Impossible is Nothing Sara Cowley

Many year ago ago a popular brand released a new advertising campaign, "Impossible is Nothing." was showing up on billboards and on TV, and other media outlets. Usually I am not a person who gets to caught up in media and advertising catch phrases, but this one stuck with me. I purchased a new pair of cleats and got a free little plaque with this phrase on it. It gave me a new perspective and I liked the feeling I had when I thought this way and approached specifically soccer with this attitude in mind. I played with a more determined and positive mindset and even though things didn't always go my way I knew that my dreams were still possible, If I believed in them. That was the key right there, what I believed and what that belief motivated me to do and act on helped guide my path and give me the internal strength to handle all the things that came my way. On the soccer field that was a myriad of "try-out" type environment; at various levels and intensities; various  High School  Sports, Club soccer, ODP State level, Region Camp, Region team selections, College recruiting, just to list a few off the top of my head.  As a player, having the belief and playing like "Impossible is Nothing" gave me the drive I needed to go after it, play hard, and let things work out how they will, knowing I left it all out on the field and didn't hold back because of some reasons that were only in my head, and not reality. So players, I challenge you to play and train like Nothing is Impossible, cause if YOU believe it and are willing to act on that belief, then truly, " Impossible is NOTHING!"

Take a Leap of Faith Justine Jones

Take the leap of faith

 Growth in any capacity requires a leap of faith, whether in life, relationships, work, or sport. This is because growth leads to the unknown. Growth leads to places we have never been before and that can sometimes be scary. Taking that leap of faith means that in you somewhere there is a belief in yourself and an idea or vision of who you want to be or where you want to go.

 One important thing to recognize about growth is that sometimes the change and growth were hoping for is not the change and growth that occurs and that’s OKAY! You can never be 100 percent certain that things will go the way you want them to. In fact I can guarantee that at some point they won’t. But if you didn’t have doubts and uncertainties then it wouldn’t require a leap of faith would it? Remember that change brings about an opportunity to recognize that misgivings and setbacks are part of the process. In order to continue to push through setback we have to be willing to take that leap of faith again. The worst we can damage is our pride and pride needs to be put in back in check every now and again.

My father instilled in me that when dealing with change, when trying something new, the worst thing that could happen is that there is no change. Worst case, you go right back to where you’re at. He always used it as a reminder that the benefits of change, growth and improvement far outweigh the negative.

Here’s a couple of examples:

  1. You receive a new lifting plan but you’re intimidated to take the leap of faith and try something new in your workout routine

    1. Worst case- You try it and don’t like it and don’t do it anymore.

    2. Possible case- You greatly improved your strength and performance both on and off the field and coaches are taking notice.

  2. Your parents want you to work with a Sport Psych but you’re nervous because you don’t know what it will be like.

    1. Worst case- You don’t like it, don’t think it works and you stop going.

    2. Possible case- You find to tactics that greatly improve your mental toughness and see improvements on your ability to perform in the game.

  3. Your coach asks you to play a new position

    1. Worst case: You play bad and he moves you back to your original position.

    2. Possible case: Your coach loves you there, you get more playing time because others in that position can’t compete with you. You learn more about your previous position from seeing the game through a different angle and you end up loving soccer even more than  you previously did.

Whenever you find fear creeping into your mind remember that fear is the enemy of growth. Growth happens outside your comfort zone so when your feeling fear remember that growth is most likely creeping right around the corner. It sometimes take a leap of faith to get you to your next level.


Leap of Faith Bryan Russ

Leap of Faith

She looked into the eyes of the beast and it stared back, unmoving and indifferent.  To come out on top meant risking a hard fall or, even more worryingly, the skin on her shins.  Sounds pretty diabolical right?  Luckily our heroine stood her ground and contemplated attack.

                  The notion of jumping onto a waist-high platform with no prior experience is not for the faint of heart. But as she eyed the danger slab, she knew that a calculated approach would see her through.  So first thing’s first, what did she already know?  She knew how to JUMP!  Visualizing her victory, she imagined bending at her hips, knees and ankles while swinging her arms back, and then EXPLODING back in the opposite direction as hard as possible.  But did a hard a jump mean that she could actually make it?  What else could she find out?   Next she stood beside the platform.  If she could jump at least as high as the landing height, then she could most likely make it to the top when the real deal came around.  So she went for it, getting a as high as possible.  It was close.  It made her slightly more confident but she was still unsure. 

As a final preparation she looked for what help she could get from others.  Asking a coach to confirm that she was jumping high enough. Confirmation from the coach let her know that she was ready, and yet the monster remained.

