Ways to Get Better in Soccer

Hey everyone, Coach Harry here! Yes, Coach Harry, writing a blog post, miracles can happen! This is my first one so please bear with me! And if you have any questions, please forward them on to Coach Mlait, he loves answering all of them, and promises to get back to you within 30 minutes, 24 hours, 7 days a week! 😉

Anyway, why am I writing this?  Well it’s a crazy world out there right now, so I wanted to write one for the youth/adolescent soccer players, parents of players, and soccer coaches. I think we all agree it has been stressful in some way or another for everyone, and it is probably harder than ever for the players to progress and get better at football.

I love the game, and I love coaching youth players, especially. As an S&C coach, my goals for each player are to:

  1. Keep it fun, engaging, and educate them
  2. Help and guide them with their goals
  3. Make sure they can play the game well into their 60’s (Injury risk reduction, for my fellow S&C coaches out there)

I’m telling you this because I want you to know that I have a purpose behind everything that I do for the player, which is so important when it comes to coaching an athlete. I’m constantly asking myself why? Why am I making them do this lift? Why am I testing? etc.

Hold up… just so you know I’m English (big shock right), and refuse to call football, soccer! So, from now on you’ll see football in this post, no more soccer nonsense! Anyway, back to the blog…

So, I want to ask you, the player, the kid with the big dreams of one day making it as a pro , a couple of questions… 

You all have goals, and you all have things that you can control. So, what are you doing off the pitch to get better? And what are you prepared to do that others aren’t? 

It’s a tough one I know, but if you are serious about getting to the next level, NCAA Division 1, U Sport, or whatever that may look like for you, you have to be taking care of yourself off the pitch. While making sure you are prepared to do the things that your teammates aren’t doing. So yes, that may mean you have to miss out on that party with your friends.

It became more relevant to me over the summer, when I was lucky enough to work with 3 high level youth female football players. I would constantly ask them what they were doing outside of their training, to help with recovery and make sure they were ready to go for the next training session.

My questions were pretty simple, and the answers they gave were pretty consistent across the board…

  • How much sleep are you getting?  8-9 hours
  • How was your nutrition the day before? Always some sort of nutrient rich food, carbs, proteins, and healthy fats.
  • What are you doing on your rest days? Hiking, biking, swimming, chilling with friends, some form of active recovery.
  • What do you do before bed? Read, hanging with the family, stretch, essentially reducing their screen time as they got closer to the time they go to sleep.
  • What extra did you do this week, to make yourself great? This one was probably the hardest for them, so I helped them out by giving them homework each week. They had to research a player of my choosing. They all played in different positions, so I would make sure to give them players that were relevant to where they played on the pitch. The wing back, got someone like Trent Alexander-Arnold, the centre back, Lucy Bronze, and the central midfielder, players like Edgar Davids. They also came back with answers like, taking time out of their day just for themselves/meditation, to reflect on goals, decisions, training, etc.

Success leaves clues… do I think that what they do off of the pitch has a direct correlation to how successful they are on it? DEFINITELY!  Are they on a path to achieving their goals? I’d say so. They currently play at a very high level, and I’m certain that they will all be picked up in the next year by top ranking NCAA teams, while a couple of them are being scouted for the national team. As their coach, I can also tell you they brought another level (or 2) of intensity and drive to their training, that we could all learn from and is another topic entirely.  OK, so this was meant to be one blog post, but I got a little carried away, and wrote way too much (I’m pretty passionate about football), so you’ll be getting this in 3 posts! SORRY!

Enjoy Picking Up Poo

So we got a dog.

And it wasn’t a decision we took lightly or came to quickly. We’ve been considering this for a number of years, even before we had kids. In fact, when Olivia was 3 she was asked if she thought she’d be getting a dog. She’s 7 now by the way.

Sorry to all other dog owners out there
but Poppy is the cutest puppy in the world.

Anyways, she thought about this for a second and then gave a great answer. She said “she’d have to get a new family first”.

That comment has haunted me ever since. Nobody wants to be the bad dad. But we do enjoy to travel. And we head up to the hill in the winter. And I couldn’t see how we could continue our current lifestyle with a dog in the mix. And to be honest I’ll still don’t.

To give you an example of how ‘on the fence’ I was about getting a dog, we told the girls we were going to babysit the dog for a few nights. And so the dog would have a few nights sleepover with us. This would allow Alexandra and I the chance to evaluate how everyone was adapting to this new member of our family. And how this little puppy was adapting to us.

Because let’s be honest, a new puppy can be a lot of work. And if we realized we weren’t up for the challenge or we’d bitten off more than we could chew than we still had the option to take the dog and the girls would still be over the moon about having a dog stay with us for a few nights.

Win-win, right?

Plus, since we decided to keep the puppy you should have seen the girls faces and their reactions when we told them we were going to keep the puppy forever. It was Christmas in July and they were pumped.

So, now we’d had this little 10 week old puppy with us for a couple of weeks. And the girls have had fights over whose turn it is to take the dog out to do her business. And more importantly, whose job it is to pick up the dog poo.

Let me repeat that last line.

The girls are fighting over who gets to pick up dog poo.

I am now convinced that everything in life is simply perspective. I could offer the girls money, candy or anything compared with getting to pick up dog poo and they’d pick the poo.

So how does this relate to you and your fitness or performance goals?

Well, often times we can become focussed on the outcome. We can imagine how great life will be when we lose the weight, when we rehab our back or when we win the championship.

But here’s the thing…

There’s no guarantee that we’ll achieve everything we set out to do. And in sports the final outcome usually involves an opponent. So we can worry about doing our best and can’t really control what someone does or doesn’t do. As well, we may expect certain emotions to be associated with the end goal but who knows what it will feel like when we get there? This year has been a great example of this. How many sports events were delayed or cancelled due to COVID?

Instead what we should do is change our perspective.

We need to enjoy the process. We do this by having training partners that challenge and encourage us. We do this by working with coaches that guide, support and educate us. We do this recognizing small changes in habits that are taking us in the right direction.

When we can approach our training in this way we are more likely to attend all of our sessions. We are more likely to arrive early. We are likely to give a best effort. We are more likely to get enough quality sleep. And we are more likely to fuel and recover from training with the best nutrition. We are likely to be receptive and open to criticism or feedback that could help us.

Training can sometimes feel like a grind. But when we change our mindset to enjoy the process it’s not so bad. And we may just get better results in the end also.

Just like enjoying picking up poo.

How to Visualize Success

Have you read the Da Vinci Code? Or any of Dan Brown’s books? They’re kind of fun if you’re looking for a good fictional escape.

Set Your Mind for Success

Recently I was making my way through the interior of BC giving presentations at conferences and corporate functions. And there was a message that came through with all the presentations which  only seemed appropriate to include here as well.

The Benefits of the Placebo Effect

Whenever we add a new member to our team we use a fairly standard evaluation process. And this includes asking what they think is the most important element lending to the success of the client.

Changing Your Fitness Mindset

When you go to the gym, do you need to change your fitness mindset to be more successful? How badly do you want to achieve your goal? What are you willing to do? For some, a strong fitness mindset is more geared towards performance and an athlete’s perspective. But what about the rest of us?

Mindset Leads to Impressive Results

Every now and again we like to let you know of a client that has made tremendous gains in their training. And whether the goal is rehab, weight loss or sports performance we can all learn from the success of others. What allowed for this person to have success? And would this work for me?