Performing in soccer games vs. just performing in practice

Have you ever noticed that some players perform superbly in practice, but do not contribute in a game? There are also players who do not seem motivated at practice, but are extremely effective during the game. Why is this?

I think it has to do with psychology. Some players are very comfortable with the practice environment, because they know the players around them. It has a factor of safety and comfort that is not found on game day. Some players get anxious on game day, worrying about how they will perform. They think too much about the results instead of what they need to be doing in the moment.

Additionally it is common for players to have mental blocks, and so they associate failure with certain scenarios. These players typically stress after a mistake and it takes them very long to recover. Some never recover and their performance deteriorates as the game moves on.

Then there is the player who coasts through practice and is your best player on Saturday. This also is a psychological issue. This player loves a challenge and rises to the occasion on game day. He/she is confident and wants to prove to himself/herself as well as to the opponents that they can play. This player is not motivated at training because they have the incorrect interpretation of its purpose. In their eyes it is merely practice and they do not see that there's any need to put in a lot of effort against their teammates.

There are issues with both types of players. The player that works hard at practice, but can't do the same at game time has to get over their own fears. This will take time and experience. Some coaches do not have the patience and these players are left out. This is especially true at higher levels. I know you are thinking how does a player with the ability, not translate it to the game? Well here is a possible reason. Perhaps, when he was younger, the player had a coach who stressed results and screamed a lot. This coach probably took players off every time they made a mistake and never offered a solution.

The game player is really no better off in the long run because they never get to full fitness. The training habits begin to catch up with them as their talent alone will not see them through at the next level. Training habits and discipline are key to success, so unless this player gains an appreciation for the intangibles, then they too will be left out eventually.

How is this type of player created? Here is another possibility. He/she was always physically gifted and the team relied heavily upon them for success when they were younger. He was already way ahead of the other players, so never had to push himself at training, and the coach accepted this. This player played the entire game and was the focus of the team. They got the ball to him/her at all times regardless of outcome.

Obviously this player gained tremendous confidence, because of the treatment received from the coaching staff. The unfortunate thing would be that when these players become part of a team where everyone is treated alike and is required to work at all times, they sometimes fail. Now they need to perform a function spelled out at practice (an environment that they have never taken seriously) and the game does not revolve around them any more them.

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