Why do I need Psychological Awareness?

Jul 21 / Jess Sired

Playing football is as easy as riding a bike. Literally anyone can do it, but not everyone can do it well. That is where the need for psychological awareness comes in.

"Football is played with your head, your legs are just the tools" 
Andrea Pirlo
Humour us for a moment. Think about a bike. What is the first thing you picture? The most important part? The part that, if not working properly, stops the whole bike from moving the way the rider wants it to? 
You could be forgiven for going instantly to the wheels. In this analogy, the wheels are a footballer’s legs. It’s not ideal if they are injured or damaged, but the ball could still be kicked and a game can even potentially be won by an injured player. Just look at when Arsenal’s Fabregas scored a Champion’s League equalising penalty against Barcelona in 2010 with a fractured leg!

The bike chain

The bike’s chain, however, can stop the wheels from turning with even the smallest bit of damage to one of its links, no matter the condition of the wheels, or the rest of the bike for that matter. In our analogy the bike chain represents a footballer’s mind, a component which drives everything else. Every decision a footballer makes is processed by the brain, meaning that the brain is the focal point of everything a footballer does, whichever level they play at.

Understanding how our own mind works, how certain experiences or perceptions can make it more difficult to perform to our best no matter what the task is, is psychological awareness.

It allows us to understand what our brain is telling our body, and how our body reacts as a result of these messages. A bike can be in otherwise perfect working order, but with a loose chain the wheels will just spin without any direction. By improving our psychological awareness we can train our brains to respond differently when under pressure or stress when we are performing, which will, in turn, improve our game.
Improving your psychological awareness isn’t a new idea in football either, although is certainly one which has gained popularity in recent years.

AIM-FOR’s Director, Nick Richardson, was often told: ‘Down there for dancing, up here for football’ during his professional career in the nineties and early noughties. Slightly tongue in cheek but definitely some truth to it. 
Up here for football
Down here for dancing

By placing a similar level of importance on psychological awareness as physical skills, a player is setting themselves up for a lifetime of success, both on and off the pitch.

So, next time you get on your bike be sure to check your chain first.