Coachability and Mental Training for Youth Soccer Players Peak Performance

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As a parent and a youth goalkeeper coach, I focus on all ways that we can help keep the young keepers physically healthy as they pursue their dreams and become very successful in the role. While the keepers physical health is crucial to their success, it’s only one slice of the cake. Lots of their success will depend on their mental strength as they advance to higher level of play.

There’s one “Element” that can determine how far your child will go. That crucial element is called Coachability.

While taking into consideration this important factor, I’m not thinking: “Will he make it to the varsity team?” That’s not the level of soccer I’m talking about, (high school soccer will never be a game changer in a soccer players life, due to the low level of the coaches). I’m not even thiking: “Will he make it to play in college?” It would sound better: “Will he move up the ranks of the MLS Academy and play pro-soccer before he can even vote in a general election?”

Genetics play a massive role in determining your child’s athletic success, whether or not your child is very coachable is another ball game that will either lead him to the top of the line, or leave him behind with the rest of the uncoachable keepers.

Throughout the 28 years that I have coached young goalkeepers, I’ve noticed that certain attitudes and behaviors send signals to coaches that they’re willing to learn. While others demonstrate that they really don’t want to be coached.

I was talking to a fellow coach just last month. I pointed out a goalkeeper that in the past two years, no matter what I did to change his way of taking coaching points, I couldn’t correct him. When I’d stop the drill to give him a point he would look at me like I was some sort of scumbag, he would walk away from the pointer and fall again in the same basic mistake that I wanted to correct.

  • Talking back to the coach, becoming defensive on any pointer
  • Eye rolling, turning your back, talking while the coach is talking
  • Placing blame on teammates.
  • General negativity or pessimism
  • Inability to implement changes pointed out by the coach
  • Slacking off, cutting corners, always asking when the session will be over.

A coach’s job is to help their students improve by pointing out the changes that they need to make as they continue in their journey to success. That being said, for students to improve, they must be willing to accept their coach’s “Views-of-the-game”and implement changes.

In some cases, when young ( 10 to 14 year old) goalkeepers hesitate to try new things, it’s because they’re afraid of failing. What I teach them is that failure is a serious part of the learning process and also a necessary factor for improvement.

“Freedom from pride or arrogance; the quality or state of being humble“. Humility is another important characteristic of the coachability factor.

Humble goalkeepers are more likely to continue to work hard and work hard for improvement. While the arrogant goalkeeper tends to notice mostly his/her own strengths and refuse to admit their weaknesses. With an arrogant mindset, that goalkeeper will fail to see all the ways they can learn from their teammates, coaches and opponents and from there improve on a daily basis. On the contrary, humble and down-to-ground keepers look up and in some cases admire their competition, they’re always seeking to learn from their competition and their coaches. This mindset not only helps them improve, but also helps them dominate their coach’s respect.

There is nothing more that ticks-off a coach than having to repeat the same coaching points over and over again, especially when they’re not sure why the goalkeeper hasn’t corrected the issue in play. A coach will start to think: “Why is it they don’t understand? Are they ignoring my pointers? Do they not care?” 

Example. A goalkeeper just spent the last 60 minutes working to the side and trained on stopping central low shots. Then they’re put on the field to scrimmage during the end of practice, the keeper is worried about a lot of things, and they completely forget to scoop and collapse when reaching out for a low and centered shot on goal. It’s not that they don’t care about getting better; they simply weren’t concentrated on implementing what they had just learned with you to the side!

I’ve known of a few coaches that notice these things and they get discouraged as a result. Why spend all that time on a goalie if, in the end, they’re going to forget everything the day after. Self-awareness is the major key on becoming a very fast learner. When my keepers practice self-awareness and specifically concentrate on implementing what they learn during an academy session, they improve rapidly, and coaches are delighted to spend time and energy helping them become the keepers he wants them to be.

Some goalkeepers underestimate what it really means to commit to achieving that greatness in order to become an amazing #1. They show up to training, but they start getting distracted when they’re tired because they fail to realize that commitment means 100% effort and that effort is needed all the time. The BIG question is: “Why would a coach spend their time on you if you’re not trying your best to do the drill correctly? Trust me they/we won’t.

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