55 Common Mistakes Players Make on the Soccer Pitch
As we all know, making mistakes is just part and parcel of playing soccer.
No one gets it right ALL the time.
(Well, expect for maybe Messi)
While it can be frustrating misplacing a pass, picking up a silly booking, or missing an open goal…
The most important thing for players is to learn from your mistakes, gradually iron them out of your game, and slowly improve as a player.
This is what sets a great soccer player apart from the merely good.
Once we know what common mistakes players make, we can then think about WHY we make them and then WHAT we can do to prevent them from happening in future.
While some these boil down to a lack of communication or teamwork, others are due to a lack of technique, tactical understanding, or preparation before the match.
Often these issues are inter-related, so working on one part of your game will strengthen another and thankfully many of them are quite easy to address.
Let's take a look at some of the most common mistakes players make on the soccer pitch:
When many kids start learning how to play soccer, they hurt themselves by failing to prepare.
This leads to all kinds of problems which have a massive impact on players' performances and leads to them making mistakes out on the pitch.
1. Not Focusing on the Basics - Failing to master the basics increases the likelihood that they’ll miss simple passes, lose the ball, and not know which positions to take up on the pitch.
2. Not Improving Their Fitness - Players limit their ability to get around the pitch, last the duration of the match, and retain their concentration and effectiveness for the whole ninety minutes when they don’t take care of themselves.
3. Not Taking Training Seriously - If players aren’t putting in the work on the training ground, they won’t be prepared for competitive matches on the weekend.
4. Being Disorganised - This will increase the chance that they forget to bring the right equipment and turn up at the right place and right time.
5. Eating Poorly - Players limit their explosiveness and energy levels out on the pitch as well as increase the likelihood of them picking up an injury or getting tired too soon.
All of these understandably have a knock-on effect on how players perform out on the pitch, with these five things being the first and arguably most important mistakes they make.
b. Technique and Timing
As mentioned, it is absolutely key that players master the basics if they hope to improve and refrain from making the same mistakes over and over again.
Despite this, you still see professionals committing the following mistakes when it comes to their technique and timing:
6. Losing the Ball While Dribbling
7. Misplacing Passes
8. Mistiming Passes, Headers, and Volleys
9. Misjudging the Flight of the Ball
10. Hitting the Ball Too Hard or Too Soft
While many of these mistakes often simply get chalked down to poor technique, there are actually lots of contributing factors that lead to the players misplacing passes or losing the ball.
It may, for instance, be partly down to their positioning and concentration or even their spacial awareness and decision making skills.
c. Positioning and Spatial Awareness
By taking up the wrong positions and not knowing what is going on around you at all times, you immediately consign yourself to making a lot more mistakes than you need to.
This is because you then limit both your own space and time on the ball which puts undue pressure on your technique and timing as you then have to hurry passes and shots.
In addition to this, it also means you are more likely to get tackled by the opposition and that you're less likely to spot a teammate in space or take up the correct positions yourself.
As such, players often...
11. Take Up the Wrong Position - Which limits their teams options and effectiveness.
12. Make the Wrong Runs Into Space - Which wastes energy and also narrows their team's passing options.
13. Don't Look to Find Space - Which limits how much of the ball they see and how useful they are to the team.
14. Don’t Keep Their Head Up - Which means they won’t know what’s happening around them. This reduces the amount of time they have to control the ball, pick a pass, and find the player in space.
15. Get Caught Offside - As they don't know how to position themselves and then time their run to perfection.
Even if you do have great technique and timing as well as fantastic spatial awareness and positioning, you are still liable to make mistakes if you don't also work on your decision making skills as the same time.
d. Decision Making
Time and time again in the upper echelons of the game we see these incredible players who would be just that bit more effective if only they could pick out the right option more often than not.
With so much going on and so many options to choose from, decision making is undoubtedly one of the harder parts of the game to get right and much of it boils down to experience.
Once you have played hundreds and hundreds of matches, you’ll have a better idea of what you and your teammates are capable of and have experienced many different scenarios.
By playing as much as you can and gaining a greater understanding of the game, you'll eventually stop...
16. Choosing the Wrong Pass - And forcing the play.
17. Turning Into the Opposition - When you receive the ball rather than away from them.
18. Trying to Dribble Your Way Out of Trouble - When a better solution is available.
19. Going to Ground Too Quickly - And diving into reckless challenges.
20. Tiring Yourself Out Needlessly - By managing when you make runs.
Making the right decision over and over again certainly is very challenging and to do so you will have to keep your concentration and focus throughout the match.
e. Concentration and Focus
While many mistakes players make on the soccer pitch are due to either poor technique and positioning or decision making skills, just as many come from a lack of concentration.
This sees them lose the ball or lose the player they are marking for a second as they get distracted and lose focus.
Common mistakes occur when players...
21. Don't Keep Their Eye on the Ball
22. Don't Watch Out for the Second Ball
23. Lose the Player They are Marking - And fail to track back
24. Play an Amazing Pass and Sit Back and Admire It - Instead of continuing to play.
25. Don't Play to the Whistle
To be at the top of your game you want to be as focused as possible on what you are doing and this will help prevent you from making silly mistakes.
As you can see a lot of soccer is to do with the mental side of the game as well as the physical, technical and tactical.
f. Mental Side of the Game
Remaining calm, composed, and in control of your emotions out on the soccer pitch is of the utmost importance if you are to play your best each and every week.
While players certainly get angry or irate out on the pitch, it is best to channel these feelings into giving your all for the team and playing a blinder rather than blowing up and getting angry at a foul or a perceived injustice.
