Student-athletes are faced with bevy of daunting challenges on and off the field as their soccer careers progress through high school and beyond. While technical and tactical mastery are crucial factors in an athlete’s long-term success, knowing how to create a positive player-coach relationship can also have an enormous impact on a player’s career and their enjoyment of the sport.
By the time they reach high school, student-athletes should be mature enough to hold themselves accountable for their performance both on and off the field. In particular, players should strive to develop an attitude of positive accountability that includes proactive problem-solving during challenging situations. If you’re a high school-aged competitor dealing with a difficult player-coach relationship, here are some guidelines to help you navigate the situation and emerge confident and resilient.
Work Hard in Every Situation
Demonstrate your commitment to developing and improving, and don’t hold anything back in training or during games. If you’re giving your all and still receive negative feedback or “constructive criticism” from your coach, take time to reflect before you get defensive: Is the coach’s feedback accurate? Do you know what your strengths and weaknesses are as a player? In what areas do you need to improve?
Listen and Remain Calm
It can be hard to hear negative feedback, but try to keep your emotions in check. If you find yourself getting upset or angry at your coach’s comments take a moment to detach emotionally and try to calm down. Then ask yourself: Have I met the challenges the coach has given me over a period of time? Have I responded well to adversity? Have I been willing to come out of my comfort zone? If you’re honest in your self-assessment, you may find areas of your game that need improvement.
Whether you love or hate the coach’s feedback, try not to overthink it – and don’t let it bring you down emotionally. Feedback is almost never personal; your job is to simply incorporate the coach’s advice into your game and move on. Also keep in mind that every challenge presents an opportunity for you to demonstrate leadership and serve as a positive example for your teammates.
If you’ve honestly evaluated your own accountability and are still unsure how to move forward, schedule a meeting with your coach to discuss your challenges and concerns. At the meeting, start by taking responsibility for your performance without blaming teammates of coaches. Remember that the coach knows the game better than you and can see things you may be unaware of. Rather than getting defensive or making excuses, try to keep an open mind and ask questions to understand where your coach is coming from.
Feeling like you’re at odds with your coach can be tough to deal with but remember that strong relationships are built on trust, mutual respect and open communication. While there are situations – such as feeling physically or emotionally unsafe with your coach – that you should never put up with, most conflicts you’ll encounter with a coach can be vastly improved by taking ownership of your role and making an effort to adapt and incorporate your coach’s advice.
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach him at email@example.com.