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5 Tips to Improve Your Player's Mental Skills

Lower Expectations
You might not know that coaches' and parents' high expectations for their kids can cause kids to feel pressured. Parents and coaches sometimes impose their own expectations on their kids, with the intended goal of boosting kids' confidence. But often, this has the opposite effect.

Athletes who have high levels of self-confidence end up in the winner's circle. You want your athletes to feel fully confident at game time. That means you need to keep your expectations in check. Parents' and coaches' overly high expectations can cause athletes to focus too much on the results. This often makes them feel frustrated, especially when they are not performing up to their (and your) standards.

Understand Why Kids Play Soccer
Remember kids take part in sports for many reasons. If you want your players to be in the right frame of mind you need to address the many reasons why they signed up in the first place. Here are a couple of examples:

Kids play soccer to feel like they are part of a group. Those who are shy can struggle with this so the coach needs to help the process along. Don’t let your players pick partners or teams during practice. Partner them up yourself so they don’t feel left out and are given a chance to bond with all of the players on the team.
Most kids play soccer because it is fun. As soon as it isn’t fun most kids will quit. This usually happens around the age of 13 to 14 as things become more competitive. Some coaches forget that you can field a competitive team without taking the fun out of practices and games. If the players are having fun they will be motivated and free of high expectations that cause stress.

Emphasize Process Over Results
Be careful about the expectations you communicate to your young athletes. Focus on more manageable goals or objectives that help kids focus on the process.

For example, you might ask your players to anticipate their action with the ball before they receive it or let go of mistakes quickly. Your players can accomplish these important objectives more often than scoring a goal every time they possess the ball.

Rather than focusing on winning, emphasize the importance of playing the game well. Work on possessing the ball and attacking and defending with skill and confidence.
Help Your Players Cope with Setbacks
Youth soccer players that expect too much of themselves have difficulty dealing with minor errors that are a natural part of the game. Give your players permission to make mistakes. Explain to them that even the greatest players make mistakes on a regular basis and that making mistakes is how we learn and improve. Make sure to also put all of your players in position to make mistakes (ex. Penalty kicks, throw-ins, added responsibilities).

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Michael Jordan

Self-motivation is the Key
 One of your roles as a coach should be to instill internal motivation into your players. That is motivation derived from the love of the sport. Goals need to be set by the player and they should be attainable. It is very important that the player believes that these are their goals and not goals set by the coach or parent.



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