Soccer Brain is sports psychologist Dan Abrahams’ follow up to Soccer Tough, and mandatory reading for all coaches. Soccer Brain is focused on the coaching side of sport, and introduces Abrahams’ 4C Coaching Model for Developing World Class Player Mindsets and a Winning Football Team. The book is constructed in four sections representing each of the four C’s of his coaching model: Creativity, Confidence, Commitment and Cohesion. At 186 pages, it is a quick, but profoundly insightful read. Abrahams’ expertly connects basic principles and established studies of psychology with a varied array of examples from multiple sports giving the book a universal appeal belying it’s provincial title.
Each of the four C’s represents a distinct culture in the development of a World Class Mindset. The book opens with the Culture of Creativity which is fueled by an unrelenting dedication to increase knowledge of your sport, by breaking the game down to it’s constituent parts and building knowledge in each area whilst maintaining an open mind to see developmental clues from outside endeavors. It is from the accumulation of this vast wealth of knowledge from which creativity springs. Abrahams’ urges coaches to redefine talent to encompass mental talent as well as physical talent, and to seek 1% improvements in many areas through nudges and shifts to bring about overall player improvement.
The Culture of Confidence is based on the power of self-belief. The coach plays a lead role in building self-belief through philosophies of optimism that enable players to explain the different situations of the game in productive, helpful and positive ways. Confidence must be built daily in training through memory, perception and imagination to offset the mind’s inherent negative bias.
The Culture of Commitment builds a mental toughness through positive response. The mind responds one of two ways to a match. The positive response is a challenge and the negative a threat. Enduring mental strength is in the challenge state. The tools of the Culture of Commitment are power poses (physiology driving psychology) and match/practice scripts (keeping a player focused on components of a match over which they have exclusive control). An advanced aspect of the Culture of Commitment is mental contrasting which requires the athlete to picture what might go wrong in a match, not to dwell on a negative, but to strategise and rep a solution.
Finally, the Culture of Cohesion is team building by getting individuals invested in the team. This acknowledges that it is individuals that become a team, and they must be viewed and reflected on through different lenses. The team is introduced to the “Pelican Mindset” whereby the more work is accomplished more efficiently in concert. The team is scripted, much like the individual and stereotyped in a positive way creating a collective identity.
Soccer Brain speaks to my experiences as a coach over the last fifteen years, and how the profession has evolved. It is a mandatory read as it will affirm some of your beliefs and practices, while challenging others. The very job you should be doing for your players in this profession; building confidence while demanding growth.