Retaliating for instance will more likely than not result in you picking up a needless booking which doesn't help you or your team at all.
Working on the mental side of the game will see you...
26. Stop Picking up Silly Bookings
27. Stop Getting Wound Up by the Opposition
28. Stop Focusing on a Running Feud Rather Than the Game
29. Stop Switching Off and Getting Distracted
30. Stop Reacting Poorly to a Referee’s Decision
Obviously this is all easier said than done when emotions are running high and the game is happening at breakneck speed all around you.
By trusting in your own qualities and those of your teammates though you can manage the game and occasion rather than letting it get to you and stop you from playing your best.
While you can be the best player in the world, if you don't work well as part of a team you're not going to get very far.
The best teams appear to be a well-oiled machine as they pass and move the ball about the pitch as one, dropping in and out of position, all knowing exactly where their teammates will be.
When you don't link up well with your teammates, however, you start to make mistakes.
Although some of these are team mistakes, they also rely on individuals to work well as part of the collective if they are to be ironed out.
Common mistakes here are when...
31. Teammates Stick Too Close Together
32. Both Challenge for the Same Ball
33. Not Press as a Team
34. Give the Opposition Too Much Time and Space
35. Sit Back Deep and Invite Pressure
While it takes time to get to know your teammates, the tactics of the team and everyone's strengths and weaknesses, many of these mistakes simply boil down to a lack of communication.
As every player growing up will no doubt have heard a million times:
“It's only half a pass if it doesn't have a name on it.”
By communicating with your teammates and feeding them information about what is going on around them, you can instantly improve performances and reduce the mistakes you make.
Many mistakes and goals conceded are due to a lack of communication as teammates fail to pick up the right player or both cover the same space rather than engaging the attacker.
Common communication mistakes that players often make on the soccer pitch are when they...
36. Don’t Communicate Who is Marking Who at a Corner or Free Kick
37. Don't Let Teammates Know They’re Being Closed Down or Don't Have Much Time
38. Are Too Critical and Negative About Everyone and Everything
39. Fail to Listen to Advice From the Coach or Teammates
40. React Negatively to Feedback
All of these obviously have a knock on effect in terms of both the team's performance and that of the individual.
Learning how to communicate well is an important skill in any walk of life and both players and coaches need to know how to convey instructions and advice in a clear and positive manner.
This is obviously very important when it comes to explaining tactics, the set up of the team and certain basic things the players should be doing.
i. Tactical Understanding of the Game
Although improving your teamwork and communication skills goes a long way to helping you function better as a unit, it is also important to have some tactical understanding about the game.
While youth team players don't need to know absolutely everything about what is expected of them in their position, they should know some standard things that they should be doing.
Common mistakes you see out on the pitch are when players...
41. Get Pulled Out of Shape by the Opposition and Follow Them Around the Pitch
42. Allow Players to Turn Them Too Easily and Drive at the Defence
43. Not Using Their Body to Shield the Ball
44. Fail to Block Crosses Into the Box
45. Play Everyone Onside by Dropping Too Deep
These simple mistakes occur each weekend and just by working on them in training you can easily reduce the number of goals you concede and make your team more solid and cohesive.
For this to happen however you need everyone to be fully committed to the team and willing to give their all.
Determination, discipline, and commitment are yet more deciding factors when it comes to which team plays the best and comes out on top at the weekend.
Giving the classic 110% every match should help you refrain for making some of the following mistakes.
For whatever reason, whether it is a lack of motivation, desire, or commitment…
You sometimes see players...
46. Not Giving Their All
47. Pulling Out of Challenges or Headers
48. Not Following Up Shots Into the Box
49. Giving Up
Conversely their commitment may be so great that they...
50. Keep Playing When They Have an Injury - And should really be substituted
While there are certainly many occasions when you should pull out of a tackle for instance, some shirked challenges are down to the player not being brave enough, being scared of getting hurt, or simply because they don't want to it enough.
Confidence and having faith in your own abilities goes a long way to determining whether you commit to a challenge, convinced that you're going to win it or refrain from diving in, safe in the knowledge that you've made the right decision.
When players are out of form and are lacking confidence we often see them start to make silly mistakes which wouldn't normally occur if they were feeling good about their performances and role in the team.
This has a knock on effect in terms of the player's technique, decision making, concentration, and focus.
This leads to them...
51. Panicking When in Possession
52. Taking Too Many Touches
53. Hiding from the Ball and Trying to Avoid Receiving a Pass
54. Snatching at Opportunities and Shooting Wildly
The opposite of this is when players are too confident and...
55. Try to do Everything Themselves
To gain as much confidence in their abilities as possible, players need to spend as much time as they can on the training ground, honing their skills and improving their knowledge of the game.
This again boils down to how much practice and preparation you put into becoming the best player you can possibly be.
Every weekend, at every level of the game, players and professionals alike make a myriad of different mistakes resulting in sendings off, goals conceded, and their team losing the match.
While soccer can appear to be a breathtakingly simple game at times, a lot actually goes into both individual's and team's performances.
As we’ve seen, many of the common mistakes we looked at above are due to a variety of different factors that all influence one another.
And, while there may be an overwhelming number of them, the great thing is that many of them can easily be rectified.
The added bonus is that by working on your concentration or decision making skills, you inadvertently strengthen your confidence, technique, and positioning at the same time.
Although it is easier said than done, cutting out some of these common mistakes is absolutely crucial if you want to be the best player you can be.
By understanding WHY we make mistakes, we can then look at rectifying the causes and start to iron them out of our game.
Further Reading: 28 Soccer Training Tips and Secrets to Master the Pitch