Tag Archives: motivation

Too _ to get better?

Do any of these words apply to your current mindset?

Too _____ to get better:

  • Busy

  • Lazy

  • Tired

  • Old

  • Young

  • Experienced

  • Cool

  • Poor

  • Disinterested

…Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of taking the easy way out.

Those who want it, find a way. Those who don’t want it, find an excuse.

What is your goal and how do you make sure you are progressing every day?

I stole this article idea from a well known performance coach (Mike Boyle) who wrote about how a large percentage of trainers/coaches get too caught up in so many every day variables that they forget to continue the most important character trait to becoming successful for the long term…to never stop learning.

We all know hard working individuals in their respective field of service.

Coaches who train 35-50 sessions per week. From 5:00am-9:00pm, they are in the gym and on the field making sure that the players and adults, that rely on their programs, are getting what they need and the results they deserve.

Businessmen/women that work 80-100 hour weeks in order to better serve their mission statements and find profits for their investors and still make room for their families and the important things in their life.

Student athletes that juggle Division 1 soccer schedules and unrelenting undergraduate studies, bouncing from practice to travel to study and still able to get it done at a very high standard.

It may seem like these examples and other hard working individuals have a good excuse to not continually work on improving themselves personally, professionally, or spiritually with this type of grinding schedule. I am sure you are in the same boat. However, I can say that I witness a majority of soccer coaches and strength and conditioning coaches that prove they are not willing to put in the time necessary to become better and develop their methods to a higher standard of practice.

Is it possible or Is it a priority?

Never say you don’t have time. Instead admit that it is not a priority.

I don’t remember where I read or heard the saying, but it was powerful to me when I first ran across the words. We always seem to focus on executing the urgent or easy…but forget to develop ourselves for the future. I have made the habit of answering any question that used to be “No, I don’t have time to do that”, with “No, it’s not one of my priorities”. Try it. Its powerful and tends to make you rethink the way you spend performing tasks in your normal days.

How does this relate to soccer?

Performance Unlimited quickly adopted the value of Always continuing to learn and improving our programs and services. We understand that growth is a continuous process and never ending. Our staff is consistently having discussions on how we can progress our training curriculum and how players can potentially improve their game in the shortest amount of time. We have found definitively that it is a mixture between art and science, and there has to be equal parts effort from both coach and player to yield specific results. Our role quickly demands that we effectively understand how to present material for positive change as well as the focus on clearly defining the need for athletes to become accountable for their own progress.

A coach (and club) can never begin to develop any athlete until they are willing to improve themselves. It is our job to make sure that we are giving the best and most clear instruction based on best practices through anecdotal and scientifically valid research. We are always learning and looking to make legitimate changes in the best interest of the individual athlete. Parents rely on coaches and their programs to be experts in their fields, consistently executing “best practices” from the latest trends and research developments across the globe just as you expect your doctors/dentists/and financial advisors to continue to be the best they possibly can. How do you know your coach or club is working towards executing the best program for your player? Do they rely solely on their experience as a player or are they constantly striving to improve their coaching ability? Do they have clearly defined values and principles? Do they communicate how their methods adhere to these principles? Do you ask? It’s your money…shouldn’t you?

I hope we are not alone in this thought process…youth soccer will not move forward if youth clubs do not have the same priority.

How are we working to become better coaches?

One of our most recent trends to enhancing our services is how our coaches deliver curriculum. Research has shown that the difference between a good drill and a great drill is not the drill itself, but the coaches words. The details in the way we communicate is most important. Things such as, Internal vs External cuing as well as Feedback Frequency and content has shown to have the greatest effect for skill interpretation and retention. I am always searching and experimenting with what to say or when and how to say the things that will certainly make the biggest effect for young players. Setting an environment for purposeful practice has shown the biggest success and our staff has found impact from the following tactics.

  • Internal Coaching Cues  – focused instruction on bodily movements using anatomy or actions of the body.
  • External Coaching Cues – focused instruction on the result of the movement. More research showing success with these cues vs internal cueing.
  • Intrinsic/Extrensic/Systemic Communication – from the field of sports axiology, understanding these 3 forms of communication and how they relate to the athletes decision making is huge. We inherently have dominance in one or two of these areas and our decision making process. If a coach can view how a player is making decisions and help shape a more effective process, it is a win-win situation.
  • Feedback Frequency – giving cues on every rep vs 50% of reps vs 33% of reps. Research shows that the less frequent cueing is more effective for translating to competition. This is only valid after the player has clearly understood the principles for success in the skill being trained. Learn more here.
  • Feedback Timing – giving coaching cues during a repetition/game vs cueing players after the rep or between breaks in competitive action. Coaching during the rep and competition has been shown to be less effective.
  • Feedback Methods – these are tactics on reducing feedback frequency through learning processes. Such as only giving feedback during the focused technique, giving feedback at the request of the athlete, giving frequent feedback at the beginning of a session and reducing the frequency throughout the practice.

