Mental Game: Advice from England Football

There is much to be learned from the athletes that competed in the 2018 World Cup. These athletes, no matter team, country, or wins, thrived throughout a four-week grueling stretch of travel, competition, physical exertion, possible injury, public praise and scrutiny (depending on the day), penalties, and last-minute wins. This relentless grind, shown by every athlete competing, illuminates a fundamental aspect of sport: mental resilience.

An athlete’s mental game is just as important as their physical game. At least that’s what Team England trains daily. Taking fourth place in this year’s tournament, England has made brilliant strides in regaining their football reign, with a new focus on sport psychology and team culture. Their psychological transformation calls into question what the rest of us can learn from this newfound, daily trained, mental resilience…

Just like in sport, the pressure to excel and succeed similarly infiltrates work-life too. One skill that England players use to manage pressure points in sport is to create separation from the critical inner voice that so many of us deal with regularly. You know, the voice that is constantly telling you how unfit, not good enough, inexperienced, and destined to fail you are?


Creating mental separation isn’t easy. It’s something you must work towards daily.


England footballers have been instructed to view their critical inner voice as a third person; an unrelated, separate, third party that just so happens to be shouting irrelevant and rude remarks--kind of like your typical ill-mannered sports fan! Just like an athlete learns to tune out fans, and athlete can also learn to tune out their inner critic.

By selecting to hear the inner script as exterior to self, one has created the separation necessary to overcome these voices and re-direct energy elsewhere, to more important things like making a penalty, or winning. 

And so can you! While you may not be an elite, world cup athlete, you too can create this healthy separation from your inner critic. Sometimes, it can be helpful to put a name to this negative inner script, so that when it decides to speak up—you can quickly quiet it. While it may sound silly, recognizing when this voice pops in, and actively naming it, can help you avoid it from hijacking your decisions, actions, and personal confidence.


Positive Practice

  • Name your inner critic! Treat it as if it were a bad friend, an annoying colleague, or your sister’s cat that your allergic to. While you know it's there, you don’t have to pay attention to it. Call it out and move on.