Updated: May 27
Working with Footballers to develop their performance brings many unique challenges. Arguably the greatest challenge is associated with the intrinsic motivation level of young athletes. The varying levels of self-driven motivation among the young Soccer players at CGSA is interesting to observe, especially as the character of the athlete begins to emerge. Motivation level becomes even more apparent as we progress through the training program, taking notice of what the young player is willing to do on their own to improve their performance. Ultimately the question becomes, can they sustain the motivation year after year if they begin a structured training program early in their career? There are several factors which can influence an athlete’s dedication, below are just a few that come to mind:
What to watch out for:
1) Unrealistic pressure at an early age. Too often when parents bring their young son or daughter in to begin training at Clint Greenwood Soccer Academy Training Programs, some of the expectations placed upon these athletes is pretty surprising. This certainly is not unique to our business. Most of the time the parents will come to us and state the following...
“My son/daughter is the best player on their team.”
“My son/daughter was just voted the best player in their age group at a recent ID camp.”
“My son/daughter is a natural athlete and they always get placed on the highest-level teams in the area.”
"My child is on the Academy Team"
While we aren’t here to dispute these claims, if you are of the ages of 12 - 15 years old and have been hearing this type of ‘hype’, what is the motivation to want to continue working hard if you are put on this pedestal. The reality is, little priority can be placed on improving physical skills when you believe you are better than your competition or continually hear that you are better. To further complicate the matter, several of these athletes participate in multiple sports and over-compete year around, giving no substantial amount of time for physical development to occur because of the intense competition schedule. Parents can further reinforce this, believing that more competition is what their young athlete needs. There is a saying at CGSA that contradicts these constant hindrances in their development. The "Biggest competition is yourself." At the Clint Greenwood Soccer Academy, we stress our main motto of Surpassing Your Best. "Be Better Today Than Yesterday."
2) Short-term focus, lack of quality coaches. Far too many programs at the youth level carry a “win at all costs” mentality. This has tremendously negative impacts on limiting physical and motor skill development as they become a secondary (at best) focus for young players. Coaches with little to no experience in Soccer or no Soccer education or in fact no ability to demonstrate proper techniques, are often times responsible for these young athletes. The short-term focus of winning becomes the ‘norm’ and developing young athletes becomes an afterthought in the name of winning.
This system favors the bigger, stronger, faster players, or simply the young athletes who develop faster at a young age. These young players even though they become more likely to make high-level club teams at younger ages, but how does this affect their motivation to continually work hard as they mature and other athletes, or ‘late developers’, begin to catch up with them? Does it generate a weak-minded athlete who lacks grit and determination to want to do the extra work needed to fulfill their potential?
3) Poor management of Late Developers. What happens to the kids who are ‘late developers’ as coaches who lack education in talent selection bypass them to win games? These coaches are likely not willing to spend the extra time needed to help young athletes develop because, or many of them, they don’t have a clue what to do for them. They select the ‘early developers’ and this helps to mask coaching incompetency. Some athletes will use this as motivation to work harder and smarter, as they enjoy the long-term process of improvement. Other late-developing athletes will quickly lose motivation, as frustration mounts and they quit sports because they find no enjoyment in the process. Coaches need to look at many factors when developing athletes, wins and losses should not be the primary concern.
4) Injury and burnout. How can young athletes make a difference in their careers when so many require medical intervention at increasing rates? According to statistics, of the 15 thousand Soccer players (ages 6-18) who participate in Soccer in the United States, 1 in 10 have significant injuries, which will have impacts on their future development. Also consider that many of these athletes at young ages (13-14), will have a competition schedule that includes 70-90 games per year. Honestly, this is not healthy both physically & psychologically. Common sense is lacking in the process of athletic development and athletes that do succeed in these models are often “survivors” of the system in spite of it.
5) Long-Term Development. Education needs to be the focus in order for change to the current model to positively impact all involved. Coaches, trainers, parents, and athletes must understand what is required of them and begin taking a long-term approach to athletic development. Parents and coaches both want athletes to succeed in the long-term, however many are short-term in their approach. This becomes detrimental to the athlete’s success when it really matters.
6) Willingness to Sacrifice. The current myth of overnight success has blinded us to the fact that the elite players we see on television have all sacrificed. They were not just simply “born with talent”. This is where NO Pain NO Gain comes into play. Elite players have practiced and sacrificed long hours, day after day. Even when you want to quit because it’s too cold, or you’re in pain, and just one more mile of track work, or 5 thousand more juggling touches, or CGSA and the Director, always points out the self-training and innovation level that is taught by the Greenwood Method. The Clint Greenwood Soccer Academy are strong believers in Self Sacrifice to accomplish the objective. Our Director, Clint Greenwood was one to personally put his best interest aside for his main goal of being great footballer. At CGSA we have incorporated the skill of setting SMART Goals for our future philosophical approach to the production of a top-class footballer. With using organized approach through SMART GOALS our players/students now have a better idea of what it will take to be an athlete that can be better today than they were yesterday, and maintain that passionate love and dedication that will serve as the perfect guide to self-success.
Most of the soccer players we work with may never achieve their true potential because the thought of sacrificing X,Y,or Z in order to achieve athletic success is something they are not willing to commit to on a consistent basis (or even at all). You can have the greatest coaches and training in the world, yet if the athlete is not willing to commit themselves to the process, their potential will suffer the consequences. Why and what do they really need to change?
Developing a Champion’s Mindset
Thinking Outside The Box - There will be time where the answers to your problems are not obvious and you can't just rely on playing ability. Solve problems by thinking of the process of results not just the results. With a Champion he or she has more than one plan.
Enthusiasm and Desire - Top athletes have a hunger, a fire inside which fuels their passion to achieve an important goal, regardless of their level of talent or ability.
Brave - It takes courage to sacrifice, to work out when you’re tired, to seek out tough competition, to stick to your program, to test your limits, and to overcome obstacles.
Self-Motivation - Direction and drive need to come from within. The goals must be ones that you have chosen because that’s exactly what you want to be doing.
Commitment To Be Great Not Just Good - Elite footballers know that to excel at their sport, they must decide to make it a priority in their life. They make an honest effort each and every day to be the best at what they do. At some point you must say, I want to be really good at this; I want this to work.
Consistency, Organization - The Best Soccer players love what they do and it is easier for them to maintain consistency in training and in competing. Regardless of personal problems, fatigue, or difficult circumstances, they can generate the optimal amount of excitement and energy to do their best. At the Clint Greenwood Soccer Academy, we teach this mentality. "We aren't Preachers We are Teachers."
Being Composed and Confident - Champions have the ability to maintain concentration for long periods of time. They can easily let go of distractions and take control of their attention. They don’t let emotions get the best of them and cause poor performance.
Ability to handle adversity - Top athletes know how to deal with difficult situations. Adversity builds character, but adversity also reveals character. When elite athletes know the odds are against them they embrace the chance to explore the outer limits of their potential. Rather than avoiding pressure they feel challenged by it. They are calm and relaxed under fire. Setbacks become an opportunity for learning.
A Word From CG
To develop your motivation and maximize your true potential, make the most of the talents you have by stretching the limits of your abilities "Surpassing Your Best”, both physically and psychologically. Being a great footballer has a place in a young athlete’s soul to make them feel acceptable on many levels. As you have read some of our warning signs, hopefully you can go to your next practice with complete FAITH that you will be great no matter what happens and understand this.