Knowledge is excellent, but only if it’s used. I tell all the athletes I work with that it’s great to learn about the importance of mental strength to improve their overall performance.
The question is, “Are you going to commit to doing something about it?”
Let’s start with what I feel is a good definition of the word commitment: Doing what a player needs to do to succeed, even if it might not feel good.
It’s easy to do the physical work an athlete needs to do, and that’s because it’s tangible. We can see and feel it. When an athlete works out, they feel themselves getting stronger, having more stamina, etc.
The mental side of development, however, is not tangible. Athletes don’t quickly see its results, so it’s easy to ignore and eventually dismiss as unnecessary, dull, or worse, irrelevant!
The fact remains that for athletes to reach their full potential, they need to develop three things: 1) their skill level, 2) their bodies, and 3) their minds.
Failure to do so in any one of these areas shows a lack of commitment to reaching one’s goals and dreams.
Let me give you an example of this:
As a young 11-year-old soccer player, I remember that at the beginning of every practice, my coach had us do 20 minutes of running. It was either around the field, or up and down hills or steps, and I hated it.
I knew, however, that to become the best soccer player I could be, I needed to get better at running, to embrace it somehow. So I decided I was going to join the cross-country team at school!
The truth is, I hated every second of it. I didn’t like the early morning practices, running in the cold, and lining up against what seemed like hundreds of other runners at the starting line. It was extremely intimidating and filled me with anxiety.
But the more I worked at it, the better I got at it. Eventually, I got really good at it, and as I became a better runner, I became a better and far more successful soccer player.
How did I find this success? I committed twice. First, I was committed to my main goal of one day becoming a professional soccer player. From a very young age, this was my dream. But the second and immediate commitment I made at that time was to join the cross-country team. I committed to doing something I wasn’t going to enjoy, because it was going to help me with my overall goal.
Any serious athlete today has to commit to developing their mental game!
They need to add this to their schedule. Just like they know when they have a practice or a game, they need to know when to sit down and ‘train their brain’. This one change in attitude and direction will put them into the 1% of athletes that do this, and it will set them apart.
Editor’s Note: This article is an in-depth examination of Key #3 in Coach Gad’s previous piece, entitled: ‘Soccer Parents: 4 Key Mindset Changes Your Youth Player Needs to Make ASAP'