BY DR. VIRGINIA SAVAGE FOR FLORIDA TODAY
Everyone begins a new soccer season with high hopes and good intention, players, coaches, and parents alike. Chances are that it WILL be a fantastic season. Maybe you’ll win the tournament, maybe you/one of your players will be voted MVP of the season, or maybe you’ll be a starter, break your own record for goals, or win a scholarship. Chances are that it could happen. But why leave it up to chance? Why not determine your own destiny and learn to become mentally tough at the same time? Mia Hamm would undoubtedly tell you that having a clear strategy for winning is fundamental and essential in playing your best season. “I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match.”
The strategy for winning is straightforward and simple.
· Establish both individual & team goals that are specific, measurable, meaningful, and achievable within the time that you have.
· Be open and truthful about your values, priorities, and motivation to commit yourself (both team and individual).
· Make sure all are in agreement (players, coaches, parents) about what is important and how to support it.
· Practice positive thinking and concentrate only on what you WANT.
· Practice the “feeling” of playing well, without hesitation, and with a huge heart for the game.
Of course, if you have never developed such a strategy, it is possible to feel a little overwhelmed, and it can seem like too much to remember when the pressure of competition begins. So, I suggest you start by asking one question, “What do I/we really want to achieve this year”? Make a list of everything you want and then prioritize it until you can see and feel what is most important. Then, brainstorm everything you believe you will need to do to achieve it. Create a timeline to see how much time and what kind of training you will need focusing your goals on “personal best” improvements that can be achieved within shorter time deadlines. Measure your progress regularly. This may sound tedious but, take my word for it, you won’t be sorry. Achieving tiny steps can be motivating and build confidence, especially if it is a goal that means something to you.
Make sure that you follow this same process for establishing team goals. Most likely, you could use a good facilitator for this. Your coach can do it but you have to make sure that it’s a TEAM goal and not the coach’s goal. A better idea would be to have an outside facilitator to guide players, coaches, and parents in establishing a common goal and collective commitment toward success. As each goal is achieved, then another and another, it may seem as if you have been creating your own destiny. At this point Chance has been taken over by Character.