The lives of American children seem either too structured or not structured enough. Pick up soccer is a middle ground activity. Neighborhoods where kids get together in the street and play are less and less (and when they do its probably not soccer). More often than not, time spent is either in the house on technology or school work, or out of the house for a structured activity like soccer practice. In other countries kids still play, and often, it is soccer.Read More
Bayern Munich doing fitness testing with their players. Notice the quick feet and smile of World Cup hero Mario Gotze. What I can see is a vertical jump test with no arms, nice quickness, reaction, and agility test all in one which looks pretty awesome. VO2 Max testing for aerobic endurance, a functional movement screen to screen for injuries which includes the overhead squat, step over, and push up in the video, and a shoulder mobility test.Read More
Yael currently plays for the Washington Spirit in the National Women's Soccer League and the United States women's national soccer team. During her career as a center midfielder at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Averbuch was named national player of the year by both Soccer Buzz and Top Drawer Soccer. In this interview we discuss soccer training, mindset, and more.Read More
Soccer agility training is often done using predetermined patterns. At some stages, that is good such as coming off an injury, warming up, or training movement technique. However, sometimes it is not enough.Read More
Coerver Coaching: Is It Worth It?
I was a young lad, no more than 13 years old. My Dad and I were roaming the local library and I was looking for something to catch my eye. Behold, the green cover:Read More
Soccer exercises, practices both mentally and physically, that will have you playing your best (or close to you best) the next soccer game, tryout, or practice you have. Using meditation, eating and not eating certain foods, and when to train hard versus recover are some topics covered.Read More
Goals scoring, like sex, eating certain foods, hiking glorious mountains, these are some of the best external sources of pleasure in life. Scoring goals is perhaps the greatest of them all, depending on the magnitude of importance and beauty of each goal. Read more to score....more.Read More
Part of being a soccer player is having the courage to put our bodies on the line. Whether it is to get a small touch on the ball to redirect it in the back of the net, getting stuck in to win a 50/50 challenge, or pushing our bodies to run that extra sprint in the dying moments of the match, soccer is a demanding game that poses some risks. With risk, comes the chance of injury. As movement teacher and philosopher Ido Portal says "Injuries are a certainty. They are not a probability. ... They are also required.”Read More
Soccer performance demands and development are on the forefront of research these days and within the last year there have been some huge studies. Not every study is done perfectly, but I think when they use large enough sample sizes and actual soccer athletes like they did in the cases below, there is a lot to learn and it would be dumb of me not to use this valuable information to help players and coaches. So, lets get nerdy and dive in to the science.Read More
The Soccer Poet is none other than Dan Blank. His bio is at the bottom of this interview where you can find out more information about him. I am very confident that after you hear his insights on the game of soccer, you will definitely want more of his knowledge bombs. After reading one of his books called Rookie: Surviving Your Freshman Year Of College Soccer, I told Dan "if only I had read it before entering my college soccer career, it would have saved me so much frustration and agony". Let's dive in, not on a tackle, but into the wisdom of the Soccer Poet.
1. In your book Rookie, I really liked your discussion of the "bubble" and how players don't often realize how they were the big fish in a small pond until they play at the next level or venture outside of their immediate soccer community. What would you say to the player who loses their fire and passion for the sport when they realize they will no longer be the next superstar or play at their desired level?
There’s so much in life that we can’t control, but we can always control our response to whatever circumstance we face. If you’re not getting enough playing time to make you happy, you have to choose your response. The ideal response, from a coach’s perspective, is that you dig in and try to make a long term investment in becoming a better player. The problem is that many players have grown up in a world of instant gratification where any obstruction to their happiness has been instantaneously vaporized by their parents, so seeing past the next game is virtually impossible. The phrase ‘long-term’ is irrelevant.
When choosing a club or a college, I think players (and their parents) have to be realistic about their abilities and their chances to play. Everyone is happier playing soccer than watching it, so picking a place where you’re going to legitimately compete for playing time can save a lot of heartache.
As for a player that has lost her passion for the game… That’s a sad situation because at its core, soccer should be fun. That’s why we stick with it. But there’s no getting around it – college soccer is a job. You have to commit a lot of hours to it and that means sacrificing some other activities that might interest you. If you can’t keep finding joy in the daily grind, you’re going to struggle emotionally. If you lose your passion for playing, maybe it’s time to step back from the competitive grind of a varsity program and check out a looser structure like intramurals or the club team or even pick-up games.
2. You mention that players going into a college season should consider hiring a personal trainer to address their strength and conditioning. Can you please discuss the role you feel strength training plays for the soccer player?
Strength and conditioning has been probably been the single most noticeable advance in sports over the past 30 years, not just soccer. Go watch video of the 1982 NCAA men’s basketball final between UNC and Georgetown. That game featured future NBA rock stars like Patrick Ewing, James Worthy and Michael Jordan. If you watch that video, the first thing that jumps out is how skinny those guys are compared to today’s Div. I players. They look like today’s high schoolers.
I’ve been coaching women since 1991 and today’s players look a whole lot different than they did back then. Today’s players grow up in a world where strength training is expected of them, particularly if they plan on playing at the college level and particularly if they plan on chasing a scholarship. Once they’re at college, strength training is mandated. It’s part of the time commitment of being a college soccer player.
College soccer used to be almost entirely about what you could do with your feet. The strength and conditioning industry has changed all that. Coaches are all looking for bigger, faster, stronger athletes because soccer is a physical sport, not just a technical one. To stay competitive, strength training has to be a part of a player’s training regimen.
3. The Man U fitness test, consisting of hard runs of 105 yards has been referred to as "grueling". I believe you use it on the first day of preseason. Some coaches prefer to smash players from the start of preseason and see what kind of fitness levels they came into camp with, whereas other coaches choose to take a more cautious approach and gradually ramp up the training volume and intensity. What would you say your approach is and why?
I’m a big fan of fitness, but not of repetitive fitness testing. Some coaches use preseason to administer a battery of tests, and I used to be the same way, but my outlook has changed dramatically. A fitness test is exactly that – a test. You use it to determine a player’s level of fitness. Once you have that information, what’s the point in testing them over and over? Preseason is already grueling enough because you’re on the field twice a day fighting for a spot, and it’s usually hot as heck to boot. If you overdose on fitness, you’re going to end up with injury problems. If my team comes in fit, I’d rather spend preseason working on soccer things.
When preseason starts, I think there should be a test so a coach knows where his players are physically. It’s also a fantastic way to hold players accountable when they’re away for the summer and it gives them a goal to strive for in their summer training. I’m a big fan of the Man U test because it’s challenging, but it doesn’t really discriminate against the slower players. You don’t have to be fast to achieve a good score on Man U, you just have to be fit.
4. You discussed the love/hate relationship a lot of top athletes have with sports. It reminds me of a similar quote a movement teacher who gets amazing results with people and is known for being pretty demanding named Ido Portal says: "it doesn't have to be fun to be fun". In fact, our motto at Fresno State was "serious fun". Other than motivating me to train harder and often put in extra time on my own, in most cases an emotion like anger has been a self-destructive for my performance. Can you please elaborate on the love/hate relationship with soccer and shed some light on finding the right balance?
Part of the quote I used in ROOKIE is, “People don’t play sports because it’s fun. Ask any athlete; most of them hate it, but they can’t imagine their life without it.” I think anyone who has played a college sport can relate to that sentiment because there are definitely days that make you reconsider your decision to be a student-athlete.