It can be paralyzing when we must take a big leap of faith.  Whether stepping into a new environment, changing teams, trying a new position, or even trusting our teammates on the field, fear of the unknown can keep us from taking on new challenges.  It wouldn’t be called a “leap of faith” if we knew the outcome.  We must remember that changes like these bring about growth, but that doesn’t always help when these pivotal moments arrive.  What will is asking the right questions: What do I already know?  What else can I find out?  What help can I get from someone experienced?

No leap of faith comes with complete certainty, but the more we can understand the nature of the change ahead, the more confidently we can embrace it.  And at that point that we understand, all that’s left to do is jump.

So she did.

“Wow”, she said. “I did it!”

Take a Leap of Faith Sara Cowley

Taking the leap of faith and having the courage to put yourself out there can be a but scary, but on the other side of the coin, it can present a great opportunity for growth and refinement. I believe there is great power in faith. and even more powerful is when that faith moves you into action. Faith can move people to do amazing things, to be better and to make a difference. One example that comes to mind that is soccer related, is when a player is asked to play by a coach to play/try to learn a new position. To the player, it may seem scary and cause some nerves, self-doubt and make you think about all the reasons you can't do it.  Clearly, if the coach is asking you to try a new position, they see something,a certain skill or quality that the player demonstrates that would enable them to have success in that new role, and raise the level of the individual and the team.  

Have Faith in your coaches insight, and have faith in your abilities. You won't be perfect at first, but as you put your faith in to action, work on it, stay positive with yourself and the situation, you will see after some time that you can do it!! Remember, Faith and Doubt cannot exist at the same time, so chose to kick those doubts out and move forward with faith!!! 

We've Taken a Summer Break and Now It's Time to Get To WorkIt's

It's been a busy summer for everyone and now that it's winding down it's time to get "back in the saddle"

This week at EDA we are focusing on the theme of Take a Leap of Faith.

A Leap of Faith always reminds me of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indiana Jones steps off into what appears to be nothingness only to discover there is path to his goal. But the path never showed until he took that "Leap of Faith" As exciting as that scene was in the movie, it's also true to so many players as they begin a new season. Each training session, each game all require faith that the player will perform and even though it doesn't happen in every scenario there is always a path to guide the player to his or her goal. Remember it's the first step that begins the journey. Take the first step, heck, take the first leap and begin your journey.

Let's Get Real About Expectations by April Hanrath

Parents always want what's the best for their kids. I've never seen a parent do something intentional to hurt her child's chance at success. Yet everyday parents make choices for their children that may be good in the short term, but not so great in the long term.

Soccer is a microcosm of life. It is a game that teaches life lessons. It's not a job for kids, it's a game. It's not something that should be considered a parent's retirement income because their child will play professionally and make zillions of dollars. It's a game that your child enjoys. Keep perspective.

Soccer is a team sport, not a group of individuals playing for themselves who just happen to wear the same color uniform. It is a team game where everyone has to do her part in order for the team to succeed. Sometimes that means that your child may not play for many reasons. It could be that the matchup isn't right, your child has missed practices, the coach has a "master plan" that you don't know. When this happens, it's not time to nag the coach, act as though your child is being slighted, or bolt from a team. It's life lesson. It's not your job to take on the coach and fight for your child. Back off. This isn't your battle. Again, it's a life lesson. Your child will not always get what he wants when he wants it. There will be tough times in life and the lesson is to learn how to persevere in the tough times. 

One of our mentors sent a quote to me that I think is very applicable here. It's not a parent's job to clear the path, it's a parent's job to prepare the child for the path.

With tryout season here, all semblance of reason seems to disappear in the frenzy of what team my child is placed on this year. Tough decision and not one to be taken lightly. There are two questions you need to answer before you start looking elsewhere. First, has the Club/Coach worked to develop my child?  Meaning has your child had opportunities to grow and then did your child take these opportunities? Second, am I trying to find another team to stroke my ego, rather than doing what's best for my child? This one takes some soul searching. Parents are a social network within a team. The parents rely on the success of the team to stroke their own egos. Guess what, your ego is not based on the success of your child's team. The team's and your child's value isn't resting upon a win/loss record. Teams have ebbs and flows, As the saying goes, "Sometimes you're the Windshield, Sometimes you're the bug."

Before you jump ship, threaten your coach with your impending departure, ask you child what he wants. If he is happy on his team then let it be. It's amazing how some teams rise to the top when parental involvement takes the backseat to the team's success.

Whatever team your child ends up playing for the end result can always be positive. There are always lessons to be learned, sometimes easy sometimes not, but the lessons just keep coming. Be a resource to your child as he navigates the waters of growing. Be the parent, be the person he respects, be the person who teaches him how to overcome what seems impossible. When you do that, his expectations will be realized. Be that parent. 

