Soccer is a game that combines athleticism, strategy and skill. This combination creates situations in game where you as a player will in high pressure situations. Learning how to stay calm while under pressure will make you a better player and help you excel in tough situations during the game.
How to Stay Calm Under Pressure in Soccer
Play the Game
Playing experience is exactly what it sounds like: playing the game. The more you play the game, the more pressure situations you will find yourself in and the more times you will be in the same specific pressure situations.
The more times you are under pressure in a soccer game, the better you will become at handling that pressure. Plus, this will give your coaches the ability to provide you feedback on what you did right or wrong. You can use this feedback on the practice pitch as well as in games to improve your responses to pressure situations in games.
Become a Student of the Game
Watch as much soccer as you can. In particular, pay the most attention to how players react to pressure in various situations. Keeping a notebook or journal and writing down and drawing out various soccer pressure situations and how to get out of it effectively will aid you on the pitch.
Soccer is a mental game. Knowing what to do in all situations will help you react quicker and more effectively. If you are unclear on what to do in a particular pressure situation, you will likely hesitate. Hesitation in soccer is deadly and can lead to odd-man scoring opportunities for the opposing team.
By becoming a student of the game and applying what you learn on the pitch, you will become better at handling pressure.
Practice Situational Soccer
Another way to learn how to handle pressure situations is to practice those situations. On the practice field, setup high-pressure situations and work through how to handle them. This will enable you to gain muscle memory for these situations that will carry over into the game.
How to Improve Composure on the Ball in Soccer
Practice On-ball Soccer Drills with Defenders Providing Pressure
The best way to become composed while on the ball in soccer is to practice being on the ball in pressure situations. Create and practice drills that are design to place you or your players under pressure while on ball. This will help you or your players become more comfortable under pressure and improve your ability to move the ball forward while under pressure.
Ball control is essential when on the ball, especially when under pressure. Check our Ultimate Guide to Ball Control to learn how to improve your ability to control the ball.
Pick Your Head Up and See the Field
Whether you are an attacker, a midfielder, a defender, or a keeper, your eyes are the second most crucial part of your body after your legs. Use your eyes to find spaces between players, look for the unmarked man, and scan the pitch for defects in your opponents’ tactics.
This admittedly can be difficult with defenders bearing down on you but learning to handle the ball with your eyes up will help you see where the pressure is coming from and help you find the best outlet for the ball.
Learning how to anticipate the play is an essential skill in soccer. Being able to know not only where your teammates and the opposing players not only currently but also where they will be can help you know what to do with the ball in pressure situations.
There are two ways to improve anticipation skills in soccer:
- Studying the game by watching and analyzing the game
- Practicing what you learned on the pitch consistently
Studying the game can be done by simply watching games. Hit up YouTube and look for situations for the position you play as well as on the ball pressure situations. Watch how players handle the pressure while on the ball. Document what you see in a journal and attempt to emulate on the practice pitch.
You will be surprised at how effective this can be. Putting yourself in these situations will help you navigate them quicker and more decisively, making you more competent on the ball in pressure situations.
How to Stay Composed Defending Under Pressure in Soccer
Never Get Caught Out of Position
As a defender, your main job is to ensure the ball stays as far away from the goal as possible. For that to happen, you need to coordinate with your backline on who will mark who. Moreover, you need to make sure you never put yourself under pressure and always look for that next pass that will not put your teammates in a critical position. The less you get caught out of position, the more composed you will be defensively.
If an attacker is coming right at you, do not tackle him straight away. Look at his eyes, his body directions, where he is moving, etc. These things can give you clues on where to tackle instead of tackling mindlessly and potentially fouling the attacker leading to a set-piece in a dangerous position.
How to Improve Composure in Front of my Goal
Practice Defensive Drills in Front of Net
Both as a team and as an individual player, you need to practice defending inside your own box. Work on marking drills inside the box. This will help you understand positioning and leverage as well as reduce the tendency to panic and foul.
When working through defending drills in the box, it is important to stop the drill and instruct what is going right and wrong. Situational awareness is imperative in defending inside your own box.
Communication is important when defending and absolutely essential when defending in your own box. The defensive backline must communicate with each other when they need help, when to switch players they are marking and calling off other players when they attempt to play the ball.
Soccer Drills to Improve Composure in Soccer
Odd Man Defending Drills
Working on defending odd man situations (2v1, 3v1, 3v2, 4v3) helps makes team defenders improve defending when short-handed. You can also setup drills where the defense has 1 or 2 less players than the offense near the defenses own goal.
This ramps up the pressure on the defense and gets them used to being and playing in high pressure situations.
Playing the High Press in Practice and Games
The high press is a system where you attempt to quickly pressure the offensive players with the hopes of quickly generating a turnover and getting a scoring opportunity. Practicing working against the high press will put your team in pressure situations and demand the players learn how to handle it.
If you are looking to implement the high press, you want to teach your players to be aggressive without fouling and our Guide to Being an Aggressive Soccer Player without Fouling is a must-read.
Team Passing Drills Under Pressure
Learning how to distribute the ball while under pressure is vital. Creating drills that put the offensive players under pressure and forcing them to pass the ball quickly and accurately helps the player get better at handling pressure.
Soccer Drills Turning Away from Pressure
Receiving the ball
Often, you will receive the ball in unfavorable situations. That is why working on receiving long balls over the top, passes across the width of the pitch, and anticipating where loose balls will fall is essential for you not to fall within the opposition’s grasp.
First-touch drills with back towards defender
If you happen to receive the ball with your back towards a defender or an opposition player, you need to make your first touch count. You could use your first touch to get around a defender, run with the ball, or even shoot at goal. The more you practice your first touch, the calmer you will be in said situations.