College soccer is like a marriage of sorts. It’s a serious commitment, it consumes a lot of your time and it dramatically changes your social life... and there’s going to be days when you question whether or not it’s worth it. If you’re not absolutely in love with the sport, you’re going to struggle because you’re giving up so much to be a part of a college soccer team. What keeps you from walking away is that even on those days when you hate it, you still can’t imagine your life without it. You can’t imagine not being there the next day with your teammates. In your heart of hearts, you know that your life is better with it than without it. So you just put your head down and keep moving forward, grinding out one day at a time because soccer isn’t just a sport, it’s a part of who you are.
I’ve always believed that soccer practice should be the favorite part of a player’s day, that she should look forward to it when she wakes up and be a little bit sad when it’s over. That’s how I want my sessions to make them feel. That’s why I always tried to keep sessions up-tempo, competitive and challenging. That’s the best recipe I’ve found for fun. But the bottom line is that each player has her own goals, own priorities and own agenda, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for getting everyone to enjoy college soccer on any given day.
The simplest formula I know for finding the right balance is to give your very best each and every day. There’s so much you can’t control, and at the top of that list is playing time. But if you focus on what you can control and give your best to your teammates and coaches each and every day, you’ll finish your career with no regrets… which leads me to another quote I’m fond of: “None one ever regretted giving her best.”
5. Toughness both physically and mentally is a huge part of the game . Do you feel the two generally go hand in hand? Have you found that your toughest athletes are also the most disciplined people and most successful off the field?
I believe the two often go hand in hand on the field but that those qualities may have absolutely nothing to do with a discipline level off the field. There are so many definitions of toughness that it’s impossible to apply the same criteria to every player, but I think that toughness is ultimately a player’s ability to exist outside of her comfort zone. If I gave you three of the qualities I would consider in the definition of toughness for a soccer player, I would say work-rate, courage (willingness to risk their bodies) and pain tolerance. But I don’t know that there’s a direct correlation between that type of toughness and off-the-field discipline. I’ve coached a lot of extremely tough players who showed almost no discipline off the field. Maybe it’s because that level of courage makes them feel bulletproof or something. I really don’t know.
6. In Soccer iQ you discuss "playing from a spot" and talk about killing the ball with the first touch as opposed to a big touch forward that gives defenders a better chance of winning the ball. Are there instances in the game where you want players to take their first touch into a space?
Absolutely! There are many, many times when a player should explode forward with their first touch. The problem is that too many players take their first touch forward directly into pressure without even considering the idea of keeping the ball close to them. The best example I can think of in terms of a player who regularly played from a spot is Paul Scholes. Watch his Youtube video and you’ll see tons of examples where he kills the ball dead and then pings in a brilliant 30- or 40-yard pass. His long distribution is phenomenal and a lot of times it gets set up by keeping his first touch close to his body.
7. What do you love most about coaching the game of soccer?
I used to think I loved coaching because I loved soccer. One day I realized that although, yes, I absolutely love soccer, I love being part of a team even more. I love being on the field with the players. I love the teaching. I love the never-ending project of building the best possible team. And I love the relationships.
8. One of your books goes into detail about things that many coaches are afraid to tell female players because of their gender. What are two of the most common things you find coaches hold back and what is thecost/benefit of doing so?
A few days ago I got an email from a guy who read Everything Your Coach Never Told You Because You’re a Girl. He loved the book but he was stunned that someone actually came out and said all that stuff. But that was exactly the point of the book. Coaches censor the way they talk to female players and that censorship means we hold females to a lower standard than males. Don’t misunderstand; when I say ‘censor’, I’m not referring to obscenities. I don’t think coaches should be swearing at girls or boys. I’m referring to the intensity that we would naturally demand of boys that we often forgive in females.
I don’t think coaches hold back on soccer knowledge or even physical work, but we tend to censor ourselves about the effort of competitiveness and things like taking a physical risk. I’ll give you an example that I’ve seen a zillion times. A player watched a ball roll out of bounds when she may have been able to keep it in play if she slid, and the coach says nothing. How is that acceptable? If you can keep the ball in play at the risk of a stinkin’ raspberry, then get your butt on the ground and keep it in bounds! We’d never accept that lack of courage from a boy, but because we’re coaching girls, we just grin and bear it.
I think a lot of coaches struggle with getting girls to hold their teammates accountable about their effort. This isn’t a problem with boys because they’re constantly screaming at each other, but that’s not what I’m talking about either. I’m talking about demanding maximum effort from your teammates because that’s what you’re entitled to; and that’s what they’re also entitled to from you. That’s probably the main reason the team I wrote about overachieved on such a grand scale; they were wholly committed to one another and they weren’t afraid to hold a teammate accountable for the slightest dip in effort. That made every training session fiercely intense. As far as I’m concerned, that was our magic bullet.
9. Soccer iQ was your first book and has been the best-selling soccer book on Amazon since 2013. Why do you think it's so successful, and did you expect the response?
Soccer iQ is successful because the material is genuinely valuable and it's presented in a really easy-to-read fashion. It's very straight forward and the chapters are brief and sometimes it's a little bit funny. When I was writing it I sort of knew that I was onto something with massive potential. I realized that I was writing a book that coaches would want their players to read, and that's a pretty good business model. Word-of-mouth has been great, which is really helpful because I've literally put about 3 hours of a marketing effort into it. I like writing books, but I have no interest in doing the work to sell them. It's nice when they catch fire all by themselves.
The response to Soccer iQ continues to amaze me. Every week I get emails from people telling me how much they enjoy it and how it has helped their kids or their team. I can't ask for better than that.
10. How has reader response been to Everything Your Coach Never Told You Because You’re a Girl?
It’s been phenomenal! I’ve gotten emails from girls, women, mothers and coaches, and so many of them talk about how the book has inspired them. A lot of the moms are reading it together with their daughters, and that’s really cool to think that I’ve given them something to bond over. I’ve gotten emails from two separate women, both in their 30s, who long ago retired from soccer, and both said that this book has inspired them to dust off their cleats and start playing again. It’s amazing to have that kind of impact.
Friends who read the early drafts were convinced that this book would be bigger than Soccer iQ and I think they may be right. This book has so many applications that go way beyond soccer. The book centers around a soccer team, but the lessons are really about life, and that’s why so many readers are drawn to it.
Dan, thank you very much for answering my questions. I am sure anyone who reads this will walk away with things they can implement in their own relationship to soccer immediately.
Mat-Thanks for the interview! Those were some seriously good questions. Made me get my thinking cap on.
Dan Blank has over 20 years experience coaching college soccer, most recently at the University of Georgia. He holds an ‘A’ License from the USSF and an Advanced National Diploma from the NSCAA. His book Soccer iQ was named a Top 5 Book of the Year by the NSCAA Soccer Journal and has been the best-selling soccer book on Amazon since 2013. His other books include:
Soccer iQ Volume 2; Everything Your Coach Never Told You Because You’re a Girl; ROOKIE – Surviving Your Freshman Year of College Soccer; HAPPY FEET – Everything the Coach, the Ref, and Your Kid Want You to Know; and POSSESSION – Teaching Your Team to Keep the Darn Ball.
Find out more about Dan's great books by clicking on them below:
Bryan Wallace is a Jamaican American who played for the U17 and U20 Jamaican National Teams. As a coach, he has had massive success at the youth level including: Coast Soccer League Cup title for 3 consecutive years, Far West Regional League fall and spring season, North South Premier title, Nomads College Showcase, Surf Cup, United Cup, NHB Cup,2012 Cal South State National Cup without conceding a single goal, Western Regional title a first in clubs history, Surf Cup, Dallas Cup, Far West Regional Spring league, SCDSL Tier 1 Champions, NHB Cup, Nomads College Cup, Albion Cup. In over two years, one of his teams won an amazing 198 games competing against 200 opponents. In 2012 Coach Wallace was awarded the California South Nike Competitive Coach of the Year. Currently, Bryan coaches at West Coast FC in Southern California.