Let's Get Real About Expectations by Justine Jones

I start off most of my introduction sessions by asking athletes, “In a perfect world, what does ‘The End’ look like for you regarding soccer?” (aka when all is said and done and you go to hang up your boots what do you want to have accomplished with soccer?) One of the things that surprised me the most was that a good majority of the kids were NOT saying they wanted to be pro soccer players. Don’t get me wrong, of course some of the kids expressed a desire to play at the highest level possible but even those who wanted to play professional still expressed a desire to look back and know they pushed themselves, that they accomplish hard tasks and proved to themselves they could do it. They also wanted to make their parents proud, have fun, make friends, and pay for college.

 As a young consultant I was genuinely shocked.These were very well thought out answers from my young clients that were more than just wanting to play pro ball. The  most interesting thing however was this disconnect from athlete to parent. Parents always seems to focus on their child needing to be the best NOW. This immediate feeling that if my child is not having success now or is not the best now, that it is somehow going to mean that their whole experience and time in soccer is going to be a waste.

 This next paragraph has been adapted from an excerpt from Henrik Hoeg, a director of literacy in child development, to specifically speak towards soccer and athletics.

“Soccer, like so much learning, is not a rush to the finish line. The child that crawls first does not necessarily become and Olympic sprinter, and the child that is pressured to kick a ball as soon as they can walk does not become the next Messi. However, what the child does gain is unnecessary stress, a disdain for sports and a notion that athletic achievement is an end in and of itself. It’s a notion many of us could stand to discard.”

 We’re living in a generation where everyone’s highlight reels are being put out on display in the form of social media. Kids are constantly feeling like they are drowning in the ever rising expectations. These pressures eventually lead to higher burnout and  dropout rates with athletes.

So, what can you do? There is good news, as parents are in a great position to counteract some of what is going wrong. How?

It starts by not buying into the idea that wins/loss is any indication of your child’s success. There is only one state cup championship team every year and just because their team didn’t win this year isn’t a good enough reason to jump ship and make your child abandon their club team or panic that your child’s development is in complete jeopardy. If your child is completely happy where they are at, please let them be. Your definition of success and your child's maybe completely different. Respect them, listen to them, this is their journey not yours. If THEY would like to make changes and it’s something you have discussed together by all means listen to your child but do not go out swinging the sword fighting battles left and right for your child.

Another tip for parents, before you ask your child if they won or lost, ask them if they played well, if they worked hard, and if they had fun. If your child is answering yes to all three questions then you have done your job as a parent. Not every child is going to be a super star, not every child will want to be a professional athlete, that’s okay. If you child wants to be a superstar that's okay too, the questions remain the same, did they play well, did they work hard, and did they have fun. This game teaches you so much more about life than just how to kick a ball around. Let your child learn from the game.


Let's Get Real About Expectations by Sara Cowley

How many times has something not gone the way you expected? Maybe it was better, maybe worse? Maybe not good or bad, just different than you has thought it would be.  Sports have a way of providing many opportunities for this type of experience- there are lots of variables involved and lots of twists and turns. As we conclude this "soccer year" many families and players are looking back and evaluating the past year of soccer experiences, practices, games and coaches and clubs and teammates, the list can go on and on.   Plans are being made for the new soccer year and expectations are being formed. Changes will be occuring in some way in your soccer world, and your players soccer world, in some way, shape or form.  If you live in Utah, get used to doing this every May :)  It can be a very unnerving time for all involved, yes I mean ALL- even us soccer coaches!! 

I am hoping just to spread a little light on what things look like as far as expectations go, from a coaching perspective. Hope this helps you all as you navigate this next month and every May for years to come. 

What coaches expect from players is usually pretty similar, especially at a competitive level of sports. There are key things coaches know need to happen to create an environment for growth and development that will lead to success. Things like, 100% commitment, hard work, coachability, competitive mentality, attendance to trainings, games, team events are just basic things most all coaches will expect from their players.  

From parents, coaches expect support. Really that is what it is all about. Parents support their player. It's the Coaches job to set expectations high and expect the team to win, it's the parents to support the player, and the coach. This requires trust, the parents must trust that the coach knows best when it comes to decisions about practices, game day decisions, line-ups, playing time, and other things regarding the big picture of the team. Let your player hear you supporting the coach in these decisions. You may not agree with all coaches decisions, all the time but don't let your player/child hear you discuss that with other parents, or don't have those conversations with your player.  

