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Embrace Friendly Team Competition| Soccer Psychology Tips

An Opportunity to Improve your Mental Game

What is your mindset when you practice or train with your team? Do you look for ways to compete with your teammates, or do you shy away from competing head to head?

Friendly competition within your team is healthy…

Too many athletes are afraid to compete against their teammates. These athletes feel they are not as good as their teammates or are fearful of being embarrassed.

For example, a soccer player with a cautious mindset may not want to mark a top scorer during drills because she is worried about being judged negatively.

She fears being faked out and looking foolish. Instead of playing aggressively, she plays cautious, tight, and flat-footed. As a result, she gives up several easy drives to the basket.

The cautious mindset views friendly competition as an opportunity to fail in front of the entire team.

Alternately, a player with a competitive mindset views marking a top forward teammate as an opportunity to show off their skills. If this player is beaten, she learns from the mistake and feels better prepared for the next drill.

Let’s examine a second example, two midfielders on the same soccer team are fighting for playing time. The one player has a competitive mindset and takes calculated risks on the field.

In scrimmages, he tries to push the ball downfield or make the occasional difficult pass. Meanwhile, the soccer player with a cautious mindset plays cautiously and tries not to make mistakes.

Friendly competition is a characteristic of successful teams and builds team cohesion. When you compete against your teammates, not only do you get better, everyone around you improves as well.

The United States Women’s National Team has been one of the top soccer teams in the world for over a decade.

Midfielder Rose Lavelle attributes the team’s success to the culture of friendly competition.

LAVELLE:“Hopefully we’ll be seeing new faces in camp because I think it’s always good to bring in some players who can push everyone here and push for spots. That’s what’s made this team so great and successful.”

Sauerbrunn, former captain of the USWNT, defined friendly competition as the balance between accepting your teammates and competing against them in practice.

SAUERBRUNN: “It’s like, ‘Welcome, we’re here for you if you need anything. But when we get on the field, I’m gonna do my best to basically not allow you to have a good day.’”

Friendly competition serves two primary purposes:

(1) competing against your teammates brings all team members to a higher level, and

(2) improves focus and prevents complacency.

Friendly competition makes good teams great!

Embracing Friendly Competition

Embrace friendly competition. Friendly competition is not designed to make you look or feel bad. The goal of friendly competition is to motivate you to improve your game.

As you improve your game, you become a greater asset to your team. You also are better able to push your teammates even further.

Look forward to practice and training, but most of all, look forward to helping yourself and your teammates reach new heights.

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