Maximize Your Team’s Success At Tournaments
This past Columbus Day weekend I supported teams during the Alexandria Soccer Association (ASA) Columbus Day Tournament. They hosted over 200 matches in a three-day period.
The excitement of close matches, goal scoring, questionable calls and injuries meant plenty of action as well as challenges. While there was plenty of fun, it felt chaotic at times - which bring me to the three mental strategies coaches can use to maximize your team’s success in any tournament.
Remind your team to take it one game at a time. This might seem obvious, but the chatter from players dreaming of first place after one win in the tournament is a real thing. It’s especially detracting right before the next game - pulling attention away from the game plan. Once one athlete starts, it can become a domino effect bringing others into the future dream-trap. It’s also easy to rekindle poor past game performance- another mental energy waster.
Athletes need to be ALL-IN for the game in front of them. Be diligent with your parents too, they can start talking placement, feeding the forecast convo. Continually remind your team that only the game that matters is the one in front of them now. That way all their mental juices can hone-in on the win! Tournament results will take care of themselves when teams take it one step at a time..
Have a planned team response when goals get scored for and against your team. Have you ever seen a game where the underdog gets an early goal and is winning by half-time but can’t keep the lead? The stronger, opposing team scores in the second half, and within seconds there’s a wave of renewed confidence as the team smashes in another goal. In a blink of an eye, the game flipped from 1-0 to 1-2! Scoring goals is one of the most exciting parts of the game. Seconds after are also the most vulnerable for teams not mentally prepared for the wave of emotion that happens. Too often, I see a team fight for a tying or winning goal. Once they score your team can get caught off-guard if unprepared for the opposition’s immediate fierceness to equalize or win the game.
To prepare, have a “Mindset Huddle” with your team during practice. Talk about the best mindset that is needed immediately after a goal - especially in closely matched games. When you mentally prepare your team to stay on their toes and fight harder, you’ll be able to put more points on the scoreboard, regardless of which team just scored.
Be clear on what “get ready” means for subs stepping off the bench. Subbing throughout the game is a good practice. It maximizes playing time, keeps legs fresh and builds team morale. Most coaches tell their players “Get ready” 2-3 minutes before they step onto the field. Normally it means, warm up and get loose.
What if you added a mental readiness step to the equation? It will
sure to give your team a bigger boost as subs enter the game. In one match, I did this with the five subs who were about to jump back into a losing match of 0-1 with 10 minutes left. Our mental readiness only took 60 seconds and the players gave their teammates a re-energized focus on the field. Two minutes later the team scored! They ultimately tied the game.
Naturally, when youth and high school players are on the bench their conversations dart all over the place. Putting them back into a game without a 60 second mental readiness step is a missed opportunity. So broaden the meaning “get ready” with your players. It’s a physical and mental readiness to give your team an extra element of fresh legs and laser focus.
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