The Footballer's Swag

In this post, I will discuss my disdain for what I call "the baller's swag".  I see it so much these days, even in little kids.  I think a  little swag or confident body language helps with peak performance, but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the laziness or "too cool to work hard" swag. 



Before we get into swag, lets talk about the transfer of sports training a little bit. When it comes to the  transfer of fitness and exercises in training to games, the martial arts is a good place to look.  Wrestlers, grapplers, and judoka can scrimmage or "spar" as hard as they want in practice as they can in a match since there is little risk of injuring someone.  In contrast, disciplines like boxing, kickboxing, karate, and other striking arts, even with protective gear, athletes rarely train full out to avoid injuring each other with hard blows. Until someone finally "steps into the ring", there will be unanswered questions about how tired they will get, or if they pack the punch to knock someone out or cause damage.  Fortunately in soccer, we can scrimmage full out.  But what about all the times we are not scrimmaging

I am sure you've heard the following comments from your coaches, and if you are a coach, you have frustratingly said these very words to your teams and soccer athletes...

"Train like you're in the game"

"Train with game intensity"

"Train at game speed"

"Get on the line" (that means the coach is pissed and you're doing sprints now)

And so on.  

I have coached various ages and levels over the years and intensity in training or the lack thereof  has become transparent to me over the years.  I can easily tell when an athlete is nonchalant in the warm up, going in 2nd gear versus 5th during technical work, or cautiously  crossing a ball or safely taking their preparation touch in a  crossing or finishing exercise to avoid making a mistake (usually the time between touches is the indicator).  


 The best players who make the most impressive progress and stay healthy are the ones who treat every aspect of training from the warm up to the cool down with focus and bring the intensity of the game to each exercise.

Here are a few indications I use to show me that the intensity in training is there:

-eye contact and nodding heads during instruction between exercises


-body language during training- chest up, bent at the waist, and on the toes versus flat-footed and standing tall

-minimal time between the receiving touch and the next one, especially if the next one is a shot or pass

-checking the shoulder during volleys or any time the ball is coming towards the player

-mistakes- yes, more mistakes if training on the edge of the comfort zone

-elevated heart rates and breathing

Lack of these things piss me off. I don't take it personally, but I see it as a waste of time.  I often will tease athletes that they have to earn their "baller's swagger" and that last time I checked their names are not Messi or (insert other favorite soccer players).  They usually chuckle and sometimes I see a change, and sometimes I don't. But ultimately, the best of the best are intrinsically motivated, and that my friends, is hard to teach. 

Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is intrinsically rewarding. This contrasts with extrinsic motivation, which involves engaging in a behavior in order to earn external rewards or avoid punishments.


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