Sean Gaffney - Soccer Notes
Feedback or Not
Does my feedback help or hurt the team? We all have different behavioral styles and ways of expressing ourselves. How do we learn to give the right kind of feedback to teammates? Do you know when your feedback is helpful and when it is not?
When we react to events in the heat of a game, we usually react instinctively. Our individual behavioral styles (something you can learn about with the our DISC profile) in combination with our emotions determine how we act. This combination is a powerful force, and unless we have trained ourselves to understand our style and to manage our emotions, we are at the mercy of our habits, for better or worse.
I was reminded about this in a recent game. I was playing well, working hard, focused on the play, attacking the goal and creating opportunities to score. After several mistakes by teammates, I got frustrated and started to let it show.
I let my negative feedback fly, adding to the worsening team atmosphere that was already getting tight and restricted. People began playing very stiff, uncreative soccer. What was the state of our Mental Game?
With no voices of positive reinforcement to balance the strong negative feedback loop that was being created, we were creating the perfect atmosphere for failure. Even though we were able to finish with a win, we did not enjoy the game and left the field without our usual camaraderie and high spirits.
I often pride myself on my sportsmanship and positive attitude on the field, but I was genuinely upset and was letting my defenders and midfielders know it. At the time, it felt like the right thing to do. They needed to get their act together and I felt like telling them all about it. But was that really helping the situation?
We were playing a team that we could not afford to give any room, and it was a difficult battle for all of us. I shrugged off the initial requests to "be more positive," feeling justified in "encouraging" my teammates with harsh and untimely advice.
The Coach Steps In
It took our coach pulling me aside and commenting on my behavior to help me see what was happening. While there were changes that needed to be made, we had our best team on the field and needed at that moment to relax and support each other, regain our composure and relieve the pressure that had been created by the mistakes. To put it simply, our players needed encouragement and I was being far from encouraging. I had slipped into bad habits and had lost track of my Mental Game.
How often have you seen this happen? Negative feedback can be targeted at our teammates or ourselves (negative self-talk), and it rarely helps the situation to improve. How do we create habits of positive self-talk and appropriate feedback to teammates?
The first step to making a change is noticing that there is something that needs to change. We must first learn to recognize our behavior. Watch yourself. Notice how you speak to yourself after mistakes. How do you speak to your teammates? Are you able to be the type of player that you would want on your team? Be honest.
If there is room for improvement in this arena, make it a goal to be an encouraging and positive influence on the team. Many players play better when they are mad, but we need to balance our better play with the overall health of the team. Focus on this before practice and games and notice how it affects your experience of the game and the team atmosphere. Can you be more positive and still be competitive? Try it out and see. Can you channel that anger toward an appropriate target that will actually help improve the chances of winning?
Become a student of your mental game. Notice the things that you do. The more that you can see yourself, the better you will get at making the changes that you need to make to succeed.
For more information about our system of developing the whole Mental Game, our Mental Game Profiles, and our Mental Game coaching services, please visit us at www.6dsports.com. Thanks, and have fun!
CPBA, CPVA, Certified Sports Axiologist
Six Dimensions Sports Consulting
Sean's Soccer Notes
From the Heart
I have always played with a lot of passion, but I never had a "mental game." I am changing that. I still play with heart, but I am also learning to play smart.
It was clear from an early age that soccer was my sport. Every time I stepped foot on a field. I was quick, had good skills, was always ready to play, and knew how to find the back of the net. I loved it and never thought twice about laying it all on the line in practice and games. I worked and played with all of my heart, but how strong was my mental game?
During my career I enjoyed a moderate level of success, especially since I lacked decent coaching (football coaches and untrained Dads) and never saw a pro soccer game until I was 14. In high school I was all-conference, all-region, and a hair away from the Texas all-state team. I played striker for four years on a Division 3 college team. We never made the NCAA tournament, but we won our conference and played like we meant it. In college I received honors for all-conference three times and narrowly missed the all-American team my junior and senior years. I was asked to play on the local professional team after my senior season where I played for two years.
The Mental Game? What's that?
All of that training, all of those hours working on fitness and skills; not once did I hear the term "Mental Game." Not once did a coach direct me to write down goals, improve my understanding of the game, or train my ability to find my Peak Level of performance. We were asked to play with intensity, to hustle, to try our best; that I consider playing with "heart" and having a good attitude. These are essential for an athlete, but it is not the same as having the mental skill set needed to succeed at higher levels.
In college, we played under the guidance of an enthusiastic young English coach who had a skill for motivating people with humor and amateur sports psychology, but he had no consistent system for improving our "Mental Game." There was no fine tuning available, no tools to move beyond the current level and find Optimal performance or the elusive "Zone" that great athletes access regularly. In the professional leagues, it was no better. We were left on our own to focus and motivate. The level of play increased, but our mental games floundered, and no one had a clue what to do about it. Attitudes flared, egos clashed, and though the skill levels had improved, the camaraderie and fun had gone away.
What we needed, what I needed, I did not discover until I returned to soccer after an 8 year break. When I stepped back on the field, my skills and fitness had gone way south, but I had learned a few things that came in handy. I had been studying yoga, nutrition, and the healing arts and I understood the concepts of self-reflection, breath control, and the power of the mind. Little did I know that these were the very things that champion athletes had been using since the Soviets and East Germans revolutionized athletic training in the 1980's, but they were not yet widely known in any but the most elite sports circles.
My "mental game" really began to come into focus when I took the Pro-Sports Profile (http://www.6dsports.com/psp) and learned that the mental game can be measured very accurately. This tool taught me the power of "six dimensions" thinking and the science of axiology. Using sports axiology (the Pro-Sports Profile) in combination with the sports psychology tools that we have put into our Mental Game Journal, it became incredibly clear that this is a combination that people should know about. My family and I (all athletes from birth) are teaching athletes at all levels how to use these tools to improve their levels of achievement and satisfaction as athletes (these tools and their use reach far beyond the field as well).
It's a whole new ball game
I am now 37 years old and I feel like my soccer career has just begun. My goals are different than they would be if I were an 18 year old, but what I gain from being in shape, competing, leaving it all on the field, and finding my current "peak" level of performance is no less exciting and fulfilling now.
I will keep you posted on how the upcoming season goes as I complete my first season using the new and improved Six Dimensions Mental Game Journal.
Please visit our website at Home and remember that we offer targeted profiles for many sports, the journal, and personal sports axiology coaching. Be good. Play smart.