself a better chance of having a stress-free, focused performance.

So in summary, strive to be intelligent with your expectations in soccer. Set them wisely. Control the controllables!

Dan Abrahams is a global sport psychologist, working alongside leading players, teams, coaches and organisations across the world. He is known for his passion and ability to de-mystify sport psychology, as well as his talent for creating simple to use techniques and performance philosophies, and he is the author of several sport psychology books as well as the founder of the Dan Abrahams Soccer Academy. You can order his books and contact him at 

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