In addition to all of the team championships, Bryan has sent countless players (in some instances every player on a team's roster) on to play in college as well as sign contracts overseas for professional clubs. He knows the game of soccer inside and out, and he sure knows success. For his full bio see HERE
- Bryan the player
I first met Bryan Wallace when he was the right hand man of Afshin Ghotbi, founder of American Global Soccer School. Afshin eventually shut AGSS down when he went on to work for Steve Sampson with the US National Team and the LA Galaxy. From there, Afshin worked with the South Korean National Team for Gus Hiddink, became head coach of a first team in Iran called Persopolis, head coached th Iranian National Team for a few years, and is currently the head coach of a team in the highest Japanese League (J-League) called Shimizu S-Pulse. Bryan would drive over an hour each way from Riverside to Burbank where AGSS trained nearly every day because he believed in Afshin and knew it was the professional environment he was looking for to become his vision of a top coach.
I played my final 3 years of club soccer at AGSS from ages 17-19. In 2001 after my first season of college soccer, like many freshman I was young enough to still play in the National Cup, so I came home from Fresno to play with AGSS. For much of that second National Cup, Afshin was away with South Korea in the World Cup. I always knew Bryan and thought he was a great coach, smooth player, and even smoother guy, but he was usually working with the younger teams in the club and would occasionally assist Afshin during some of our games. Influencing Afshin to change his mind or do something different was like trying to teach a cheetah to run faster; you didn't. So while I knew and liked him, it was during the time when he stepped into the head role that I really got to know him and see what he was all about.
An old AGSS team Bryan and Afshin coached
Going into the National Cup with Afshin gone, everyone thought it was going to be a poor outcome compared to what as achieved the year prior. The year before we won the Southern California National Cup and ended up losing in the second round of Regionals to a very strong Colorado Rush. Our team was incredible that first year and we smashed Irvine Strikers 3-0 in the final which consisted of practically all of the freshman from the UCLA Men's soccer team. They couldn't compete with our lineup consisting of Rodrigo the Dunga-style holding mid from Brazil, Yoshi the deadly samurai dribbler from Japan , Victor the Mexican magician, Moro the Dutch striker from Ghana who was carved out of stone, David Johnson the young stud who would soon to be a youth national team player and play for Willem IIA in Holland, Carlos Menjivar the future El Salvadorian National Team midfielder and first player ever to successfully do a butt trap in real game (and subsequently get benched for it), Noah Rosenblum the super athlete , and other guys who would all go on to play in college. We also had the genius of Afshin Ghotbi.
- David Johnson, the young stud and also a player Bryan helped develop
With less raw talent than the year before and Afshin's absence, AGSS kept finding a way to win. Bryan would have these incredible speeches and stories he would tell us before the games that were so intriguing and inspiring only a corpse wouldn't get goosebumps. Before we knew it, we were in the semi-finals. Afshin was back from the World Cup and players started talking about how we wanted Bryan to keep coaching (in retrospect it was not just due to the success we were having, but because everyone was scared shitless of Afshin- but in a good way). Word got out to Afshin and it was then that I heard one of the most incredible speeches in my life about loyalty, respect, hard work, and with no shortage of profanity. All you need to know is that it didn't take long for us to welcome Afshin back with open arms. With Afshin back and his asking Bryan to take on a bigger role than ever before, we won the CYSA-Cup again. We ended up losing in Regionals again to the eventual National runner up, this time in the quarterfinals.
Ever since that National Cup, Bryan and I have remained close friends. When the soccer program at Fresno State was on the verge of folding due to Title 9 just before my senior year (before we barely got it back via protesting and fundraising for the final season of the program's history), Bryan was on the phones trying to find me a place to play for my senior season. When I was having some personal problems a few years ago and needed someone to talk to, Bryan was there for me every time without fail. Bryan loves the game of soccer more than anyone I've ever known, but even more so he also loves to touch other people's lives. He has definitely make an impact in mine. It is an honor to present you this interview with Bryan Wallace.
1. You grew up in Jamaica and have National Team experience for your home country. Jamaica has an abundance of athletic talent that seems to shine in track and field but has yet to reach the same levels in soccer. In your mind, what are some reasons for the massive success in track and field and what is preventing Jamaica from achieving similar results in soccer?
We need to produce better players. This has to first start with producing better coaches. It is in our DNA to run fast and jump high, but to join the elite few capable of competing at a World Cup level, more is needed. Our players need to improve technically and we still lack the technical ability to create enough chances from combination plays. While watching top European and South American players it is evident their feet are like hands. They are able to do whatever they wish with the ball. In Jamaica our ball possession is poor. In essence, we need a complete overhaul of the current youth system as being better technically and tactically doesn't happen at age 30, it begins at age 12 and younger. We need more teachers in Jamaica; the word coach and coaching should not be used with children, they come later.
2. Who have been some of the most influential people on your coaching career and what was it about these individuals that grabbed your attention?
Without a doubt Afshin Ghotbi and Steve Sampson. Both men taught me that life is about leadership and being truthful to yourself. They are living examples of that as the mandate for any relationship and for anyone who has the desire to lead and not be a follower. They instilled in me the ability to embrace change, to operate from a transformational perspective which included always having a "to do" list as a way of improving myself. They demonstrated one must accept responsibility and create a strategy to turn your life into the way you envision it. From a soccer standpoint, both men taught me that it is my job as a leader to promote my philosophy and ideas to the players in a way that goes beyond the playing field. Ultimately, to take them on a journey.
3. You have been involved in coaching young players at various levels for several years now. Many of them have gone on to play in college and even professionally. In your experience, what qualities separate those who go on to play at higher levels versus those who don't?
A proper and professional training environment where players are held accountable for every action they take is crucial. However, anyone who understands success, finishing first or winning on a consistent basis, understands that you never get there simply because you have talent. I believe that what sets successful players apart is hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. The ability to concentrate consistently at a high level is an underrated quality that can make or break anyone. Making it to the highest levels in soccer takes uncompromising desire to be the best which is directly related to being able to rebound consistently from failures. You cannot be afraid to fail. Living in fear means you'll never succeed.
4. Coaches often talk about "speed of play". What are some things a player does both on and off the ball that exemplify speed of play and what are some ways players can improve their speed of play?
When referring to a player's speed of play many areas come to mind- physical speed (the ability to out-sprint your opponent to the ball), technical speed (ball handling ability-youth players should be able to do whatever they wish with the ball), speed of thought (the ability to think quickly and solve problems before the ball arrives or before an action is needed). To improve technique I always make sure that in training my players touch the ball anywhere from 1000 touches to 30000 quality touches within the first 45 minutes of a session. During game related training exercises, the sessions are designed to ensure that they remain focus and forced to think and act quickly. As a coach, I avoid teaching players to react. I develop proactive players who dictate the way the game is played.
5. I know you have mentioned being a fan of Tony Robbins and that you listen to his tapes and read his books. For other players and coaches, what are some things you have learned from studying his work that have gotten you to where you are now?
For one, I've learned to never get too carried away when my teams win and never get too disappointed when we lose. Life is simply a matter of how you perceive things. Tony Robbins says that the quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of the questions you ask of yourself. As challenging as it is, we must always strive to be honest with ourselves. I've learned that by taking massive, intelligent actions towards an end result that I make a practice of vividly imagining, great things are possible. Find your identity, whatever that is, and try to align that with a purpose and a passion. That is where you'll find happiness and joy.
