Coach Brian here. We are happy to introduce our first of what is planned to be a monthly email/blog series discussing certain topics, issues, and opportunities we believe will benefit our club’s players. This first one considers the four things, we believe, our players can control to optimize their performance and improve their chances for success: CARE – Courage, Attitude, Response, Effort.

Of course, we all know there are many things that are beyond our players’ control. They can’t control mother nature and all that it brings: the snow, ice, heat, rain, wind, etc. Players can’t control the state of the pitch, especially the condition of certain grass fields; nor can they control the innumerable obstacles that may arise on their way to a game or training session – like their parent’s car getting a flat tire. Most of all, and often frustratingly so, they can’t control a referees’ decisions. The list goes on, but fortunately, we believe that there are four key aspects that our players can control, and by this, we ask our players to CARE.

The four things our players can control based on our acronym CARE:

C – Takes on the meaning of Courage. It takes courage to play a sport. It takes courage to play soccer, to go in for a tackle or up for a head ball, and it takes courage to have the confidence to first make a creative decision on the ball before it can ultimately be successful. You must be courageous when you come to training or a game to play freely without the fear of making a mistake and knowing that, if you do, it is okay and only part of the learning process. Be willing to try a new skill or technique at training even if it might not go your way at first; you might fail, you might not, but you will learn and be better off from the experience. You can control your courage. When you do, it shows through your performance, and a trainer, coach, or college coach can tell and takes a mental note of it.

A – Means Attitude. Regardless of what may be going on outside of your soccer life, when you step onto the field for a training session or a game, you can control your attitude. You must bring a positive attitude along with you and put all those other emotions aside. Having a positive attitude shows through your body language, how you carry yourself, and how you interact with your teammates. Employing that positive attitude and mentality will lead to better performances in training and games, improve your development, and help you realize that your soccer goals are achievable. Consider Attitude if you find yourself struggling, or notice “ups and downs” in your game or development. A positive attitude reflects a good mentality, so if you can consistently remain positive with yourself and teammates, good things will happen to you on the soccer field and beyond.

R – Stands for Response. This one for us is huge. You can control your response to both the good and bad things that happen on the training field or in a game. How fast can you get over a mistake and move on to the next play? How fast can you recover the ball if you or a teammate loses possession? How fast can you respond after making a great pass so that you can move into the next position to get the ball back again? How fast can you respond proactively when an opponent scores a goal on your team? Your response and ability to get over the last play quickly helps you to be prepared and more effective in the next play. Soccer is one of the most situational-based games in the world where the game continually asks you as a player, “if this, then what?” You must constantly and consistently respond to those situations, and how you respond contributes to your success.

E – The most obvious one of them all: Effort. When coaching us, my father used to tell my teammates and me, “Some days you’re just not going to have it and you won’t make good decisions; but, never let a coach, teammate, fan, or observer question your effort.” I take that statement with me in all that I do. You might have a bad day, your first touch may be a bit off, your passing isn’t as clean as it usually is, or you keep missing shots just wide; no matter what is going on in the game, always make sure your effort is unquestionable. A sound, consistent effort will inspire and raise the level of those around you, while also helping you to persevere through more difficult spells and get you back on track. Coaches understand when you are having a bad day – most likely they’ve been there before themselves – but as soon as they sense that your effort isn’t there on either the attacking or defensive side of the ball, it may warrant their decision to take you off the field. While we don’t expect perfection from our players, we can expect an effort; and if you are willing to give that, you will be better served in the long run.

There is certainly a connection between each of the CARE attributes. They are not independent of each other. For example, when I ask our players what the letter “C” means in CARE, they most often respond, “commitment”. Then I ask, “What if you’re a committed player, plan on going to a game or training session, and something happens out of your control that prohibits you from attending that game or session? Does that make you less committed?” We don’t believe it does. Sometimes things happen in life that are out of our control and can affect commitments, but it doesn’t make us any less committed. Rather, for us, your commitment is reflected through your CARE – having courage; a positive attitude; a constructive, proactive response to what is happening around you; and a maintaining a consistent, unwavering effort.

I also ask our players, “Why are the best players in the world, the best players in the world?” The majority tell me it is because of their talent, the way they take care of their body, or their mentality. I agree with all of them, but it’s kind of a trick question. The best players in the world consistently CARE so that they remain the best.

All in all, if you too can consistently CARE about your game, you will improve yourself, increase your chances for success, have a more enjoyable experience, and be better served on and off the field. It’s inevitable, and it starts by creating a personal environment for yourself where you are mindful to take control of your courage, attitude, response, and effort. If you want to improve, then put a 100% into those four categories, all the time!

See you on the field,

Coach Brian Thomsen
Technical Director & Head Coach
Next Level Soccer Academy