- Analyzing Skills
- Confidence 2
- Loosing Confidence
- Mental Toughness in Soccer
- Sharks and Minnows Game
- Good coaches win right
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June 25, 2012
Mental Toughness in Soccer – You Can’t Be Perfect
Mental toughness is a term that has become widely popular in the soccer world. So what does it mean to have mental toughness in soccer? At Peak Performance Sports we define this term as the ability to stay focused in the moment, trust your training and ability, perform under pressure, and cope with the adversity that comes with playing competitive soccer.
This means competing with confidence, moving on from mistakes or setbacks, performing under pressure, facing tough competition, committing to training, playing with trust, and taking risks on the field.
So what does it take to achieve this day in and day out as a soccer player? It is all too common that players have the physical skills, are highly motivated, and train diligently but don’t perform their best due to a lack of mental toughness.
Developing mental toughness takes training and dedication just like improving your fitness or learning new skills. Many soccer players that come to us, have not had any mental training and don’t understand the mental game. But they might underperform due to fear of failure, expectations to play perfect soccer, losing focus under pressure, haveing unstable or fragile confidence, comparing themselves to their competition, being overly focused on results, and worrying about impressing coaches or parents.
All of these mental game roadblocks cause athletes to play tentative, feel tense and anxious, crumble under pressure, lose focus, avoid taking risks, and become frustrated with their performance. Our goal at Peak Performance Sports is to help soccer players understand the mental strategies they need to play freely, feel focused, stay composed, and develop stable confidence so they can get the most out of their talent.
One of the most common challenges that we see in soccer players is that they expect perfection in their performance. We help our athletes understand that perfectionism in soccer has both pros and cons. Some advantages of perfectionism are having a strong work ethic, desire to improve, commitment to excellence, and dedication to their goals.
Clearly we want you to set challenging goals, but many soccer players who are perfectionists get upset or frustrated when they make even small mistakes.
Some other disadvantages of perfectionism include:
- Super high levels of motivation leading to over-training or burn out
- Lack of self-confidence in competition
- Worrying about what others think
- Becoming overly technical during games
- Fearing failure or being overly focused on NOT making mistakes
- Focusing on past poor performances or worrying about future games
- Training and competing to please others
Here are some tips for helping you cope better with perfectionism:
1. Strive for perfection and mastery in practice, but accept you are human and that mistakes happen even for the best soccer players in the world.
2. Train yourself to focus on each play instead of thinking ahead to “what ifs”, such as “what if I miss the open goal and embarrass myself.”
3. Instead of thinking you must be perfect when playing, create some manageable goals about your performance, such as getting back on defense quickly, playing aggressive, taking players on 1 v 1, or getting into the box for crosses.
4. Learn to be more accepting of mistakes in order to move forward and focus on the next play or goal scoring opportunity.
We’ve helped you with one challenge that soccer players experience with their mental game. To read more about how to improve your focus and confidence in soccer, download our free ebook “7 ‘Costly’ Mental Game Challenges That Block Soccer Players’ Success.”
About the Authors:
Dr. Patrick Cohn is a leading Mental Game Coach and Jaki Hitzelberger, MA, MGCP is a former Division 1 collegiate soccer player, a Certified Mental Game Coaching Professional, and a Soccer Mental Game Specialist.
June 24, 2012
This is one exercise that all little children love. Dribbling the football, shielding it, moving in different directions and generally kicking about is one of the most fun ways of introducing children to the game. More than anything else, it keeps them interested in the game, ensuring that they look forward to their training sessions. This exercise can also be used to help kids warm up, once again a fantastic way to ensure that they have fun while learning about the game as well.
In this game, all your players become “minnows” or small fish, while one player or you, the coach, acts as the shark. The idea is simple, the minnows need to cross the pond, which is the playing area, with the ball while the shark tries to kick their ball away.
Feel free to change “Sharks and Minnows” into “Fox and Chickens” or “Wolf and Sheep” or anything else that you think they might relate to.
Age Group: 4 to 6 years
- A playing area that’s long & wide enough to accommodate your players in a straight line, with enough room for all
- One ball for each of your players
- A defender/coach in the middle of the playing area
- The minnows start dribbling into the area
- Once they enter the area, the shark (coach/defender) starts chasing them, trying to get the ball away from them
- The shark has to kick the minnows’ ball out of the playing area
- If a minnow loses a ball, s/he too becomes a shark now and starts trying to kick the ball out from other minnows’ control
- Continue until either all minnows turn into sharks or all minnows cross over to the other side
Switch direction and play again. As more minnows become sharks, the game keeps getting more difficult with each round. Maintain low defensive pressure at all times.