As a parent you should expect that your player works hard and does their best to learn what that coach is asking them to do, you can expect the coach to do all they can to provide an environment of growth, development and enjoyment. And finally you can expect to be the best support you can be for your player, and your players coach. 

Hope this helps you get through May, and have a wonderful year of soccer in 2018-2019!! 

Let's Get Real About Expectations by Bryan Russ Performance Coach

When was the last time that you were disappointed.  Did a person or circumstance deprive you of something you REALLY wanted?  Think hard and take a moment to reflect on a couple of examples from your own really, give it a try........All finished?  The situations that are running through your mind may have happened at different times in different places with different people and for different reasons, but they all have one thing in common:  For better or for worse, life did not meet your expectations.  And if life is always finding ways to defy them, how can you know how and when those expectations are appropriate?  Not sure?  Well, neither am I completely, but I can point you in the right direction.  And guess where I'm pointing....right at YOU!

So go back to that first question but from a different perspective: When is the last time you disappointed YOURSELF?  Ouch, that hurts.  It can leave you angry, upset, guilty, lacking self-confidence or some confusing combo of all-of-the-above.  Yeah, it's tough when others don't meet our expectations, but it's a whole other rollercoaster when we exceed or fall short of what we expect of ourselves.  So how can you make sure that you aren't disappointing number 1?  It all starts with setting both the easiest and most difficult expectation you could possibly give yourself:


Go ahead and say it.  It sounds so simple; you are in total control of this one.  At the same time it also sounds terrifying, to leave it all on the line for what you desire.  Maybe for you this will still be soccer 10 years down the line, but expecting this of yourself is central to any goal that you wish to achieve.

During my time working in professional soccer, I was often lucky enough to listen in when the head coach would go around the locker room asking players to explain their career expectations.  Many answers were common:  "I want to make an MLS roster"..."I want to score at least one goal every other game"..."I want to be a legend".  But, there is one answer that will always stick with me and it went something like this: "No matter where I end up, no matter what level I reach, no matter how many games I win or lose, I want to become the best player that I can possibly be.  I want to realize my own potential."

That same potential is in you, whether you choose to express it through soccer, writing or a little bit of everything in between.  I can't promise that you'll be the greatest of all time or that everyone will know your name, but I can make you one guarantee.  Regardless if you make the team, if things go your way, or if life meets your expectations, you'll be able to look in the mirror with no regrets because you gave everything you had.  And even though you probably won't be seeing the someone you expected, you will be a beautiful sight to see.

Tryouts - Own It

For parents and players tryouts are stressful. Parents worry that their child will not be on the "right team" at the "right club" with the "right coach". They want the best for their child and sometimes forget that whatever the outcome of tryouts, there will be lessons learned.

Far too many times, the "right coach" turns out to be the "wrong coach". The team that didn't seem to fit the best actually works out. There's no predicting the future. There's no crystal ball, no rune, no perfect answer. The thing to remember is that whatever the team or club or coach, there is something to be gained.

The parent's job is to take the outcome and let her child know how proud she is of her. No matter the outcome, don't complain to your child or in front or your child. Kids are adaptable and in most cases will make the best of the situation they are in. Be the support your child needs to learn to cope with success and disappointment. Yes, there's coping on both sides.

Success can bring entitlement if it's not monitored. It can bring on bullying of others if not controlled. It can turn a fabulous kid into a coach's nightmare. On the other hand, disappointment can shake a kid to the core without parental support. That doesn't mean finding a new team, it means finding the good in whatever the outcome, because there is always a positive to be taken away.

So parents, own the tryouts as far as being a supportive parent who will adapt to the outcome. Your child should own her own tryouts, and she will when she knows you have her back.

Tryouts- Owning it from the Mental Side

Last week we learned about controlling your controllables and this is a great place to start when it comes to try outs. Recognize early, before you even step foot onto the field for tryouts, there will be things out of your control. Athletes who struggle to showcase their abilities at tryouts are usually focused on these three things.

  1. The competition (aka other athletes competing)

  2. Impressing the coaching staff

  3. Focused on making the team

I want to briefly explain why these three things are detrimental to an athletes success at tryouts starting with, focusing on the competition. One of the first things to realize is that everyone trying out is in the same boat as you. Now there maybe some returning players who are more confident in their spot on the team but in the end, everyone there is to make the team. Take solace in the fact that you are not the only one there that is feeling nervous, excited, or anxious. I guarantee you are not alone.

If you are worried about the coaching staff and what they are thinking of you rather than your soccer abilities, I promise you that you are not giving your full attention to the task at hand. During a tryout coaches are watching 25+ kids at time. While you will remember every mistake you make, the coaches will not. However, all coaches know that mistakes happen in soccer. Coaches want to see what you do after the mistake. That’s how they determine the type of player you are and if they want you on their team. As a coach, it’s harder to teach someone work ethic than it is to correct a shot. If you lose the ball, go win it back. If you miss a shot, take another one.

