How to Manage Your Confidence

Last Saturday evening, 26 May 2018, Loris Karius played in the biggest game of his career to date and it has been well documented it didn’t go well.  Karius was at fault for two of the three Real Madrid goals that resulted in Real Madrid winning the Champions League final 3-1.

Karius was visibly tearful and distraught at the final whistle, there was no hiding place.  As his manager, Jurgen Klopp said, “What can I say? Loris knows it, everybody knows it.  It’s a shame in a game like this and after a season like this.  I really feel for him.”

Let’s go back to the match to think about what happened to Karius.  For Real Madrid’s first goal he attempted to roll the ball out to the full-back but Karim Benzema read it and cleverly intercepted the ball.  What Karius may have been guilty of after this was to be extremely hard on himself.   Many goalkeepers and outfield players can fall into this trap, some more than others.

Naturally, in a game of such magnitude you do not want to make a mistake however if you respond in this way, overly criticising yourself in your head, for an extended period of time you are likely to erase your confidence.

This is called negative self talk.  Karius may well have been saying things like, “Oh no, I’m rubbish”, “I can’t believe I did that, I’ve cost the team”, Why did I do that? AAAARRRGGGHHHHH

Being an elite goalkeeper, it is likely that you will have high expectations of yourself and others, this will drive you on to train hard and fulfil your potential.  Where there can be problems, is when the expectations are unrealistic, bordering on perfectionism, this is when negative self-talk comes out the most.

Common examples of negative self-talk with goalkeepers are:

  • “I am ####, I can’t believe I made that mistake!”
  • “I can’t believe I missed that cross.”
  • “Why did I pass it to him? What a stupid ########!”

These statements are common but are not healthy if you want to maintain high levels of confidence.

Here is a process of questions I use to help goalkeepers maintain their confidence after an error.

  1. Are there specific mistakes or situations where you get overly frustrated and react badly? (Dropping a cross, fumbling a shot, misplacing a throw or pass, miskicking a back pass – Go on list them.
  2. In these situations what do you say to yourself after making these mistakes? Write down the specific self-talk statements that go through your head.
  3. Now think about when you are performing well.  What do you say to yourself? Are there any buzzwords that you use? Write them down.
  4. When you make a mistake what would a compassionate goalkeeping coach say to you? Think about how he or she would make you feel better. List what they would say.
  5. Create a focus plan. Recognize when you fall into the negative self-talk trap and be your own coach, using statements that aid your confidence.

For example:

  • Come on, let go of it, move on.
  • Mistakes happen to the best of us, breathe, focus…..
  • There is 50 minutes left, plenty of time for the team to turn it around.
  • I’ve been here before and can keep a clean sheet for the rest of the game.

If you think about mistakes in this way, it’s going to give you a better chance of staying in control of your emotions and managing your confidence and may well prevent further mistakes.  Perhaps if Karius had adopted this approach Real Madrid’s 3rd goal scored by Gareth Bale would have been saved.  We’ll never know……

Feel free to forward this blog to other goalkeepers, coaches or parents who you think would find it helpful.

You can also take a Mental Toughness for Goalkeepers Quiz for some more helpful tips.  CLICK HERE

Mental Toughness

David Charlton

HCPC Registered Sport and Exercise Psychologist

T: +44(0)7734 697769


p.s. If you’d like to learn more or have a conversation feel free to book a call clicking here.