Author – Vedika Jogani
A recent graduate from Ithaca College with a Master’s degree in Sports and Exercise Science, specializing in Mental Performance, Vedika Jogani is OMP’s Product and Content Manager.
Amidst the fervor of the Asia Cup and AFCON Cup, athletes temporarily set aside their club duties to proudly represent their nations.
Beyond the routine of club football, playing for one’s country taps into a profound aspiration.
Soccer players, deeply entrenched in club dynamics, grapple with intriguing questions about identity and motivation when transitioning to the international stage.
Delving into the psychological facets of this shift reveals the emotional nuances that make playing for one’s country an exceptionally cherished experience.
- Embodying one’s national colors is an immersion in a profound sense of national pride and identity. Players forge a deep connection with their homeland, engaging in a pursuit that transcends individual achievement.
As expressed by David Luiz in a post-game interview during the 2014 Brazil World Cup, “I just want to bring happiness to these people; my people have suffered so much with other things.”
The players’ commitment extends beyond personal aspirations, becoming a heartfelt endeavor to uplift and bring joy to their fellow citizens.
- Pressure and Expectations: Playing for the country of one’s upbringing introduces an additional layer of pressure from the fans, media, and the entire nation.
This heightened expectation can exert significant psychological stress on athletes, potentially impacting their performance.
The weight of representing not just themselves but an entire nation amplifies the stakes, making the psychological toll an evident aspect of the athlete’s journey on the international stage
So, how can soccer players manage these expectations? By:
- Reconnecting with Their Purpose: Reflecting on the essence of why they engage in the sport—what brings them the utmost joy and fulfillment.
- Embrace Pressure as a Privilege: Shift the perspective on pressure by framing it as a privilege rather than a burden.
Remind players that representing their country is an honor and an opportunity to showcase their skills on a grand stage.
- Focus on Process, Not Outcome: Emphasize the importance of focusing on the process rather than fixating on the outcome. Encourage players to concentrate on their roles, responsibilities, and the execution of their skills rather than dwelling on external expectations.
In conclusion, playing for your country is like telling a story woven with national pride, identity, and the mix of pressure and expectations.
For athletes, it’s about going back to why they love the game, seeing pressure as a unique opportunity, and keeping their eyes on the journey, not just the end.