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“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” This skill, summed up by Vince Lombardi, is one of many lessons kids learn when they play sports. These experiences, whether learned through practice, winning, losing, forming team friendships, etc., can help shape who your child becomes in every other area of their life. Consider using the ideas below to make sure they learn and apply these important lessons.
Exercising, making friends, improving skills—soccer provides the perfect recipe for building confidence. Converting a weakness into a strength is a big part of building morale. Instill confidence in your players by creating an atmosphere of respect on and off the field, offering constructive criticism, being approachable, and giving sincere praise. Increased tenacity can help them play better, work harder, and persevere through hard things.
What’s one thing every athlete knows? They know how it feels to win and lose. Help your players learn to swallow their pride. Show them how to win with gratitude and lose with grace—especially in practice; habits like these are built before the game whistle blows. Also, try incorporating team building opportunities into practice to teach humility. When players help each other individually, the entire team benefits.
Whether a player is trying to figure out how to make their way around a determined defender or improve their dribbling, problem solving is a constant part of soccer. Invite your players to talk about problems they encounter on the field and brainstorm ways to solve them. This skill can translate into other areas of their lives. For example, Joe, Briganti, founder of SockIt, recognized his daughters and their teammates had trouble remembering to apply correct techniques to their kicking. That’s where the idea for SockIt came from. I used it as a tool to show my girls how we can find a solution to this problem. They’ve helped develop SockIt every step of the way. Understanding this life skill will help empower your players and show them they have the ability to grow and change.
Making mistakes is part of the process of developing skills, and results come by learning from these mistakes and continuing forward with a strong work ethic. Your kids may come home from practice expressing their frustrations that they missed a goal or still haven’t perfected their defensive footwork. Recognize that these conversations are opportunities to show them that if they keep working at it, they can find success. Mistakes and weaknesses are opportunities for growth.
This is a big one for team building. If you have players that aren’t aware of their position on the field in relation to other players, don’t understand how their negativity impacts the team or fail to consider how their actions affect other players, then it might be time to teach self-awareness. Soccer is a competitive sport, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of being aware of the feelings of others or adopting a humble mindset. This applies to the workplace, school, home, and anywhere else in life.
When you love something, you commit to it. When a soccer player loves the sport, he or she will spend time studying it, playing it, and watching it. Remind your players what it means to be committed. Thank them when they show up on time, help their teammates, give 110 percent in practice, and eat right. They’ll soon learn to do the same with other commitments in their lives.
Every day presents new ways to learn and teach life skills. You’re helping mold who these kids will be as teenagers, adults, community members, and parents. There is no better way to show them how to be the best they can be than by applying these principles while they’re on the field.