Note: This article was originally published in Soccer Today on Jan 16, 2021.
Why are today’s players more mentally and emotionally fragile than ever? Why are there fewer leaders?
I was 12 years-old and playing in my Little League’s championship game in 1988. I was the team’s shortstop and batted third in the lineup, but in the top half of the first inning, I struck out looking (on a pitch that was way off the plate) to end the inning.
I was upset.
On my way back to the dugout to retrieve my glove, I threw my helmet. It skipped off the ground, ricocheted off the chain-link fence, and grazed one of my teammate’s legs as he was emerging from the dugout. Startled, he reactively said “ow” loud enough for the coach to hear.
My coach turned around, quickly pieced together what had happened, and barked, “did YOU throw that?”
I nodded sheepishly, and he told me to go sit on the bench. The...
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...
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 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.
Elite performers understand there are 4 irrefutable truths to mental toughness.
1) We play at our best when we are loose, focused, and confident. Conversely, we play at our worst when we are tight, unfocused, and full of anxiety and doubt. For some of you, playing loose and confident is easy, but for most of us, it is not. We can, however, learn how to get our minds in that optimal state of performance through breathing techniques, positive self-talk, and visualization and imagery exercises - all of which I teach at Top Mental Game.
2) The best athletes have clearly defined goals and an understanding of how to get there. I'm shocked at how many elite athletes I work with at the high school and collegiate level that don't have a clear understanding of their goals. If you don't know where you're going, then it's tough to know how to get there. How can you maximize your time at practice? Where should you be devoting your energy?
3) Speaking of energy, elite performers understand that...