For the last one, why would being focused on making the team a bad thing? Simply put, you’re focusing on the outcome and not the process. If you want to make the team, you need to showcase to the coach what talents you possess. Showcase your strengths and don’t try to be a player you aren’t. The game doesn’t lie. If you are a good player, the coach will want you. If you are doing the right things, making good passes, going hard into tackles, taking strong shots then there is no need to focus on the outcome because your efforts will determine your place.

On the flip side, what type of things should athletes be doing mentally at tryouts to improve their performance? These three things can make huge improvements.

  1. Stay Calm

  2. Stay Focused

  3. Trust the process

Staying calm is easier said than done I know. If you are having difficulties staying calm take some time to focus on your breathing. Long, slow inhale through your nose, pause, and then a long slow exhale. This forces oxygen into our body and brain allowing the body to slow the heart rate and think more clearly. Another good way to help calm the body is to move around. Use some of that extra energy up by walking or skipping around, swing the arms stretch, give that energy somewhere to go.

Stay focused. This one parallels to all three topics in the first section but you have to remember what you are there to do and that is to showcase your talents. Soccer is a beautiful sport in that a team requires many different talents on the field to be successful. Not everyone can be the goal scorer. Maybe you are the playmaker, or the hustler, or the tenacious defender. Whatever you are, you cannot do YOU if you are thinking about 20 other different things.

Last but not least, you have to remember to trust the process. You’ve put in so much work since last year. Hours spent training on your own and with a team. You’ve grown and improved as a player. Believe in yourself that the work you’ve put in will show. Doubt will show in your play. Growth and self improvement are not a destination. It is ever changing process and you will never feel as if you have “arrived”. With that said be proud of where you are at but never be satisfied enough to stop working.


Tryouts- Own It! by Sara Cowley


Tryouts, just hearing that word, and your hands may start sweating, your heart racing and probably some other things that happen when you feel nervous or uneasy about something. Try-out are also something you will experience multiple times if you choose to be a competitive athlete, and they are some tools you can use and skills you can practice so that they become a good experience and not a bad one. This is coming from a coach, one of those people who are evaluating players just like you on the "other side" of the tryout. Hope some of these insights will help you prepare and then feel good about yourself after you give your best effort, and possibly use some of these little tricks as we draw closer to try-out season for comp soccer in the next few weeks. 

Preparation is key. One of my favorite phrases is, "if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear"  Putting some good purposeful preparation will help ease your anxiety and feel ready to go!  Since we are talking soccer here, make sure all angles of the tryout are considered. Obviously be prepared to touch the ball and spend some time leading up to the tryout getting comfortable with that ball (soccer players should always be doing this!!)  This also includes the fitness element. Remember, its not up to anyone else but you to ensure you are fit and ready to play.. Of course coaches can help and game fitness is best but if that is not possible, get out and do some fitness on your own, soccer specific is best. Running, changing direction, sprinting, core work and flexibility are good places to start, this should be done daily, as well as touching a ball. 

The night or day before get your gear prepared, proper footwear, training gear, shin guards, sounds silly but you would be surprised how many times players have not showed up with proper footwear, that is not a good start to a tryout to have to tell coaches you don't have cleats, or shin guards. Double and triple check your bags, make sure you are prepared. Take some time the day or two before to plan meals, wake up time, transportation to and from the tryout with your parents or whoever is helping you prepare (if its just you, that is OK too!) These are all the controllables you can influence!!  Taking care of all the preparation key to how you feel leading up to and when when you arrive  There are a few other things that I think can help with how you feel playing and can help you have the correct mentality you need during a tryout, which after all is most important- to be able to perform your best. Here are a few tricks that I have learned. 

#1 Confidence is HUGE! How can you show up feeling confident? Especially if you didn't play as well as you wanted in your last game, or you can't stop thinking about some mistakes you made or think you will make. POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS!! get the negative out of there. Have a trusted friend, or parent help you remember things you have done well, success you have had, amazing goals you have scored, or stopped. Basically just remembering your strengths, the key here is you need to know what those are, part of preparing may be to have some self reflection and take some time thinking about what you feel your strengths are and what you an offer as a player to a coach that may be different than what anyone else can do. You have them, we all do (we all have weaknesses too) But give yourself a dose of confidence before a tryout by remembering your strengths! 

