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Coach's Corner

Coach’s Corner
by Scott Frey, Women's Soccer Coach, Messiah College.

A few weeks ago I received an email from a coach who was interested in our program at Messiah and what we do in the development of culture and on field training. He was a club coach of a U14 girls team and asked an interesting question, “What would you say are the things I should work on to develop players to help them play at the high school or college level?” My response was not quite what he expected….”Teach them how to handle failure and take responsibility.”

The word “failure” has become a word I am working very hard at removing from my vocabulary when working with players and teams. What I have encouraged players to do is to look at the things they cannot do simply as opportunities to grow and develop. In other words you haven’t failed at your ability to receive a pass on your chest, you “just haven’t figured in out yet.” We have created such a high need and demand for success in our culture (winning) that our children have become afraid to risk, to learn something new, to step out of their comfort zone…because they are immediately evaluated as to whether they can do it or they can’t. An example is if you aren’t on the premier or travel soccer team by age 8 you are likely not meant to be a college soccer player. If you aren’t in the high level reading group by second grade you might want to consider another life course outside of college. We are crushing the inner drive and ambition of our kids when we let them believe and reinforce the notion that who they are now is what they will be in 10 or 20 years. They may be on the second team in their age group or the low reading group. But that is only where they are TODAY. It doesn’t have to be where they are in the future.

A book I would encourage all parents to read is entitled Mind Set by Carol Dweck The basic tenet of the book is that individuals have one of two broad mindsets. You either have a “fixed” mindset or you have a “growth” mindset. The “fixed” individual believes they are who they are and it doesn’t matter really what they do. They were born smart or talented or they are just incapable of learning new things like other people. The person with a “growth” mindset looks at challenges and obstacles as opportunities to grow and learn new things and believes failures are just chances to learn how to do something new. The writer believes parents/coaches/teachers have a major impact on the mindset our children, and I would strongly agree.

What is the “mindset you would like your players or child to have? How do you encourage a “growth” mindset? Do you acknowledge and praise your child’s efforts or just the results? Do you give your players time to learn a new skill or get frustrated because they can’t do it after you “just worked on it”? Do you appreciate your team’s effort and find something in the game that they did well that they may have not done before, or are you annoyed that they lost the game? Do you keep looking for ways to stretch your child and players to do things they can’t do? If we do not then they will never grow beyond where they are right now.

I tell my players I want them to fail at practice…I want them willing to make mistakes and push themselves to try and do things they haven’t done in the past because that is the only way we and they will continue to grow and develop individually and collectively. It is important for us to remind ourselves that most great accomplishments in life were preceded by numerous events that most of us would call failures…but fortunately those individuals just saw them as “something they just hadn’t figure out yet.” Are you willing to encourage and allow your child/player/team to fail so they can do even greater things in the future? One of the greatest gifts you can give your child or players are the confidence to dare and desire to risk.

Scott Frey
[email protected]

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Dillsburg Area Soccer Club

717-891-5241, PO BOX 114
Dillsburg, Pennsylvania 17019

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