6. What advice do you have for younger coaches who are just getting their feet wet?
My advice to young coaches is remain seated as much as possible during games. Call players to the sideline during games versus yelling at them. Choose the right moments to give feedback from the sideline and do not make a habit of pointing out players mistakes immediately after they make them during a match. During the match, take notes and discuss issues at half time. I like to give players specific goals during a match such as I need you to complete 6 passes to our forward this half.
Bryan, thank you so much for doing this interview. Do you have anything else you would like to add? Disclaimer: It could or could not be Mat pretending to be Bryan in the following response.
Yes Mat, I would. Of all of the players I have ever coached including professionals, not only are you the best looking and most charming, but you are also hands down best player I have ever coached.
It is pretty safe to say that Dr. Jay Martin knows the game of soccer inside and out. More important than his knowledge of the game is his understanding of competitiveness, character development, and what the pillars of success are whether we are talking about sports, or life in general. He is the John Wooden of soccer. It was both an honor and privileged to access the mind of this incredible man and soccer sage.
Just how impressive is his background?
Dr. Jay Martin is the winningest coach in college men's soccer history with a total of 640 wins. He has guided his 37 Ohio Wesleyan Battling Bishop soccer teams to a 640-119-57 record. His career winning percentage of .819 entering the 2014 season ranks eighth all-time. Besides coaching two Division III national championship teams, Martin has seen two other teams advance to the Division III national championship game. His teams have appeared in 32 NCAA tournaments and eight national semifinals. They have won 12 regional titles, including nine of the last 15 seasons that the NCAA tournament has included a regional format, and 23 conference championships. His teams have won 21 Stu Parry Awards, recognizing Ohio’s top Division III team each year. Martin has been recognized by his peers as Regional Coach of the Year 15 times while at Ohio Wesleyan and as National Coach of the Year in 1991, 1998, and 2011. His teams won an NCAA-record 18 consecutive Division III tournament berths from 1978-95. He is one of only four individuals to receive Ohio Collegiate Soccer Association’s Honor Award since the association’s founding in 1949. He received the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s Honor Award in 2007.
1. What are some of the most important qualities a person must have in order to become a successful soccer player. In other words, what character traits do you look for in recruits and how does this impact the overall soccer team?
There must be an acceptable level of skill/technique for the level of the team but the real trait that will determine how far the player will go is work rate/work ethic. Geoff Colvin says that talent is overrated. How many very talented players have we seen who never made it? They were the best at every age group. Success came easy. When they start playing other talented players they simply do not know how to compete. Give me a player with great work ethic and a lower skill level any day!
2. From a soccer standpoint, what are the most important qualities a player must possess in order to make an impact in the modern game? What catches your attention in a tryout or a while scouting for players?
As I mentioned previously work ethic is important. I think that focus and concentration are important and most players do not have that. The mental side of the game is huge. Again we do not as coaches focus on that area at all. I like to watch a player in warm ups. I can tell a great deal about a player BEFORE he plays. How serious is he? Is he preparing to play physically and mentally? When the whistle blows is he ready. I think the "change of pace" is very important. Do players have a good change of pace or are they playing underwater soccer. Does the player use his athleticism or rely on it??? There is a big difference here. In the USA our kids RELY on athleticism.
3. In your article entitled, "How To Coach Players For Game Intensity", you wrote on the importance of players understanding that soccer is a demanding game and at times players will need to play tired and sore and that is something that needs to be trained into them. How do you go about doing that with your teams without risking over-training and injury?
This is difficult. There is a very thin line between training and over training. Because if you push in practice hard every day, the players will move toward being over trained. And there is a difference between soreness and injury. Players must know what that difference is.
How do we train this? We time every activity (not drill) we do in training. For example, we will tell the players that we will play 3 v 3 for one minute three times.
We expect 100% effort. The 100% effort pushes the players toward the physical limit and the mentality grows that we need 100% every time. The coach must stick with what is said. i.e. if you say one minute, make it one minute then have some active rest i.e. juggle the ball etc. which will work on increasing focus and concentration
4. Related to the previous questions, what are some of your favorite ways of challenging the fitness level and mental toughness of your athletes?
Everything we do in training is competitive. Each session we have two teams and they compete in everything i.e. in a shooting activity which team - the reds or grays scores more goals. At the end of training there is a winner and loser. The winner gets a picture taken and hung in the locker room. The losers pick up the equipment, vacuum the locker room etc. This creates a very tough competitive environment
5. What do you feel the role of weight training plays in the development of the soccer player? Do your players lift weights and if so, what type of lifting do they do?
We have moved away from the traditional weight training. Our fitness coach uses one's own body weight as resistance. Our strength program combines strength, flexibility, speed etc. We are not interested in bulk weight training. We are interested in soccer fitness; not American football fitness.
Editors note: I am in full agreement that soccer players want to avoid unnecessary weight gain. The use of heavy weight-training does not necessarily mean that "bulk" or mass will be added, and at certain times of the year it can be beneficial to safely lift heavier weights. Generally away from the most important competitions, heavier weights (80-95% of max) with low rep ranges (2-6 reps) are an effective way to get stronger (related to sprint and jump ability) without adding mass. Of course, each athlete has different genetics which means some may hypertrophy more easily than others. Food intake is another factor often overlooked in not only mass gained, but what kind of mass one is gaining.
6. Which individuals, whether players or coaches in the game of soccer have had the greatest impact on you and why?
There have been many influences. We don't reach any level of expertise without help from others. I played three sports in college and look at my self as a coach not a soccer coach. My father was a huge influence. He set the tome through setting values for me that I adhere to today. My high school basketball coach introduced me to the art of coaching. The coaches and faculty at Springfield College had a great influence on me. I was introduced to all the SC coaches and could discern the good and the bad from each. I have had many players who have suggested different ways of doing different ways of doing certain things. I like to think I never stop learning. I read books about coaches from all sports. I can always find one or two things to take away from every book.
7. What is the most rewarding part of being a coach? What excites you about it the most?
The relationships developed over time have been sensational. The most exciting thing is trying to get a group of strong and independent young men to get on the same page; work together and reach common goals. That is exciting and is the challenge of coaching at any level.
For more information about Dr. Jay Martin and some great articles he has written, visit his website at www.drjaymartin.com.
Soccer in Brazil, oh how I love you. I want to start by addressing the 2014 World Cup and any left over Brazil haters. I was not a huge fan of the way the team performed, and I agree with many people that some of the player selection was confusing. However, Brazil (including the Brazilian soccer league) is already on top of it, and I am confident they will continue to produce some of the most exciting players in the World as they have been doing for years. It is no wonder people want to learn how to play like soccer like a Brasilian.
Yes, I do have a bias towards Brasil. As I mention below, I trained there for about a month, and I have family there in Sao Paulo. During the Holocaust in Germany, half of my Dad's side of the family went to China where they would spend 8 years before coming to the States, and half went to Brasil. I grew up getting Corinthians jerseys as gifts, hearing about the legend of Pele, and kicking the ball around with family who lived and breathed Brasilian futebol. Undoubtedly, there is something special about they way they play, and it is worthwhile to explore.
Between samba, futebol (soccer), capoeira, jui-jitsu, surfing, and now apparently Crossfit is becoming popular, the country of Brazil loves to move their bodies. For a moment, recall or Youtube the likes of Pele, Garrincha, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Robinbho, and more recently Neymar; all Brazilian star players with African decent. Not only do each of them have superb ball control and speed, but each plays the game with a powerful grace. When I was 21 years old I spent a month in Brazil training with various levels and almost never do I see players in America move the way they do in Brazil. Brasileiros not only love the ball and have high command over it, but it also has to do with how they contort their bodies around the ball.