The details to each of these perspectives is vast and can be learned through up to date work in the resources from coaches like Jeremy Boone and Nick Winkleman. Also, the past research of Gabriel Wulf and Robert Hartman have pioneered the field of learning principles and methods. Find the person(s) in your field that are continuing to progress new and exciting views. Follow their blogs, their works, read their books, and practice their methods. Spend 1 hour per day and grow yourself. You will find that all of the methods do not apply to you, but the process of making yourself better will ultimately improve your results.




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The Candle Problem: Are we motivating or killing creativity?

Since being introduced to TED talks a couple of years ago, I have been inspired, astonished, enlightened, and engaged into numerous different topics and genius opinions on things that we deal with every day or have never thought to deal with on any day (if you have not already seen this awesome site, check it out at ted.com and prepare to have your mind blown). Most of the time I try and look for lectures that can make me a better business man, coach, friend, or worldly citizen…and this one, like many, has me thinking about whether the points made by Dan Pink can be transposed into how we deal with and create a better experience for young athletes, every day. The talk shown above is a an example of a concept that has me thinking about the way that we are motivating or incentivizing young soccer players to perform at their best, and whether we are doing more to kill the players ability to play their best.

It is our American culture, to try and persuade players to perform well. Look at our professional sports and business contracts, where every positive stat is rewarded by more outrageous amounts of money. I have worked within the NFL setting and have seen players skip training, fake an injury, refuse to workout, yell at coaches for not playing them, etc… all potentially sacrificing the team for their personal statistics.

Although I have heard positive “carrot and stick” rewards within youth soccer by parents ($10 for every goal you score) and coaches (if you lose, you will sprint), but I am not as concerned with these incentives as I am with the effort to motivate through comparison. I have recently heard stories of coaches and clubs ranking players at 9, 10, 11, and 12 years old in comparison to their peers. As well, they are telling these players where they stand at the beginning of the season so that it will “motivate” them to start working harder to get better and move up the ranks.

I will be the first to say that I respect the clubs, in Charlotte, but this does not follow their supposed mission statement that works towards creating the best experience for every family and playerHow can we expect young people, who are already trying to figure out who they are in this world and who they are within the game of soccer, to perform at a higher level when you are putting their self worth on the line for game results. I understand that clubs are trying to do the right thing (not really convinced of that, yet) by motivating these players as if they were 18 year old professionals, but this is going to backfire on your development plans sooner than later.

“I am never looking for a result — for example, which boy is scoring the most goals or even who is running the fastest. That may be because of their size and stage of development. I want to notice how a boy runs. Is he on his forefeet, running lightly? Does he have creativity with the ball? Does he seem that he is really loving the game? I think these things are good at predicting how he’ll be when he is older.”

Ronald de Jong – Scout for Ajax Amsterdam


Back to Dan Pink. In this lecture, he presents the idea that if a worker (in the business world) is challenged with a task that has minimal cognitive demands and is incentivized, then the performance is almost always worse than if no reward or punishment was given. Think about the game of soccer, where players are consistently having to scan a large area and multi-task decision with skill execution, over and over again, instantaneously. If we take Dan Pink’s lecture to the world of youth soccer, one can imagine if players are hyper-focused on how they are being judged by their peers and coaches, how every decision makes an impact on whether they are able to play with their friends, next year.

I am consistently hearing, from the players, that their overwhelming concern is to not make a mistake on the field. I am consistently hearing, from the parents, that their overwhelming desire is for their child to be more aggressive. Can you see how these are the antithesis of each other and why the United States tends to develop players that consistently lack creativity and problem solving skills, on the field?

Coaches and clubs need to understand, more clearly, the concept of Long Term Athletic Development, as stated by Istvan Balyi. Within this model, players need to develop an understanding of sport through a progressive model that allows them to create skill sets that build effectively on each other. If one or more of these stages is skipped, there can be a stunt in athletic development and a detrimental reversal of performance. I have outlined these stages and the suggested ages of each stage below:

  1. The FUNdamental Stage = 6-11 years old
  2. The Training-to-train Stage = 11-14 years old
  3. The Training-to-compete Stage = 14-20 years old
  4. The Training-to-win Stage = 20 and older

My point by showing this model to you is how, by the example of ranking players at 9-12 years old and misunderstanding the impact of celebrating the wrong parts of the game, we are forcing players to skip the crucial years of development that set up an ability to properly understand how to win, at the end of their athletic career. Jeremy Boone, an expert in Sports Axiology (the science of decision making in sport), states that an overwhelming 90% of young athletes have no concept or definition of competition. Meaning, that coaches are expecting players to act and react based on our own mature ideas of how players should have a desire to win at ages, but in reality these 11 year old’s have no experience and have never had “competition” or “success” clearly defined for them.

I can only hope that parents can understand this concept, coaches start to adapt to these issues, and players are reaping the benefits. I can definitely tell you that at The Soccer Performance University, at Performance Unlimited, we work to give every player the best environment and training programs that will continue to develop the Long Term Athletic Development Model, that Balyi has laid out for us.


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