Football: Scott Carson – Removing Mental Scars

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Last Wednesday was probably the worst night in Scott Carson’s young career. Thrown in at the deep end, he conceded a goal that altered the momentum of the European Qualifier. A goal from a shot he would normally have saved easily. Like Peter Enckleman, when he conceded a soft goal from a throw-in, in the Birmingham derby, there is no hiding place for the keeper who makes the big match error. Yet since Wembley, Scott Carson has kept two clean sheets. Clearly this is man who has put Black Wednesday behind him.

So what can a goal-keeper do to move on from the big match error? There are a number of techniques that can help. One is The Hollywood Ending. This is a process whereby you mentally re image the unfortunate event in your mind. Thus Scott Carson at Wembley sees the shot from Croatia’s Nico Kranjcar skidding across the surface towards him. Carson gets down in good time and dives behind the ball to make a clean and comfortable save. He repeats the image again and again. Always getting down the save the ball.

If the keeper can’t quite see himself making the save, he can imagine himself going down in slow motion initially. Then when he has a clear image of that, he can speed up the picture gradually to full speed. The aim of the process is to overlay the original mistake with more positive confident successful imagery. When asked about the mistake, the keeper replies, ‘What mistake?’ In his mind he has now saved the shot.

Another method is to analyse in full detail, exactly why he missed the ball. Why was he not behind the ball? What was his state of mind at the time? What caused that state of mind? What was different in his mental preparation? Why was he not able to change his state of mind? What would he do differently next time? An analysis that removes doubts and anxiety from his mind and turns the process into a powerful exercise in new learning. An analysis that removes all blame from the keepers mind. That allows him to see exactly what happened and why it happened.

Whatever he has done since Wembley, Scott Carson has clearly moved on. And is probably a mentally stronger goal-keeper for the experience.