Capoeira Back In The Day
"The ginga is the sway, the fluidity and the rhythm that seems to come naturally to Brazilians. It is an indescribable form of movement that only they seem to possess. It is the ginga that sets Brazilian players apart, and makes Brazil the legitimate possessor of Futebol-Arte (“Soccer-Art”).
History of Soccer
Historians and writers describe the birth of the ginga which arose from the historical mixture of the black, indigenous and the white populations, along with samba and capoeira.
The first soccer ball was brought to Brazil in 1894 by Charles Miller, a descendant of British migrants who came into contact with soccer during his education in England. In the beginning, soccer was only played by the white elite, but with time the poor and the afro-descendants started to participate more in the game. And what was one of the main activities practiced by the poor and the afro-descendants back in those days? Capoeira!
Antônio Risério, writer and special adviser to the Minister of Culture in Brazil, wrote in the article Futebol: Barroco-Mestiço1 how Brazilian people recreated soccer through a process of ethno cultural formation. This refers to the mixing of races, trickery, samba & capoeira. He says that a Brazilian’s body:
“was created in the gingas of samba and capoeira rodas, halfway between dance and fight, being now applied to soccer…samba & capoeira undoubtedly have the same base as our soccer. Everybody can see that. The way Brazilians play is invariably close to the movements of samba and capoeira.”
“…the gestural relationship between the repertoire of capoeira strikes and certain body movements of the Brazilian players is evident. The so called “bicycle kick” of Leônidas, for example, brings to memory the body spins in capoeira. And so does the dummy or feint, the slide tackle and the scissor kick.”
Risério also quoted the historian, teacher and Brazilian writer Joel Rufino, who wrote in the article Bola Brasilis published in the collective textbook Brazil Bom de Bola:
“…around the 1900’s, the Brazilian people had nothing. They only had their body and the street. When the authorities managed to eradicate [ or supress] capoeira, around the 1900’s, the people adopted soccer. Is capoeira ginga? Let us play soccer with ginga. Is capoeira dribbling? Let us make the dribble our main move.”
In the book “Introdução à Sociologia dos Desportos” (Introduction to the Sociology of Sport), João Lyra Filho2, asserts that capoeira:
“…is the forerunner of soccer as it is played in Brazil, between juggling and weavings that seem peculiar to mulattoes.”
“…in the mulattoes soccer game, as before, in the capoeira game, there is a lot of simulation and deception.”
With that being said, it is no wonder that when Zico, voted the third best soccer player in Brazil, coached the Japanese National team he appointed a capoeira instructor to teach the Japanese players how to ginga.
The nominated goalie for the 2014 Brazilian team, Jefferson, said in an interview that he used to play capoeira between the ages of 7 and 15 years old. He had to stop to dedicate himself fulltime to soccer. He also said that capoeira has helped him in his soccer game and he wants to go back to training capoeira once he retires."
O Rey Pele doing some Capoeira training.
Success in Soccer
Success in soccer and playing beautiful (joga bonito) requires more than skill. Start thinking of your body as a piece of art - a way of expressing your personality and character. I am not saying you have to sign up for Capoeira classes, although learning a couple of the moves can do wonders for your flexibility, grace, and help you prevent injuries as your body can go in and out of drastic positions with ease. At the very least, go take a dance class or go out dancing. As you learn to loosen up and add grace to your movements, your entire game will change for the better. But ultimately, I hope you start seeing the game and your body as more than just a sport where we play to get accolades and to win. Soccer is so much more than that. Every time you touch the ball whether it is the biggest game of your life to passing the ball with a relative, you are part of a game that has spanned the globe touching cultures and generations. Your individuality and the vastness that is the World's game.
My favorite moment from the film Pelada was this quote from Italian author Cristiano Cavina in his book Un’ultima stagione da esordienti (A final season for debutants, 2006) :
"This is what I’m going to think when I’m old. So then, seated on the traces of this circular life I notice a young boy who is alone. He is seated next to me, and I, finally old, would tell him of a fantastic championship and speak of the ball that can transform the weakest into Gibraltar. I would talk to him of the football god and the magic he confers. And the boy would be courageous enough to believe me and follow me into the dusty corners forgotten by the earth. Because there is a god for those football fields. Not for the big famous ones, but for the small ones in the provinces. And if you have the courage to believe in it football will give you much more than you can give it."
PS. If you're not subscribed to the blog, consider it. That way when I write more articles or come across things that can help your game and/life, you will get a friendly reminder.
Paleo and Soccer
We all saw Tim Howard destrominate at the World Cup in Brazil. Against Belgium he was a man possessed and kept the USA in the game with some breathtaking saves. He was moving like a cat. Guess what, Tim Howard follows the Paleo Diet.
You may have also heard about Lebron doing a version of the paleo diet, and articles like THIS being published with NBA superstars like Ray Allen, Derek Rose, and Blake Griffin espousing the benefits of the paleo diet.
Sure, many World Class players and athletes do not follow the paleo diet. However, the paleo diet is more than just a diet or a word that gets thrown around. It is also a lot more than a low carb diet. When one talks about paleo, certain questions come to the forefront of the conversation. Questions like what did our ancestors eat? What was their overall lifestyle in terms of sleeping, moving, and community? What kind of health conditions did our ancestors face compared to what we see today? How does what we put into our mouths versus what our ancestors put into their mouths impact our general health, our brain health, and our well being as not just athletes, but as human beings? Paleo on a whole considers all of those topics, but for this article I will focus mostly on food.
When most people think of the Paleo diet, they tend to associate it with the word "caveman". The debates continue about what our ancestors did and didn't eat, and whether or not they would have gotten cancer or other "man-made" diseases if they weren't eaten by lions, tigers, and bears. Personally, when I follow a version of the Paleo diet, I feel great, drop some excess L Bees, and my entire outlook on life seems to get better. It could be the placebo effect taking place, but after getting on and off the Paleo train so many times I think there is definitely something to it.
A lot of the top dawgs of paleo have their own ideas about what consists of the paleo diet and what doesn't. Some paleoists include dairy, and some don't. Some say some corn in certain versions and doses isn't so bad, and others have it smack dab in the "NO" column. I think each person needs to find what works best for them and that will certainly vary person to person. After reading a ton of books, articles, listening to podcasts, and interviewing Mark Sisson, I think the main take-aways from Paleo are as follows:
-avoid processed, artificial, and pseudo-foods
-eat tons of vegetables
-emphasize quality grass-fed meats and wild seafood
-You must "earn your carbs" as Charles Poliquin says
-when you do consume starchy carbs, avoid gluten and grains and eat "safer" starches like tubers and roots and white rice (and some versions of corn)
-make sure you eat enough healthy fat in the form of fish, nuts, avocados, certain oils, and the fat from quality meats (and even butter and full fat and fermented dairy)
Let us go into greater depth:
With so much emphasis on the need for carbohydrates in the form of starches, grains and sugars (breads, rice, pasta, cereal, potatoes) to fuel high level performance, athletes have been preventing themselves from transforming into the athletic monsters they have always dreamed of becoming. While some carbohydrates in the diet may be necessary to fuel the brain and muscles for high intensity athletic events over 1 hour, simple sugars (think Gatorade) and refined carbohydrates (think white rice or most breads) IN EXCESS, can be problematic.