#2 Play to your strengths. Be assertive and be sure you play the position where you feel your strengths will show the most. Make sure those evaluating you see you at your best position and you get to show them your best stuff. For example, if you have a great left foot , play on the left side so you can show during tryouts you can get the ball across with your left foot. If you are great at winning balls out of the air, when the opportunity comes be assertive and do your thing!! 

#3 Wear something bright that stands out. No need to be obnoxious here but it is helpful to have bright shorts or socks that help you stand out.  Some coaches may not think this is important but I cant tell you how many times as coaches when we are talking about player at breaks and don't know names or numbers yet, will say, the one in the orange socks or some other distinguishing feature like that. 

#4 A firm handshake and eye contact!! 

As a coach I am always impressed with young people that politely and at a good time (before or after a session, tryout) will come and introduce themselves, make eye contact and reach out a hand to offer a firm handshake.  Once you are familiar with the coach, a nice "thank you" is also appreciated and noticed. I would suggest sometime before the tryout starts to make an effort to go introduce yourself. 

So in a nutshell, preparation is key!  Before the tryout starts, arrive early enough to go introduce yourself (not with your parents :) make eye contact, shake firmly :) Then get out there play confident, be assertive and play to your strengths. A nice thank you, then you can get in the car, exhale and know you did your best!!  YOU GOT THIS!!  


Control Your Controllables by Sports Psych and Mentor Justine Jones

Every sport is different and requires specific physical, tactical, technical and mental skills in order to be successful. Every week athletes spend hours practicing their physical skills, working on their speed and strength, trying to improve their level of play in any way they can. However, one of the biggest issues that I see come up time and time again with my athletes during their training, is this mental block or mental hindrance when they become focused on the things they cannot control. One of the Mental Toughness principles I like to focus on when working with athletes is to control your “controllables”

I always like to start by asking my athletes what sort of things are out of their control. They quickly come up with examples such as, the ref, the fans, the weather, the other team, your own teammates, your coach.

I then ask, “How many of you have complained or yelled at the ref for making a bad call?” Almost always, every hand goes up. My next question is then “How many times has the ref reversed or changed the call because you told him he was wrong?” I usually get some laughs while everyone nods at the fact that it rarely, IF EVER happens.

The next point is, that as athletes, we only have a limited supply of energy (think of it like a life supply on a video game) and if we are trying to win a game why are we wasting any of that energy on things that we have no control over. Focusing on the things we don’t have control on takes our attention away from where it needs to be (the game, our touch, tactical thought processes) and increases our frustration, which in turn decreases performance. The exact opposite of what we want to happen. A better use of our energy and effort is spent on things that we have control over.

So then I ask, what sort of things do you have control over?

Athletes can almost always come up with effort and attitude and while those are two of the top ones on my list, there are many more factors that are within the athlete’s control including body language, coachability, emotion regulation, preparation, physical fitness, focus and attention control, nutrition and communication. When athletes put their energy toward these things, things that they have control over, they immediately begin to put the power back into their hands. Their energy and effort is now going to something they can change have the ability to manipulate in order to increase their performance with immediate results.

Control Your Controllables by April Hanrath

There are so many things as a parent you want to do for your child. You want them to have the best childhood ever, you want their teenage years to go by without too much angst. You want their lives to be perfect. You want to protect them. And in all this you forget that you can only control what you can control You can't control the sting of harsh words, the pains of growing, or how other people perceive your child. 

In soccer you want your child to have the best experience. You choose the right club, the right coach the right team and when the fairy tale doesn't live up to your dreams you're in shock. You look for someone to blame, it really doesn't matter who but someone needs to take the fall.

The truth is nothing in life ever goes the way you plan it. You can't control those things outside of your control. This is a life lesson that your child is fortunate enough to learn early. He is looking to you to teach him how to navigate the choppy waters of life. He is looking to see how you respond to life's imperfections. You are teaching your child by your actions and your words.

In the game of soccer, as a parent, there is not much you can control. But you have the ultimate control in terms of what your child learns. Soccer isn't the only thing in your child's life. Take a breath and understand that soccer is a game that teaches life lessons. In the long run,, it really doesn't matter if your child's team wins one particular game. It does matter what you do in times of "adversity". Do you blame the refs for a bad game? Do you blame the coach for poor coaching? Do you blame the team for not working hard enough? 

In the end it doesn't matter who's to blame, what matters is how you respond. Take time to remember it's a game and relax. Control yourself and by doing that your child will learn from you. 

