Last Wednesday night my son’s soccer team had a guest coach, Mario, a professionally liscenced coach from Columbia. He spoke very little English, but had the benefit of a translator. Not was not the story of his training. Despite an obvious language barrier, Mario had no trouble getting the players involved and motivated in what was probably the team’s best training session of the year. The sheer force of his enthusiasm flooded the field and filled the players with energy. The session was fast-paced with constant movement and one minute water breaks. There was simply no time for players to linger or lose momentum in what he wanted them to do, and his watchful eye kept each player on edge that his rep was being watched, evaluated and ultimately important. I took three specific things from the training.
First, Mario immediately singled out three players for critique. My son for failing to wear shin guards. He fired three passes to another player, and critiqued his first touch on the ball and failure to lift his head. Finally, he critiqued the keeper’s technique in securing high balls, noting that the keeper had been trained a specifc way to catch the ball, but spontaneously before him, had caught the ball five different ways in five tries. These demonstrations which took 2-3 minutes tops, established his knowledge of the game and established credibility.
Well into the session, Mario asked each player to put his hand in front of his face with three fingers extended horizontally. Each player was then asked to spread the extended fingers. Mario explained that each day, as a player, you are one of the three fingers. You go up and get better, you remain the same or you go down. It is your choice as the player as to which finger you will be.
Finally, Mario spoke of the Five Attributes of the Player: physical, technical, tactical, psychological and theory. Physical is your fitness, speed, strength, size. Technical is your skill with the ball, without the ball, dribbling, passing, shooting and defending. Tactical is your understanding of how the game is played, your role in the larger scheme of your team. Psychological is mental strength, discipline, resilience in the face of adversity. Theory is your historical understanding of the game you play. ( I dazzled the assembled team by correctly answering that the first World Cup was played in 1930 and won by Uruguay). Success as a player is found in understanding these five attributes and cultivating them on a daily basis.