Every type of carbohydrate eaten is eventually converted to a simple form of sugar known as glucose, either directly in the gut or after a brief visit to the liver. While glucose is a fuel your body uses for soccer, it is actually quite toxic in excess amounts unless it is being burned inside your cells. The body has a way of getting it out of the bloodstream quickly and storing it in those cells. It does this by having the liver and the muscles store some of the excess glucose as glycogen, the muscle fuel that aerobic exercise requires. Specialized beta cells in your pancreas send the extra glucose to the bloodstream after a meal and secrete insulin, a peptide hormone whose job it is to allow glucose (and fats and amino acids) to gain access to the interior of muscle and liver cells. But here‘s the catch: once those cells are full, as they are almost all the time with inactive people, the rest of the glucose is converted to fat. Insulin was one of the first hormones to evolve in living things. In the past when food was often scarce or non-existent for long periods of time, our bodies adapted to become incredibly efficient at storing fuel since the next meal wasn't a guarantee.
With excess carbohydrate intake, the insulin helps the glucose find its way into your fat cells where it is stored as fat. This action is also inflammatory to the joints and muscles and turns off muscle gene expression (muscle growth and fast twitch fiber conversion and performance). Many soccer players have been taught to try to add extra glycogen (stored glucose) before a game or tournament to extend the length of time they can produce high levels of work. They do this by consuming extra carbohydrates in the days prior to the event. Now you might be wondering if I am about to recommend a low carbohydrate diet for soccer players. No, I am not. I am however recommending a smart carbohydrate diet. Although for the general population I recommend a low carbohydrate diet with emphasis on consuming vegetables, fruits, lean meats and healthy fats, with hard soccer training your carbohydrate needs will increase. The key is discovering how many additional carbohydrate grams you need each day to refuel muscles, but also to keep insulin and fat storage to a minimum. If you don‘t take in enough carbohydrates you will not recover as effectively as possible and your next performance may suffer. If you ingest too many, inflammation and unnecessary weight-gain increase in likelihood. Depending on the length and intensity of your practices and games you‘ll need anywhere between 60-100 extra grams of carbohydrate each day per hour of intense training.
Overtime games or any intensive training sessions lasting over 90 minutes often call for added carb refueling during exercise. Drinking 10-20 grams of sugars every 15 minutes AFTER the first 60-90 minutes helps keep glucose in the bloodstream and thereby spares muscle glycogen. Any more than that and you run the risk of stomach upset. Sports drinks are probably the most efficient source for carb energy, electrolytes and hydration. Though a piece of fruit may work for some, eating solid foods during sport generally backfires.
EATING AFTER TRAINING AND MATCHES
There are many schools of thought regarding fuel intake after exercise ranging from not having anything for an hour after (to let phagocyte cells repair muscle damage that is possibly slowed by the ingestion of simple carbohydrates), to immediately eating carbohydrates and protein in a 3:1 ratio respectively. While I have tried not eating right after and I do find I recover a bit better especially in terms of muscle soreness, I think how soon after playing that you eat depends on how soon you have to perform again. If you are in a tournament and just played a game and you have another one in a few hours, eat as soon as possible so you have fuel for the second game and are more likely to be fully digested by the second game. It is true that immediately following a hard practice or game you‘re in an optimal period for glycogen refueling with much less chance of storing the carbohydrates as fat. The first hour is the best opportunity for glycogen storage, and many people give the ―ok‖ to refuel with simple (faster uptake) sugars. As you move past that first hour, it‘s good to include more complex carb sources. Ok, which carbohydrates should I eat then? It‘s best to avoid grain-products as much as possible when increasing carbohydrates.
Grain products include: • Amaranth • Barley • Brown rice • Bulgur (cracked wheat) • Whole-wheat pasta or couscous • Flaxseed • Millet • Oats • Quinoa • Rye • Spelt • Wheat berries • Wild rice
Some animals are clearly adapted to grain consumption. Birds, rodents, and some insects can deal with the anti-nutrients such as lectin, gluten, and phyate. Humans, however, cannot. Perhaps if grains represented a significant portion of our ancestral dietary history, things might be a bit different. Some of us can digest dairy, and we‘ve got the amylase enzyme present in our saliva to break down starches if need be, but we simply do not have the wiring necessary to mitigate the harmful effects found in grains.
-Lectins bind to insulin receptors and bind to human intestinal lining. They also cause leptin resistance. Leptin is the hormone that controls your appetite, so basically if you rely on grains too much you will require more food to turn off your hunger signal. This means cravings for more grain products that you don‘t need. Gluten might be even worse.
-Gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley, is a composite of the proteins giladin and glutenin. Gluten attacks your small intestines by destroying the villi (finger-like projections on the intestinal surface) and leads to the formation of tiny holes in your intestines. The result is that food particles leak into your bloodstream and your body‘s natural defense system sees these particles as ―foreign invaders.‖ This creates two major problems: 1. you can‘t absorb important nutrients, and 2. your body seems to attack itself.
-Phytates are a problem too, because they make minerals bio- unavailable. Claims about getting all of the healthy vitamins and minerals we need from whole grains are ludicrous marketing schemes. Think about it, Lucky Charm‘s markets themselves as a healthy whole grain product! Food companies and drug companies will say whatever they need to get boxes sold off of the shelves.
Here are some recommendations for carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and other fuel sources...
Carbohydrates Daily life
The best carbohydrate sources are vegetables and fruits. Bananas and mangoes have a high sugar content that can spike insulin and cause fat storage, but on hard training days do not worry about it.
Pregame or training meal (leave ample time to digest) and as main meal after game:
1st choices - Sweet potatoes, yams, baked potatoes, yucca, fruit.
2nd choices –Ezekiel bread, rice and sprouted corn tortillas.
3rd choices - Pastas and breads, oats, cereal. During and immediately post hard training or game - Sports drinks, bananas, dried fruits.
Eating a high protein diet will help our bodies create and maintain muscle mass. If there is ample glycogen and the body is getting the rest of its energy efficiently from fats, protein will always go first towards repair or building cells or enzymes. Best sources (all preferably organic and not processed) - fish, lean meats such as turkey, chicken, pork, grass fed beef, eggs, nuts, cheese, whey protein powder.
Fats They are the fuel of choice for daily life and should become the balance of your diet. Fats have little or no impact on insulin and, as a result, promote the burning of both dietary and stored (adipose) fat as fuel. Healthy fats also help alleviate depression and promote good mood.
Fat does not mean the fat that comes from cakes, donuts, and other garbage foods, but healthy fats such as the fat found in: Fish, nuts, avocados, coconut, whole eggs, butter, olive oil, chicken, lamb, beef, etc.
Other Fueling Tips for optimal performance
Make sure you are not full of food when you are playing. In a study on rats, scientists could only get subjects to run the wheel in a state of hunger. In a fed state, the rats would not run the wheel. Think of our ancestors- when they were on empty was when they went out on the hunt and were most active. If you have not fully digested your food, blood flow to the working muscles is decreased and it is likely you will feel and be slower than if you were fully digested. Blood flow to the working muscles is crucial for oxygen delivery and nervous system function. Personally, I play my best when I am hungry at the start of the match.
Here is a summary of research as well taken from www.healthyeatingharbor.com
(1) A randomized controlled trial with the Paleolithic and the Mediterranean diet showed that the former was more effective in improving insulin resistance and heart disease risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes.
The average amount by which the waist circumference shrunk in four different studies, measured in centimeters. Note that the studies differed in their length.
(2) People who had to follow a Paleolithic diet for 7 weeks observed improvements in their fasting and post-meal glucose blood levels, an increased insulin response, and considerably lower fasting plasma triglycerides.