Control Your Controllables by Sara Cowley

I have really been pondering about a quote lately, and most recently how it applies to the game of soccer. I thought it was applicable to the post this week about Controlling your controllables. Here'e the quote

" The Key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is, instead of what you think it should be. " 

I love that message, and I will be the first to add, it is easier said than done, and it takes practice. To be able to progress as a player, coach or to improve on any aspect or skill you wish to acquire; you have to first accept where you currently are on the path of mastering or reaching your desired outcome. Once you own that, wherever on the scale that lands, then a plan can be made to work, learn and grow and progress can be made, and thus a feeling of happiness will follow. At times we get ahead of ourselves, want success to quickly or are being to critical of ourselves or others, and are just not accepting the situation as it is and being patient on the journey.

I have worked with young athletes for many years now on a soccer field, and I have seen a trend in those players that rise to the top of the competition. They have similar traits, not to name them all here, but just focusing on a few that apply the most the this weeks topic. Those who rise to the top, simply don't waste their energy worrying about things they can't control. They show up each day to practice and games and put in a good honest effort, they don't make excuses when they are not perfect, they listen more than they talk, and they don't waste time yelling at refs, who has ever got a ref to change a call anyway? Come on! They don't criticize teammates, or seek to find blame when things don't go as planned. They respect the coach and the decisions made, and you never hear these players talk negatively about a coaches decision about how much or how little players play or played in games, or, why this or that player was in or not in, and they try to make the most out of every situation.  You may be visualizing a certain person or player right now as you read that description, the game, and the actually, if you ask me, the world, needs more players and people like that!  The main theme here is that they don't spend to much time worrying about things they can't control, like referee calls, coaching decisions, other players decisions on the field, the weather or field conditions. They just keep playing and doing their best anyway, and more often then not they come out on top. 

The good news is, everyone can work on fixing the way you deal with situations and fix your thinking so you don't spend to much time on things you can't control, and focus more on what you can control. Trust me, doing this will only increase your performance and you will feel more happiness on and off the field.

Control Your Controllables by Performance Mentor Bryan Russ

It’s the 85th minute of a heated 0-0 match, and you’re defending 1v1 on the edge of the box against a player who has been getting the better of you ALL DAY LONG.  You’re frustrated, because every time you think you have them figured out they slip by you, and well, that’s embarrassing.  So this time you’re going to show them who’s boss.  You sprint with everything you have to make contact with a hard, fair challenge, but the other player knows you’re frustrated.  An unexpected touch to the side… Contact… Penalty. The game ends 1-0 and you’re left feeling frustrated, self-conscious, and like you let your team down. That moment is yours, for all the wrong reasons.

I know that you’ve been there.  Maybe the stakes weren’t quite as high or the consequences as steep, but in a momentary swell of emotion, we’ve all lost our heads and done something reckless or impulsive that has come back to bite us.  While we never want it to happen to us, our response to these moments in which we lose control of our controllables shapes our development as players and people.  True students of the game – those that desire to continue to grow in their knowledge and skill of the game indefinitely – are those who respond by taking control back.

But in order to take control back we have to know what we can control in the first place.  So, after we’ve screamed into our pillows, cried our frustrated tears, and hopefully had a good night’s sleep, we think back to the dreaded moment once again, but with a different approach.  We’ve gotta take the situation, and break it down.  First, that annoying player had really quick feet… can’t control that.  We came in really fast and it was easy to see that we were going to lunge in….. oooo, probably could have done something about that.  We were letting a good player frustrate us instead of adjusting our play… welp maybe we could have taken some deep breaths.  Oh and we were also more tired at the end of the game than usual… did we run more this game or was it because of the Doritos we had for dessert last night?  Or maybe because we did an extra hour of shooting after practice the day before? Oh I know, it was probably the Marvel movie marathon we had the night before until 2am.  It’s easy to see that if we look back even just one day, there were a ton of things that we could have taken better control of that led up to the situation we found ourselves in.

So the easy part is done!  Now comes the hard part: actually making the change.  When you first begin, start with achievable, broad goals that can get more specific with time and understanding.  A few great places to start are nutrition, fitness and sleep.  For example, try a new fruit or vegetable that you haven’t before once a week, take an ice bath after every game, stay away from lighted screens after 8 pm, etc. Find ways to slowly build your current control and you will eventually develop fine-tuned routines that lead you straight to your own success.

There will always be more skilled players, more cohesive teams, trying situations and disappointing failures.  But when you approach and respond to these situations with positive action that takes ownership of those factors that are within your control, you allow yourself to grow.  And because of that growth, next time you’ll end practice on time to save your energy, you’ll have a banana for dessert and you’ll get to bed by 10pm.  Next time, you’ll approach with pace but break down and defend with good positioning and focus.  Next time you’ll stuff your opponent, send the ball up field to put your team on the break for the game winner.  Next time you will control your controllables.  And that moment will be yours, for all the right reasons.

