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Results Based Expectations Are Hurting Confidence in Soccer

By Jenn Ireland, 02/28/22, 10:00AM EST


Here’s the unfortunate truth in youth soccer today: results based expectations are HURTING player's confidence on the soccer field. 

What is a results based expectation? It is a judgement or a demand that a player places on themselves, on their performance, that is focused on achieving a certain outcome or result. In other words, it is pressure to perform and to produce the ‘correct’ result in order for a player to feel good about themselves and their play. 

Going into a soccer game with the expectation that you WILL NOT make mistakes is a demand for perfection. Telling yourself that you HAVE to score today, that your team NEEDS to win, that you MUST stop the opponent from scoring – these are all demands and expectations, big ones.

What happens next is that player's judge themselves based on their ability to meet these impossibly high standards and achieve the results that they demanded from themselves. When they DO meet the expectations and things go the way they want them to, player's feel fantastic/happy/elated/etc. But when they don’t, they feel terrible about themselves and their inner critic has a field day. They become dependent on meeting their (results based) expectation in order to feel good.

The most unfortunate part about these demands that soccer players are placing on themselves is that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM is something that is not fully within their control. Meaning that even if they do everything well at their game today, there’s still no guarantee that they will achieve any of these results. In fact, a lot of the time they won’t get close.

Confidence & Controllable Objectives

It’s really hard to be confident in soccer when the things that gives you confidence (aka having ‘success’) are not within your control. And outcomes & results such as winning, scoring, keeping a clean sheet are NEVER fully within your control. Why? Because there are other people involved (refs, opponents, coaches, teammates) and you can only control your actions and not theirs.

If having faith in your ability to perform is how to be more confident in soccer, but your expectations are impossible to meet (because they contain elements of things that are out of your control), then the solution is simple: how to be more confident in soccer is that YOU NEED REDEFINE YOUR EXPECTATIONS – and what it means to have success.

To increase your confidence in soccer, you want to move away from results based expectations (scoring, winning, playing perfect) as measures of success and instead focusing on controllable objectives – small, specific actions you can take that are present moment focused. Objectives that are part of the PROCESS of the game, and not solely just the outcome of the game.

Controllable objectives are things that you can use to gauge your success at a game. They are manageable, SPECIFIC actions that you have the power to do in a game, yourself, no matter what everyone else is doing. They are conscious choices that you can always make, and whether or not they happen is completely up to you. 

Controllable objectives can be tailored specifically toward your position or whatever parts of your game that you are looking to improve at. They must be something that you can control all by yourself, actions that you can take in every game, regardless of the scoreline. 

For the full article which includes more information about controllable objectives, examples, and a free worksheet to help you create your own, click here. Also - don't miss the section about tips for how parents can help their players redefine winning and grow their confidence on the soccer field. 


Jenn Ireland is a USSF C-licensed soccer coach, currently coaching at Chattanooga FC Academy.  She is a self proclaimed personal development enthusiast and recovering perfectionist.

On days off you can find her watching sports , tossing a frisbee for her dog, or tending to my growing collection of indoor plants. She is a former newspaper photojournalist who loves downtempo electronic music, guacamole and books of every sort. And of course soccer!