(3) Healthy-weighted sedentary people who had to eat a Paleolithic diet for only 10 days, after a three day preparation diet which included increased fiber and K+, modestly but significantly reduced their blood pressure. Moreover, their caloric intake was controlled - they were not losing any weight yet observing these changes! Such reductions are associated with improved arterial distensibility.
This means their arteries were better at expanding and contracting under increased or decreased workload. There were also large significant reductions in LDL cholesterol (16%) and triglycerides (35%),they found no differences in HDL cholesterol. All of this was accompanied by a significant reduction in fasting plasma insulin concentrations (good) and improved insulin sensitivity (good).
Average reductions in blood pressure following the paleo diet for the same four studies.
(4) A randomized controlled trial included patients with either ischemic heart disease, glucose intolerance, or type 2 diabetes. They were divided into a Paleolithic and Mediterranean diet group for 12 weeks. In the Paleolithic group, glucose levels dropped by 26%, while in the Mediterranean group they dropped by 7%. Greater decreases in waist circumference were observed in the Paleolithic group (5,6 cm).
In the Mediterranean group it was lower (2,9 cm). And the most interesting thing is, the lower glucose levels were independent of the waist circumference reduction. The Paleolithic diet also appeared to bemore satiating. They consumed less food during the day. This could have been a consequence of a 31% decrease in leptin levels in the Paleolithic group, and a 18% decrease in the Mediterranean one.
(5) A comparison of the Paleolithic and the standard diet for diabetes showed that the former produced lower average levels of glycated hemoglobin, triglycerides, diastolic blood pressure, weight, waist circumference, and a higher average HDL cholesterol level. Not bad when we consider the other is the STANDARD diet for diabetes, huh?
Furthermore, fasting glucose and systolic blood pressure tended to decrease more with the Paleolithic diet. It was lower in total energy, energy density, carbs, and higher in unsaturated fatty acids, dietary cholesterol, and several vitamins. Moreover, it had a lower glycemic index than the diabetic diet.
Average decreases in triglycerides in the same four studies.
(6) In a study that lasted three months, there were noted improvements in glycemic control (0,4%) and several heart risk factors in the group of diabetes patients who consumed a Paleolithic diet, as opposed to the group who ate under the guideline of a standard diabetes diet. The Paleolithic diet was also observed to be less energy dense and more satiating. The satiety factor seems to occur in a few studies and can play a big role for certain people who would report feeling hungry when trying to lose weight.
(7) Recently, the first longitudinal study concerning itself with the Paleolithic diet, was released. Loren Cordain wrote about the study on The Paleo Diet. To keep it short: a randomized clinical trial that lasted2 years showed the superiority of this eating pattern once more.
This time it was compared to a low fat and high carb diet. It was observed to be better for losing weight at three different time intervals; three, six and twelve months. It was also better for losing body fat and waist circumference at six months. There were also greater improvements in triglycerides. Due to a smaller sample size it was hard to determine statistical significance.
However, there was a trend towards a better systolic blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol. It also resulted in a healthier eating pattern; increases in dietary protein, less carbs, more mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and with that more omega-3 fatty acids, and less omega-6 fatty acids. These changes are known to benefit our health by reducing the risk for the metabolic syndrome disease, different types of cancer and autoimmune diseases.
Average weight lost after the end of each study, measured in kilograms.
The last study
“But eating Paleo is really expensive”
It is possible to consume a Paleolithic diet given the constraints of the USA's thrifty food plan, which addresses the problem of consuming a healthy diet given a budget constraint. A Paleolithic diet with the same budget is nutritionally adequate, the only shortcoming is noted in calcium, fiber, and iron. However, keep in mind that the typical Western diet fails to hit the RDA for any micronutrient for 20 to 80% of the population, depending on the micronutrient.
The constraint was set at 3,89$, if it were lifted to 4,25$ per day, it would provide enough income for a Paleolithic diet that would meet all micronutrient standards except for calcium – this would represent a 9,3% necessary increase in income. Despite a lower calcium intake - net calcium balance in the body also depends on the systematic acid-base balance. The high amounts of fruits and vegetables in a Paleolithic diet are proposed to result in a positive calcium balance, despite a lower calcium intake. A high protein intake together with a high fruit and vegetable intake may improve dietary calcium absorption and whole body calcium retention.
There is information like this and more in my ebook, Soccer Strong: Physical Training, Nutrition, and Mindset for Serious Soccer Players.
Having access to a wall is so important when it comes to soccer training on your own. What better way to improve something like your first touch then by getting tons and tons of reps? Here are some drills I came up with using a soccer ball and a wall:
"I’d play out the front of the house, kicking the ball against the wall, left foot, right foot, over and over again. If you keep working on it, working on it, working on it, eventually it will come.” - Swansea Midfielder Jonjo Shelvey
A wall can be so many things if you use your imagination:
-a goal to shoot at
-a target forward to combine with
-an defender playing you the ball where you have to turn
-a teammate to use for a give and go
The list is endless with what you can do and how many ways you can challenge yourself. You can even grab a buddy and play 1v1 next to a wall where the wall is allowed to be used like it is in indoor soccer. Creativity really comes alive!
Bonus: just below is a link to an article on Neymar that was brought to my attention by a reader. It is definitely related to a few posts I have written HERE and HERE and HERE on the power of the mind, turning off our thoughts, and freeing ourselves up to truly play. According to Japanese researchers, when Neymar is playing he doesn't have a lot going on inside of his well groomed dome:
¨Before I make a mistake, I don´t make that mistake.¨
¨Footballers from the street are more important than trained coaches.¨
Johan Cruyff was a famous Dutch soccer player who also became a great coach for Barcelona. Many people credit him for coming up with the 4-3-3 and attacking style of football that Ajax and Barcelona play (and now many teams). He was extremely intelligent and was known speaking his mind and ruffling feathers. The Yogi Berra of soccer.
The Cruyff, or ¨Cruijff¨, depending on where you´re from, is a great cut or turn to create space and get away from defenders. It works really well afte faking a cross, shot, or long ball.
First, my take on the Cruyff:
Now watch the real master:
Fear and Soccer
When one operates out of fear, there are limits placed on self-expression. That goes for soccer performance, public speaking, writing...anything. When I play a game afraid of making mistakes, or worrying about what people think about how good I am or am not, I play a limited version of soccer. Living life in fear prevents us from taking risks and doing what the herd (not the wolf who makes their own rules, but one who follows society and trends) may call ¨impossible¨ or equally detrimental, ¨unrealistic¨. Playing afraid of making mistakes prevents us from evolving as players and is really a paradox, since soccer is a game created for fun and as a way for human beings to get exercise, socialize, compete, and express themselves.
I have written in the past about the power of the mind, meditation, and losing oneself in the moment as a practice. The idea that the mind can be trained like a muscle, and the more frequently we learn to ignore inhibiting thoughts that creep into our heads the sooner we can clear our minds and be free. Free the mind and the body becomes a different entity as well. Anger and being loose, a vital aspect of skill application in sports, go together like peanut butter and onions. They don´t.
Below are some quotes from Bruce Lee. He really was so ahead of his time.
Bruce Lee on fighting which can be analogous to playing soccer:
"A good martial artist does not become tense, but ready. Not thinking, yet not dreaming. Ready for whatever may come. When the opponent expands, I contract; and when he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, "I" do not hit, "it" hits all by itself."
Bruce Lee on Death. It is pretty heavy stuff (which I love):
"Of course you’re there. Death is always there. So why was I afraid? Your leap is swift. Your claws are sharp and merciful. What can you take from me which is not already yours? . . . Everything I have done until now has been fruitless. It has led to nothing. There was no other path except that it led to nothing — and before me now there is only one real fact — Death. The truth I have been seeking — this truth is Death. Yet Death is also a seeker. Forever seeking me. So — we have met at last. And I am prepared. I am at peace. Because I will conquer death with death."