My Coach has Favorites From a Parent's Perspective

Do coaches have favorites? Absolutely. From a parent’s perspective this is either good or bad depending upon where your child is in the hierarchy. When you child is the favorite every thing is great. When they’re not, well then, somebody’s to blame. As a parent you want your child to be in the best environment and being a favorite is perfect. When that doesn’t happen, it seems that it’s a knee jerk reaction to find someone to blame, as long as that someone isn’t your child or you.

Being out of youth soccer for a few years, it’s much clearer to me. There’s times when your child is the favorite and times when they’re not. It’s a parent’s responsibility to help you child navigate those waters. It’s not your responsibility to blame or try to fix the situation. Honestly parental help in this regard is anything but helpful. Just ask me!

It all comes down to doing the best with what you have. It doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t strive to become a favorite. Hard work, consistency in training and at games, as well as a good attitude toward the team and the coach goes a long way.

It won’t always be perfect but nothing in life ever is.

My Coach has Favorites From a Director of Coaching Perspective

Talent, character, and mental toughness matter. Those who have these traits will tend to play more than those who don’t. I’ll take character over talent any day. I lived this issue as an athlete and see it now as a coach and director. The coach will normally be accused of "Playing Favorites" with the amount of playing time an athlete is receiving. People will also accuse parents of the athlete playing over their child of “sucking up” to the coach.

Any good coach doesn’t allow this to happen. We love soccer because it is reflective of life, it teaches priceless life lessons. Instead of looking for an excuse and blaming politics, players should be taught how to accept, embrace, and be the best they are in their role. Everyone on a team has a role, but not everyone can or will be the star. If a player can understand and accept that early on, they will have created a growth attitude allowing them to succeed in each aspects of their life.

Do coaches play favorites? Yes, absolutely. Our favorite athletes do the following five things:

Work hard. They bring it every day in every drill. They do not take days off. It’s not enough just to put in work when it’s required (practices, off-season team workouts), the best players put in many unassigned hours. They work on their game when no one else is around. That is how they separate and elevate themselves.

Listen. Our favorite players listen with their eyes. They make eye contact when listening to and speaking with others. Eye contact tells the coach the player is engaged, that they understands and even more importantly, that they care. We want players who are bought in.

Build others. Coaches love when athletes raise the level of play. The best players bring out the best in others. Players who are enthusiastic and encourage their teammates will get to play. Coaches will always find a spot for someone who puts others above himself. We love players who root and cheer like crazy for their teammates. They become more than just a teammate, they become leaders, which by nature puts them in the spotlight.

Show up. Just by showing up you can create your place on the team. Consistency is key, you can't continue to develop if you're here one day and gone the next. Players need to be taught to take advantage of opportunity, it will come but many won’t be ready to take advantage because they haven’t shown up and put work in. 

Star in your role. Before you can move up to a bigger role, you have to be great in your current role. If you don’t accept, embrace, and excel in your current role, how can I trust you with a bigger one? I think this is so crucial, but often overlooked. If you want more playing time, show the coach why you deserve it. Star in your role and the opportunity will come for a larger one.

My Coach has Favorites From a College Player's Perspective

I’ve never been THE favorite. I’ve been in the “inner circle” because it’s usually group of three or four who are the coach’s favorites, but there’s usually that one person that the coach adores.  All the coaches I’ve had, eight club and college coaches, have always had a favorite. It’s obvious who the favorite is by noticing the little things, like who’s talking to the coach the most, who the coach asks to do things, like run the warm-ups, pick the teams, help with gear before and after.

Whoever the best player is on the team is usually the favorite, and then there is usually a group that the coach spends a bit more time with. That’s the “inner circle”. The quieter you are, the less likely you are to be the coach’s favorite or in the inner circle.

As far as playing time, I’ve never seen a favorite get more time because of being the favorite. Those players who are the best on the field get more playing time.

I’ve been on teams when I wasn’t in the “inner circle” and it’s annoying because you see the coach interacting with the favorites. You think because you’re not a favorite that the coach doesn’t like you, and then you go to that’s why I’m not playing. It’s a downward spiral from there.  It’s tough at that point, You don’t want to be a “Brown Noser” and you don’t want your parents to get involved because that makes it all worse.

You can’t make yourself a favorite, but you can make the coach notice you by working harder. so you’re a more noticeable player on the field, You can listen more in team talks and answer questions. You can be early to practice and games, ask smart questions., and pay attention. Don’t mess around and don’t be the one who is there to be social and not to practice.

Basically, if you want to be one of the coach’s favorites work hard, pay attention, and give it your all in every practice and in every game.