The Little Girl in the Car

Helping Youth Soccer Players Overcome The Fear of Tryouts

 

The girl and her father pulled up to the soccer field next to my wife’s car.

It was a tryout for an ECNL-affiliated soccer club for 11- and 12-year-old girls. One by one, ponytailed players with oversized soccer bags excitedly ran from their cars and onto the field to stretch and warm up.

ALL EXCEPT FOR THE GIRL IN THE CAR NEXT TO US.

She never got out. She was in tears as the father implored her to join the tryout. At one point, he even got out of the car to further encourage her, but it was futile.

She never budged. And after about 20 minutes, they left.

While I don’t know the girl or the reason she remained in the car, this story breaks my heart.

I feel bad for the father because, as parents, we want our kids to attack life with all the confidence in the world, consequences be damned. And as much as we want to protect our kids, I think we’d all rather see them try and fail than never make an...

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Help! I’m a Coach and Want to Teach the Mental Game – Part III

This article was originally published in Soccer Today on November 6, 2020.

Help! I’m a Coach and Want to Teach the Mental Game – Part III

                                         By Bryan Price, Ph.D.

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 turn 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...

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Interview with U.S. Swimming Legend Jason Lezak

 

On August 24, I had the privilege of interviewing Jason Lezak about his swimming career and his mental game.

This four-time Olympian is the proud owner of 8 Olympic medals, including four gold medals.

We cover a lot of ground in our discussion, especially about the mental game - goal-setting, self-talk, maintaining discipline, and the extreme toll training for four Olympic games takes on your mind and body.

And of course, we break down perhaps the most epic comeback in swimming history - his record-setting anchor in the 4x100 relay in the 2008 Olympics.

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Help! I’m a Coach and I Want to Teach the Mental Game, But Don’t Know Where to Start - Part I

Help! I’m a Coach and Want to Teach the Mental Game – Part I

Bryan Price

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...

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Comfort Zones and the Need to Get Out of Them

 

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...

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Top Mental Game’s Interview with Julie Foudy

 

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...

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A Creative Way to Build Confidence and Increase Focus

How to Prepare for a Big Competition

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...

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What I’ve Learned After 200 Hours

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.

1. Many college and high school athletes lack the mental skills needed to cope with the pressures of competitive sports today. 

Even the most physically talented ones.

When I think about youth sports today compared to when I was a kid, there have been so...

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Are You as Mentally Tough as Paige?

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...

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Who is Your (Informal) Feedback Giver?

My old high school football coach, the legendary Vic Kubu, used to say, “You either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same.”

I think there’s a lot of truth to that statement. Elite performers in all fields have coaches, but unless you are working one-on-one with a coach in your sport, chances are they use another trusted source to give them objective feedback on their performance. 

This is for two reasons. First, the main priority for a head coach is the TEAM, not necessarily any individual player. A head coach may realistically see only a portion of your performance during a particular game. He or she is not watching your every move. Second, it is unlikely that the athlete is able to accurately diagnose his or her own performance. Oftentimes, athletes are either their own worst critic, and unable to see any “good” in their performance, or they are not critical enough and unwilling or unable to get out of...

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