The Head Game Interview Series (Pt 6) - Kyle Vassell

The Head Game Interview Series (Pt 6) - Kyle Vassell

Striker for Blackpool FC

I first met Kyle Vassell at Brentford FC when he was in the Youth Team with players like Alfie Mawson (Swansea), Fraser Franks (Stevenage) and Jake Reeves (Bradford). He had a great touch, super strong and he was incredibly quick. On top of that he was absolutely covered in Tats with a strong South London accent, which gave him the impression of being a hard man. But when you spoke to him you realised how polite and humble the guy was.

Out of all the lads we thought would turn pro, we thought Kyle was nailed on to be one of them. So it was a bit of a shock when he wasn't offered a contract. Unfortunately he dropped out of professional football in February 2011 but he made it back in to the EFL in November 2013 when he signed for Peterborough. How did he manage to get back in? Through an incredible amount of hard work, a large number of knock backs but more importantly, through a quest of personal development in an area he knew he had to work on the most - His Mindset. He is truly a shining example of how being mentally resilient and consistent with your work will help you to be successful.

What position do you play and what do you think is the most challenging aspect of playing that position? 

I am a striker but sometimes play on the wing. The most challenging aspect of both positions is dealing with the pressure of doing the job. What I mean by that is the expectation everyone has of you scoring goals and getting assists. Everyone relies on you to win the game for them. It is a lot of pressure to handle.

As a percentage, how much do you think the game of football is mental and how much is physical? 

For me it is 90% mental and 10% physical. When I was at Brentford I had the technical ability and the physical attributes but I didn't know how to channel it or how to use my mind to get the best out of them. Using your mind will give you an advantage over the other players, both the opposition and those in your team so you stand out. Let's face it, if you want to work hard you have to have the right mindset otherwise your body won't follow. Plus, if you haven't got pace or strength you have to have something else to maximise every opportunity you have.

What do you do to mentally to prepare yourself for a game?

I focus on a clear mind and thinking about about nothing. I relax and trust myself because I have spent the whole week preparing, ready for the game and I know I will have done more than most of the players on the pitch. I focus on giving 100% in the game and if things aren't working out for me I just chill, clear my head, think about nothing other than upping my work rate and then I wait for a chance to happen.

What is the most effective method you found to keep a positive mindset?

If anything happens, for example, like road rage incident, I just ignore it. It doesnt mean anything in the grand scheme of things. I manage my emotions so that I never get too high and never too low. I try to see the good side of things and just accept that sh*t happens but it is how you deal with it that counts. Do you want to act positively and get something out of it or do you want to act like a victim and achieve nothing by blaming someone else for the mistakes you have made. It is my way of dealing with adversity.

What's the worst experience you have ever had in football and how did you deal with it? 

The worst thing for me in my career was not getting a pro contract at Brentford. I thought my career was over but I love playing football and I don't know anything else. I thought, "Right, I have to work harder!" I focused on getting better at everything. I did lots of one and one stuff with Darren Sarll who was the YT Manager at the time. He was brilliant for me and guided me. He helped me realise that I needed to jump at every opportunity that came my way so I went to Dover FC for 3 months, then went to Sutton FC for a while. I played non-league for quite a long time but all the while I went for trials to as many pro clubs as possible. That was tough because you are used to being in a team and then all of a sudden you are on your own and expected to stand out individually. Then you have to deal with the knock backs from the clubs. I had trials at AFC Wimbledon, Burton and Rotherham. 

I was released in February 2011 and then managed to get back into the pro league in November 2013 when Peterborough signed me. They bought me from Bishop Stortford FC because I had done well with getting 16 goals in 16 games.

What would be your advice to a young, up and coming player?

Take your time, there is no rush. Everyone blossoms in their own time but you have to stay focused on what you want and be clear with your goals. The whole social media and nightclub stuff comes later when you have become successful. Until then, stay focused and work hard. The most important thing though is to enjoy yourself and be in an environment where you can enjoy playing football. Don't get too high and be patient.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge for a professional footballer these days?

On average I believe it is dealing with the politics of the game. What I mean by that is not playing when you know you should be. Players get brought in which the gaffer has to play ahead of you or if the gaffer has something against you, for example a new manager to the Club and you aren't one of "his" players.

If you have used Sports Psychology or Mental Skills Coaching, how has it help you to develop? If you haven't had either before, what stopped you from using those kinds of support?

I bought the Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters and it was really useful. I learnt that I needed to save my energy for the important things and not to sweat the small stuff. It has helped me massively. Being more mentally focused now makes me realise that that was the one area I should have worked on earlier in my career. We have regular prehab and S&C sessions as a team so why don't we have regular mental training sessions? Where mental training has helped me is mainly with my consistency and being able to stay positive, not matter the situation. It has developed my mental resilience massively. It also really helps with maintaining your confidence, being able to cope with adversity especially with injuries.

In my next article I will be interviewing Sheffield United FC "Shot Stopper" Simon Moore.

Mental Skills Coaching can significantly improve a player's confidence, consistency and capabilities. If you are a footballer, football coach, football agent or even a parent of a young footballer and would like to find out more about Mental Skills Coaching then contact me direct at al@leadoutcoaching.co.uk.