What do you think it is? Speed? Ball Control? Athletic Skills?
Or what about mental skills? Drive, Desire, Hard Work?
All of them are important. Very important. But to me, the most important skill a kid or adult can have is resiliency. The ability to bounce back. The ability to deal with frustration, aggravation, fear and failure.
To me, that is the most important trait.
Problems, difficulties, failure and plateaus always happen.
It’s what we do when we encounter them that is what separates the best from the middle of the pack.
Some kids want to quit. Some kids do quit…at least temporarily.
Others act out. They might yell, scream or pout. I’ve seen kids take it out on themselves, their parents, the coach and their teammates.
None of those responses are appropriate but they are common. Its not even the end of the world if they happen.
What the coach, teacher or parent needs to do is to first prepare the team and kids BEFORE the problem occurs. Let them know that there will be setbacks. Talk about it before practice, during practice and after practice.
You can even have practices where the entire team will fail or not succeed on a goal. This would be with a more mature or older team. Don’t try this with U8’s. But a good team of U12’s might be able to handle it.
Failure might be to perform a skill at a higher level than they are capable of. It might be a soccer conditioning or fitness test. After they fail, talk about the importance of being resilient and coming back. Failure and frustration are a part of life. They have to learn to deal with it, accept it and then move on.
If a soccer player is blowing out, don’t yell at them at the time. Remove them from the field, and let them calm down. When they are calm, then you can start to teach them what they should do the next time they get frustrated.
Also, coaches need to model good resilient behavior. Screaming at the officials or the team, being out of control emotionally is not good modeling. And when you notice yourself losing it, refocus and come back centered.
Kids and people are different. We are born with different traits, skills and families. Some situations might be more conducive to being resilient.
But all kids can learn to be more resilient. By teaching them about the skill, exposing them to difficult times, frequently and often, you can give your kids a skill that carries over in soccer at every level…and beyond to school and life.
What do you think? Do you have a story about a time in your life or your team’s that they could have been more resilient…or maybe they displayed great maturity and came back from a heart breaking loss.
I’d love to hear your stories!