- If you are coaching really young children (3- or 4-year olds) who aren’t accustomed to playing with the ball, you might need to start the game without a ball and slowly introduce a ball into it. Every minnow, who gets tagged, can become a shark and so on
- Players need to use their entire foot (in-step, out-step, top and sole) for dribbling the ball
- Players need to vary their speed, trying to run as fast as possible without losing control of the ball
- Proper shielding technique needs to be taught
- If the defender is a player, then basic tackling & defending techniques need to be explained clearly
June 21, 2012
Good Coaches Win Right
Mark Brennan, From Calgary Foothills, ‘Tech Talk’ 2009.
Good coaches win right? That’s the generally accepted idea in the world of sports and it certainly rings true at the higher levels. But is there a time when a good coach doesn’t win a game? Is there a time when the very best coaches are focused on something else rather than winning? And should wining really be the goal of coaches of young teams? How do we perceive success for players at U8, U10, U12 and U14 levels?
Any good coach will always want to win, it’s built into us. In soccer at the youngest levels (U8-U12) we see blow out after blow out in league games, the parents of the winning team love it, the coach is seen as the masterstroke and players buy into their program. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning program.
At the u8-u12 levels we call these ages, “the golden age of learning”. It is a special time in the ‘career’ of a young athlete, where they are more capable of learning the technical skills to reach their potential later on. After age 12 it becomes increasingly more difficult to learn the technical side of the game. Things like first touch and ball mastery, including all the array of turns and fakes right down to the simplest passing and receiving.
A coach that can pick natural athletes for their teams in the U8-U12 age groups knows how to win. Get the ball to the fastest most aggressive player every time and nine times out of ten it’s going in the back of the net. There is also the pressure from well intentioned parents who want to see their children do well. In our society doing well means winning a lot of the time. So the inexperienced coach wanting to do well, coaches to win, instead of coaching to develop the player. When we do this the kids lose. Yes they win the game but their development is held back. Lost is another opportunity to improve the most important thing at this level, ball mastery.
What is ball mastery? To keep it simple, ball mastery is the players ability to manipulate the ball, it includes, dribbling, turns, fakes, passing and receiving, first touch, controlling the ball out of the air with various parts of the body, and most importantly the ability to do all of this under pressure in a game environment. This is the foundation of the game of soccer, without these skills quite a lot of times we see frustration in the later years and eventually players leave the game. When we focus on developing the player, when we run our drills or coach games to improve a players ball mastery, they then have a real opportunity to reach their potential in the game.
So how as coaches can we achieve better results that can lead to a more fulfilling soccer experience? I think the very first thing is to have much less emphasis on the final score. Yes praise goals, but also give very special attention to the players pass, or faking out a defender when going 1v1, or being calm under pressure, or opening up into space, or communication, the movement off the ball, a great dribble, a good tackle. When we do this we build confidence, when we focus on these things instead of the final score the players become less inclined to leave the field upset and sad after loosing 8-0 because, “coach says I made some awesome passes”. The emphasis was on the players and what they did right in the game, not the score.
Winning and competion are both important, but at the U8-U12 age groups it should take a back seat to the much more important role of development. So the next time you are out there watching your kid play or coaching their young team, do them a favor, praise the little stuff, then the enjoyment comes from their own performance, not the game result. The performance and ability of the team comes later, from U14 and up, that’s when we can teach tactics because they learned ball mastery in the younger years.
When players have the ability from a young age to master the ball they set their own limits in the game, not the coaches. If a coach’s main focus is development instead of winning, you have done your job well. If you are coaching a team who’s winning 4-0, bring out the best in your players by giving them other challenges. “Can we keep the ball and make 10 passes in a row, who can do a turn when your out there to keep the ball, can we practice our shielding, can you guys dribble really quick into the space you see” the list is endless. Set new goals for them and I am sure they will rise to the challenge.
The other thing is game time. A coach who is focused on winning will not give equal game time to all players on the team. The best coaches realize that the weak player at U10 could be a dominant player at U16 and provides equal opportunity for all players during games, regardless of ability. When you freeze out players with less ability at the younger ages you are taking away their soccer future. No coach can tell who will be the best players at the older ages at such a young age, there are just too many variables.
So the best coaches, don’t coach to win at all costs, and the best parents encourage and praise the coaches who focus on development, that way the kids win, the programs win and in the later years the clubs win. And always keep it fun and positive in everything you do and say. Bottom line, the more touches on the ball, the more development you will have.
Mark Brennan, Highland Knights Technical Rep, Highland Region, Nova Scotia.
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