Jacob Bruun Larsen: ''Mentality is everything in football''

Jacob Bruun Larsen has got off to an exceptional start this season: four goals, one assist, a return to the Denmark national team - and at 34.88 km/h, the Dane is one of the fastest TSG players this season. The 23-year-old credits his improved performance this season to good communication with the coaching staff - not to mention intense self-reflection and exchange with the club's sport psychologists. In a highly candid interview with the TSG club magazine SPIELFELD, set for publication on Friday 3 December, the Dane gives insights into his mental process.

''I've learned to really enjoy and appreciate the good phases and not to immediately start looking ahead to the future. What's most important is now, tomorrow will come in its own time,'' says the Denmark international. The wide player values his discussions with the TSG sports psychologists and doesn't view mental support as a taboo topic: ''It's something that interests me on every level, not just as a footballer. What's unique about sport is the fact you have to perform on the biggest stage and therefore need a certain calmness of mind to stay composed and play to the best of your abilities. Social media has added another element in recent years. Now you're discussed and evaluated a lot more than in the past, when you could just avoid reading the paper the day after a game. This development can have a really strong impact on players mentally, especially younger players. But that's just one part of the picture, changes in form or problems with the coach can also cause stress. Mentality is everything in football. There are no two ways about it.''

His own career development as well as that of fellow teammates has only served to strengthen this impression. That explains why he's so happy that TSG have taken on a pioneering role in this area: ''Football is a game played primarily in the head. And this development is far from complete, the importance of mental strength will only increase. That's why I think it's fantastic that TSG are doing such progressive work, it's a super interesting topic that can have a massive impact on a player's development. I know that from personal experience; before I talked to the sports psychologists regularly, I was getting caught up in my thoughts too much. Pressure, competition, playing in front of fans - there are so many things that can impact performance and it is so important to trust yourself. If your head doesn't play along, your legs are powerless.'' Bruun Larsen therefore struggles to understand why there are still reservations, both in the Bundesliga and in wider society, about working with psychologists: ''I see it this way: you don't have to be unwell to go to the doctor. You might just have a few doubts and want to get some advice. I'm not unwell, but I like talking about the things that are going on in my life. You learn so much about yourself as well as other people and situations. You can't expect yourself to know everything. When I'd like to learn something in a certain field, then I have to speak to an expert who knows more than me. After all, the reason you listen to the coach is because he's more clued up on football than you are. That's why I like getting advice from a psychologist. For me, it's no different to taking 30 shots on goal after training to improve my shooting. It's self-improvement, it helps me and it makes me stronger.''

His considered statements make it clear: Jacob Bruun Larsen has already experienced a lot - both on and off the pitch. The move to Germany as a teenager ("At some points I felt like I'd gone back in time. Working with pen and paper to write texts at school was something I felt like I hadn't done for about ten years or so") as well as his sister Line's cancer ("I said at the time: 'I'd stop playing football immediately if it meant my sister could be healthy again.'") left their mark on him early on. That's another reason why he doesn't feel like a star and never wants to come across as arrogant: "In our job, anyone who doesn't have five minutes of time for the fans after training is a bit inhumane in my view. It's not enough to be a professional solely on the pitch.''


SPIELFELD is the club magazine of TSG Hoffenheim. It's full of important stuff – what's happening at TSG, around the club and in the region. SPIELFELD is published 11 times a year and is available free of charge in the fan shop - or by post as a subscription for just a €18.99 delivery fee. 

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