Help! I’m a Coach and Want to Teach the Mental Game – Part I
If you’re a soccer coach, chances are you religiously keep up with the latest drills and methods to improve the technical and tactical aspects of your team.
You no doubt study the latest trends in strategy, formations, and styles of play to stay one step ahead of the competition on the pitch.
But if you’re like most coaches, you probably don’t know where to go for help on the mental game.
Even though U.S. Soccer has designated the psychological component as the 4th pillar of player development, it is the one that is the most difficult for coaches to develop and the pillar that has the fewest resources for coaches and players.
And yet, that psychological component might be the most important pillar of development, especially for players hoping to compete at an elite level.
According to an article published last year on how the U.S. Women’s National Team was developing their...
Let’s face it - getting out of our comfort zones is scary.
But getting outside of our comfort zone is what we ultimately need to grow.
This was Schmoopie a year ago, about to go down one of North America’s longest ziplines in Whistler, Canada.
She had been on a small zipline (about 100m long and only a few feet off the ground) the year prior, but this was a whole new ball of wax.
Looking back at this memory, I’m really amazed at how brave she was. She is like me, relatively risk-averse, and willing to shut it down when she feels uncomfortable.
They weigh every participant so they meet minimum weight (you need to make sure you weigh enough to get across, otherwise you could get stuck in the middle). My daughter was 0.25 lb over the minimum, so she was terrified.
But she was willing to grow - and to grow, she had to take a calculated risk and break through the uncomfortableness.
In the old NFL movie Crunch Course, there’s a special teams coach who quotes the...
5 Tips to Build Confidence When Players Return
By Bryan Price
As various states lift restrictions to allow players back on the pitch, everyone associated with youth sports is understandably excited. Players are chomping at the bit to play, coaches can’t wait to get their teams back together, and parents yearn to cheer on their kids from the sideline once again.
But with that excitement comes some anxiety. It’s only natural.
For those near COVID-19 hotspots, shelter-in-place orders have kept players off the pitch for over 10 weeks. That’s a lot of rust to shake off, even if players managed to work out on their own.
So what can players do to get their minds right and return to the pitch with confidence?
1. Have a growth mindset
In her landmark book, Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck examines what separates students who were able to quickly rebound from adversity versus those who could not. The difference was mindset.
Those who possessed a growth mindset were more likely to...
Note: This article was published in Soccer Today on May 18, 2020.
Jim Thorpe - 1912
When Jim Thorpe woke up on the second day of competition during the 3-day decathlon in the 1912 Olympic games in Stockholm, he must’ve felt extremely confident.
Thorpe, voted the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century and arguably the greatest athlete the United States has ever produced, had already won gold in the pentathlon a week prior. In fact, he won four of the five events.
On the first day of the decathlon, he ran the 100-meter dash in 11.2 seconds. That record would stand for another 36 years. What’s even more impressive is that Thorpe ran it in a downpour.
But on the second day of the decathlon, somebody had stolen his cleats.
Imagine training for four years for the Olympic games, and the only piece of equipment you need to compete in your event is stolen.
So what did Thorpe do? He and his coach rummaged around and eventually found two discarded shoes in the...
This article was published by Soccer Today on May 3, 2020.
Julie Foudy is one of the most accomplished female soccer players in the world. A dominant midfielder for the U.S. Women’s National Team from 1987 through 2004, Julie served as co-captain for nine years and captain from 2000 through her retirement. In her 18-year national team tenure that included 271 international caps, the U.S. women won two FIFA Women’s World Cup titles (1991, 1999), two Olympic gold medals (1996, 2004), and a silver medal in 2000. She began working as an analyst for ESPN in 2005 and founded the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy in 2006. She was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in August 2007.
Last week Julie sat down with SoccerToday columnist Bryan Price at the Top Mental Game Soccer Summit to discuss the mental game and its importance to her career.
When were you first introduced to mental skills training and what impact did it have on your career?
Foudy: It is and has...
NOTE: THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN SOCCER TODAY ON APRIL 13, 2020.
Muhammad Ali once said, “Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”
For those soccer players navigating the COVID-19 crisis, are you making the best use of your time?
Because when this crisis ends and we return to “normal,” it will be apparent who made the days count, and which players simply counted the days.
For the past couple of weeks, I have run 5-day “bootcamps” on how to improve your mental game during this interesting time. This Tuesday through Thursday, I will be running a soccer-specific webinar series from 7-8pm EDT, and U.S. soccer legend Julie Foudy will be making an appearance to talk about her mental game.
If social media is any indication, many players are putting in the work. It’s awesome to see so many clubs providing players and coaches with video tutorials on how to improve technical skills, footwork, and physical...
Last week, I did a fun project with one of my young clients at Top Mental Game. She is an elite swimmer preparing for the Junior Olympic swimming trials.
In the past couple of months, we’ve worked on goal-setting, focus, positive self-talk, visualization, and pre-practice and pre-competition routines.
We’ve also talked about how the creation of an alter-ego can enhance performance. Sparked by a conversation where we discussed Kobe Bryant’s use of his Black Mamba Mentality, I asked her what animal she’d like to transform into when competing in the pool. She instantaneously said a Great White shark.
I had her write down what words described her alter-ego and we brainstormed on more. She came up with adjectives like fierce, ferocious, unafraid, fast, deadly, confident, and scary.
At the time I thought of this idea, she had 11 practices before the big event. I created a collage comprised of her...
When I sat down to do my weekly log of clients I’ve coached, I realized I’ve hit the 200-hour mark since I started Top Mental Game. Wow. That went fast.
About half of those 200 hours were spent with Division-I athletes/coaches and the other half with elite high school athletes/coaches.
I’ve been in front of approximately 500 student-athletes from 15 different teams in a variety of sports - golf, baseball, football, hockey, soccer, basketball, swimming, volleyball, wrestling, and softball.
And I’ve worked one-on-one with athletes from California, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Spain, and Italy.
So here’s 5 things I’ve learned.
Even the most physically talented ones.
When I think about youth sports today compared to when I was a kid, there have been so...
Are YOU as mentally tough as Paige?
Life’s easy when things are going well. It’s when we get knocked down when we find out whether we are mentally tough or not.
Paige is one of the athletes I coach on the mental game - she is a high school golfer in Texas hoping to play D-I someday.
This kid is mentally tough. She has the ability, the knowledge, and the discipline to perform at her best, no matter the circumstances. But she’s had to work at it.
Day 1 of the Tournament
On day 1 of a showcase tournament sponsored by the Texas Junior Golf Tour, she parred the first 5 holes, and then....on a par-4, she shot a 12. 12 strokes. For mentally weak athletes, this would’ve destroyed their round and likely their weekend. And in the past, Paige would have likely snowballed and spiraled, unable to recover from such a disastrous hole.
But she fought back, parred 6 of the last 9 holes, and finished with an 86.
When I reached out to her after her 86 on the first day, I...
Last February, I was asked to be one of three former collegiate athletes to speak to all of Seton Hall University’s Division-I athletes about leadership and life.
Overcoming a lot of self-doubt and limiting beliefs, I announced that I was willing to work with any team or athlete on their mental game. I didn’t know it then, but it was the start of Top Mental Game.
After the talk, several players and coaches came up and wanted to get started. One of those coaches was Coach Natalie Desjardins, the women’s golf coach. We met the next week in my office, and we collaborated on a set of team sessions based around various aspects of the mental game - mental toughness, self-talk, goal-setting, and visualization and imagery exercises.
A Year With Seton Hall Women’s Golf
I first spoke to the team on Feb 28, 2019. At the end of my first session, I said that I’d also be willing to work with any of the players one-on-one.