Giving Kids the Skills to Succeed - at Life and Sports

Psychology and the Game of Soccer

Submitted by chris@2nsports.com on Thursday, April 7

Quite often when I am coaching youth players I notice many of them with very vivid reactions to mistakes. Whether it’s their use of words, facial expressions, or the frozen stance some seem to take on from dwelling on their “imperfections.”

What are the causes these reactions? Why do we all do it? (Yes, I am absolutely sure I did this as a player too) As an athlete I learned somewhere along the line to let things go. Quite honestly, I can’t recall an exact moment that influenced me but most likely a series of events, coaches, or teammates that led me down that path. And those of you, who knew me as a player, know this wasn’t easy nor was it ever complete.

If you coach young players I encourage you to take notice of this and to create an environment where “mistakes” are accepted and in fact encouraged. College coaches are constantly asked what they look for when they are recruiting a layer and I can guarantee most coaches keep a keen eye on players’ responses to mistakes. I know I do. We all want the player who keeps going and works through issues on the field.

The fact of the matter is to become truly great at anything you are going to fail more times than you succeed. We’ve all heard the millions of quotes out there. When I work with attacking players I’m constantly talking to them about letting go of missed shots and opportunities. Move on to the next and do it quickly. As a goal scorer you must be relentless. There’s no other way to play. Soccer is a game of mistakes, many of them.

My point is this applies not only in sport but even more so in life. Can we build persistence at an early age on the field through encouragement and acceptance of mistakes? Can we instill in athletes that failure is going to happen and its okay?

A great way to look at this is having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. When your athletes/children react by saying they “can’t” do something, I encourage you to take that opportunity as a teachable moment. Having a growth mindset opens doors for not only our own personal development but with our relationships with others as well.

-Christie Welsh

Additional Resources for parents and coaches is a book called Mindset by Carl S. Dweck, Ph.D.
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Christie Welsh's Bio:

Welsh is a former assistant coach at the University of Oregon from 2013-2015 and Saint Joseph’s University in 2012, while also holding volunteer assistant coaching positions at Penn State and The University of Wisconsin.

She was a member of the U.S. National Team from 2000 until 2008. Welsh scored 20 goals over 39 international contests. During her time with the USWNT she remarkably scored 10 goals faster than any other player in American soccer history. She served as an alternate for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and she was part of the 2004, 2006, and 2007 Olympic and World Cup training residencies. Christie is also a former Hermann Trophy winner and former professional soccer player for multiple teams.