The Power of Mindset Principles in Soccer Coaching

Soccer players on field showcasing mindset principles in action.

In soccer coaching, coaches traditionally employ game principles when approaching and coaching their players. These principles revolve around Offense, Defense, and Transitioning. But what if there’s an untapped category we’re overlooking – the ‘Mindset Principles’?

Read more: The Power of Mindset Principles in Soccer Coaching

A Deep Dive into Game Principles:

Football trainers frequently employ game principles, categorizing them into distinct phases: Attacking, Defending, Transitioning to Attack, and Transitioning to Defense. Examples of these principles include creating numerical advantages during buildup play, ensuring rest-defense, keeping the center closed, and pressing the ball towards the sidelines. These foundational principles consistently feature in training sessions, match strategies, and pre-game discussions. Yet, there might be a crucial component we’re overlooking: the principles surrounding the player’s mindset. After all, the choices made on the field aren’t just reactive; they’re deeply intertwined with intentions, goals, and mindset.

Game Principles & Framing:

The concept of ‘framing’ holds that certain words can evoke specific images in our subconscious minds. Take the terms “climate change” versus “global warming” as an example. Both mean the same, yet the latter might elicit a more visceral response. In the same way, a coach’s challenge is to ensure that the right images and associations get linked to a game principle or frame. Weekly, coaches strive to convey their vision of a game principle to players, whether implicitly or explicitly.

Exploring Mindset Principles:

Principle 1: Cultivate a Shared Mindset (Including the Coach) Massimiliano Allegri’s biography introduces the concept of a ‘mono-idea,’ where players, coaches, and support staff approach games and training sessions with a united mindset. This shared vision must remain steadfast throughout the match. For example, instead of switching to a complacent mindset after scoring, the focus should be on maintaining ball possession and control.

Principle 2: Embrace Negative Thoughts During matches, players will inevitably encounter moments of doubt or negativity. Instead of trying to suppress these feelings, accepting them and focusing on actionable responses can be more beneficial. The Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) serves as a novel approach to enhance athletes’ cognitive flexibility.

Principle 3: “Play it Like Your Best Game Ever” Neuro-Linguistic Programming posits that pairing an intense emotion with an external stimulus can anchor that feeling. After a triumphant match, coaches can use a specific stimulus, like a song, to evoke the same victorious emotion during the next game. Liverpool’s coach, J├╝rgen Klopp, encapsulates this by urging his players to “Play like you’ve played your best game ever.”


This blog aimed to highlight the vital role of a footballer’s mindset and thoughts. As Louis van Gaal aptly put it, “A pass from A to B isn’t just that pass or a technical action; behind it is a whole human being influenced by the mind.” Soccer, often described as chaotic, requires rapid thought shifts. Cognitive flexibility is key, which researchers like Bjorn Krenn emphasize. Hence, incorporating mindset principles alongside game principles can offer a holistic coaching approach.”

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