The REAL Meaning of Great Body Language in Soccer

As you’ve probably noticed I talk about body language a lot…specifically its importance to your soccer.

I tweet about body language everyday. I’ve referred to body language time and again in my books and articles. In my opinion body language is where its at when it comes to the mental side of the game!

But why? Well, allow me to explain…

When I use the term body language I’m not just talking about ‘body language’ in the traditional sense. I’m not just referring to the notion of holding yourself confidently, and standing tall and proud. I’m not just talking about displaying positive gestures and responding with energy to mistakes. Of course, these are all vital attributes that all players should pay attention to on the pitch. But body language goes beyond these basic physical markers.

When I use the term ‘body language’ I’m referring to ‘thinking’ and ‘being’ and ‘doing’. Because body language isthinking. Body language is being. Body language is doing. Body language is not so much an effect but more a cause.

In practical terms this means great body language in soccer is ‘passing with confidence’. It’s ‘moving with sharpness’. It’s ‘tackling with determination’. On the soccer pitch you can think, be and do ‘confidence’. You can think, be and do ‘sharpness’. You can think, be and do ‘determination’. Even if you feel a bit flat and lethargic you can choose to use your body language to think, be and do your actions so that the lethargy you’re experiencing doesn’t negatively impact your game as much as it might ordinarily do.

Now, there is a great degree of complexity behind this philosophy. And if you’d like to know more I suggest you Google the terms ‘Embodied Cognition’ and ‘Enactivism’. Another term you could Google would be ‘The Lived Body’. In short, these are theories that attempt to explain that mental processes are not just located in the brain but the body as well. They argue that mental processes such as perceiving, reasoning, memory and judgement are as much a function of body as they are the brain. Basically, mental processes are embodied and enacted!

Mental processes are embodied and enacted – they travel down and through your body and they are executed through your actions as you play and compete

Ok, so take a deep breath! You don’t need to Google those terms and you don’t need to be an expert on what’s happening inside the brain and body. But I’d really like you to open your mind to the possibility that you ‘think’ with your body as much as with your brain. In short, they think together!

Brain and body work together…they cannot be separated…their combination makes you the player you are

When I sit down with a soccer player to talk about improving their game I do so with a mind on body language (but body language from a thinking and action point of view). More often than not, as a session unfolds, we’ll discuss the actions they want to execute on the pitch (their thinking, being and doing). I try to break these down into key words and inner picture that they can act out on the pitch.

That is why it’s so important to emphasise action based words when you play soccer. It’s vital to be clear in your mind how you want to play and the manner in which you want to execute your skills.

“I’m going to pass with confidence – what does this look like? What does this feel like? I’m going to move aggressively – what does this look like? What does this feel like?”

You see, by picking an action based word to accompany how you want to think, who you want to be and how you want to do what you have to do on the pitch…you give yourself a fantastic blueprint for high performance. You prime your brain and body for excellence. You give yourself something to embody and enact…

This is why I developed the ‘Game Face’ technique that I introduce players, coaches and parents to in my book Soccer Tough II. This is why I have a whole bunch of videos dedicated to body language and Game Face in my Soccer Academy – so players, coaches and parents can become acquainted with these powerful and impactful techniques.

So pick an action based word or words that you can embody and enact on the pitch…for everything you do. Get an exciting picture of what this looks like. What this feels like. Then go do it.

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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