From the book, Art of Expressing The Human Body, there’s this little story about Bruce Lee, arguably the greatest martial artist that ever lived, during a training run told by John Little, a close friend of Bruce:
“Bruce had me up to three miles a day, really at a good pace. We’d run the three miles in twenty-one or twenty-two minutes. Just under eight minutes a mile [Note: when running on his own in 1968, Lee would get his time down to six-and-a half minutes per mile]. So this morning he said to me “We’re going to go five.” I said, “Bruce, I can’t go five. I’m a helluva lot older than you are, and I can’t do five.” He said, “When we get to three, we’ll shift gears and it’s only two more and you’ll do it.” I said “Okay, hell, I’ll go for it.” So we get to three, we go into the fourth mile and I’m okay for three or four minutes, and then I really begin to give out. I’m tired, my heart’s pounding, I can’t go any more and so I say to him, “Bruce if I run any more,” –and we’re still running-”if I run any more I’m liable to have a heart attack and die.” He said, “Then die.” It made me so mad that I went the full five miles. Afterward I went to the shower and then I wanted to talk to him about it. I said, you know, “Why did you say that?” He said, “Because you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”
A great video that can change your life:
Speaking of the power of the mind, below is the link to a great article on Fatigue and how it works. First, a quote from the article:
“time to exhaustion” trials are a well-established method of measuring the limits of physical endurance, but in this case the experiment also had a hidden psychological component. As the cyclists pedalled, a screen in front of them periodically flashed images of happy or sad faces in imperceptible sixteen-millisecond bursts, ten to twenty times shorter than a typical blink. The cyclists who were shown sad faces rode, on average, twenty-two minutes and twenty-two seconds. Those who were shown happy faces rode for three minutes longer and reported less of a sense of exertion. In a second experiment, the researchers demonstrated that subliminal action words (GO, LIVELY) could boost a subject’s cycling performance by seventeen per cent over inaction words (TOIL, SLEEP).
The 10 Soccer Mom and Dad Commandments
I should preface this by saying that I do not have kids. I have great respect, sympathy, and sometimes even envy of the parents who get to watch their sons or daughters compete in the beautiful game. Despite the fact that I lack the experience of raising kids and navigating the highs, lows, and dedication to their athletic endeavors, I have been a player for many years and I have experience coaching at almost every level from under-10 to the college level. Therefore, I consider myself a credible source to discuss the following.
1. Thou shalt know a little bit about the sport
Many kids probably weren't thrilled about learning history in school. As one matures, the relevance of the past start makes sense. I think knowing a little bit about the game of soccer is important for parents (especially Americans), since it is the most popular sport in the world, rich with traditions.
Modern soccer first began in 1863 in London. FIFA (yes, one of those 'F's stands for Football) , the world's governing body of the sport, was formed in 1904 and the first World Cup was in Uruguay in 1930. The World Cup occurs every four years, like the Olympic Games, and countries have to qualify outside of the host country. Soccer is played 11 versus 11, unless a player is ejected with a red card occurring form a flagrant foul or misconduct (like peeing on the field- don't ask how I know that). A red card can also be issued after 2 yellow cards with the second yellow being equal to a red. Outside of the goalkeeper and "throw-ins", which occur after the ball goes out of bounds on the sideline, no hands are allowed.
2. Thou shalt not force thy son or daughter to play soccer
If your son or daughter just isn't one of those kids who love soccer, so be it. On the other hand, if they get more excited about the FIFA Soccer video game than playing the real thing, then your kid is just lazy. Perhaps soccer will grow on them over time and by all means, teaching your children commitment by explaining why it is important to play out a season is a lesson worth teaching. But after awhile, if they are miserable and they show healthy interest in other sports or hobbies, accepting that and supporting them in other pursuits is the way to go. Or trick them into playing soccer by offering them candy and money. That's what I would do.
3. Thou shalt be realistic about thy son or daughter's ability
I've seen this work both ways; the parent who think their child is All World when they are clearly not, and the parent who thinks their kid sucks when they are actually pretty good. Mostly, it is the former, as who in their right mind would deny a miniature version of themselves isn't amazing at every opportunity. Watch the egos. In rare cases, being the parent who also acts as the hard-ass coach or brutal critic thinking it breeds toughness can work well in some cases, but it comes at a price. Look at the Marinovich family. Watch the Denzel Washington movie He Got Game. Unresolved issues in the parent lead to issues in the children. Keep your sh-t together. If you feel high levels of frustration or adequacy issues come up around your kid's soccer experience, look within. Or drink beer. Beer works really well.
4. Thou shalt not coach thy son or daughter during games or practices
As far as coaching as a parent during games, it is not a fun experience for your child to hear his parent barking instructions or suggestions while they are trying to focus. Like the baseball legend Yogi Berra said, "How can you think and hit at the same time?' Save healthy dialogue about the sport for for the car ride home, if at all. And only feed them if they played well.
5. Thou shalt not engage in negativity about other players or coaches with thy son or daughter
Speaking poorly about others is easy to fall into because it can serve as a form of entertainment. It is also a way to pass off responsibility. Being impeccable with one's word goes beyond not talking trash about others, it means taking ownership of every situation and reaction. Whining, complaining, gossiping; while they may sell magazines and increase television ratings, they don't equate to success in soccer or life.
6. Thou shalt encourage thy son or daughter to discuss matters related to the coach on their own
This is a big one. It is nice to stand in your son or daughter's corner and prove to them you will fight for their rights, but by the age playing time becomes a factor, your child is likely minimum 10 years old. I have coached 10 year olds, and they are pretty damn smart. Encourage your son or daughter to talk to the coach on their own about playing time. If that doesn't work out, then you can step in and talk to the coach. I have seen parents of high school kids speak to the coach on behalf of their child's playing time. Are you going to ask their dates out for them too? Ultimately, like dates, playing time is something that must be earned.
7. Thou shalt not treat thy son or daughter differently based on performance in soccer
No jokes here. Don't be an asshole.
8. Thou shalt not be excessively cheerful for thy son or daughter during matches
This one is tricky. Yes, be a proud parent and encourage your children. I am not telling anyone not to be fans of your own. However, when excessive compliments and celebrations come from one's own parent on a regular basis it breeds a form of narcissism. Act like you've both been there before. Tell your son or daughter they played great and that they were outstanding in private. And get that damn bumper sticker off the minivan. No one gives a sh-t your kid was student the month. Consider the parents and kids who aren't having a dominating performance on the day, or never win student of the month. We are in this world together. In my experience, at all levels the strongest teams have parents who publicly support other children's success as much as their own.
9. Thou shalt attend soccer games regularly, but not obsessively
The younger your kids are, the more you show up. The little critters need to know you care. I know your yoga classes and boozy brunches are important, but so is your kid. So show up. But not every time and don't be a nut job about it. It is just a sport. Take solace in knowing that many of the best players in the world leave their families at young ages to play for big clubs. When an athlete competes without a fan club, it is an opportunity to learn self-validation and an autonomous love for the game.
10. Thou shalt not say ignorant things during the game
Please distinguish yourselves from those parents cheering on big kicks up the field. Never say "nice kick" Ever. "Nice shot", "great pass", "what a ball"...those are fine. Stick to those. The ball is meant to kept and enjoyed, not kicked away to the opponent. Most successful countries and players enjoy their skill with the soccer ball. Kicking the ball up the field, while visually impressive and possibly effective at younger ages, does nothing to advance your child's skill level.