For the past four summers, I've had the amazing opportunity to work and tour with some of the best soccer clubs in the world. I get to see these clubs compete in some of the biggest stadiums in the country as well as observe how these coaches and players prepare for their upcoming seasons.
Throughout my late twenties I found myself going to doctor after doctor for all my different mysterious ailments. Once my back hurt so badly I swore I had something seriously wrong with it but an MRI showed I was perfectly fine. In my late twenties I also had two knee scopes thinking I had done some serious damage to my knee only to find out how impressed the surgeon was with the health of my knees.
Healthy eating habits can change your performance, both mentally and physically. I'm going to share something from my past that will make you remember this as you too will face the challenges of being an athlete in a world with junk food, fast food, and sugar-filled beverages.
As a former college coach and recruiter, I've been approached by many parents to help them navigate the women's college soccer recruitment process. It seems that more and more parents and kids are overwhelmed and stressed by the possibility that they won't get recruited or receive a scholarship. My advice to parents and players is to focus on the things that are within your control. Focus on making sure coaches understand your genuine interest in their program by being proactive in the process and train to be the best player you can possibly be. Simply put, coaches want players that want to be at their university, will be a joy to coach and will make an impact on the field.
As a player, I remember when I was being recruited (albeit a long time ago), I always stepped onto the field wanting to be the best player I could be. I trained hours and hours on my own and in camps all summer long in order to achieve this goal. Ultimately this was what opened so many doors for me in the college process as well as post-collegiately. I was never fixated on being recruited, but rather focused on and enjoyed the process of working to be the best player I could be!
My advice to parents and players....Yes there are certainly many things that can be done to put yourself in the best position possible to be evaluated by coaches, but putting in the time training is probably the most important.
As a former college soccer coach, I've spent countless hours observing the highest level high school soccer players at college showcases. This led to coaching many players that went on to play pro soccer or were invited into national team soccer camps. I've seen so many different levels of players with an array of strengths. However, I have given a lot of thought to the technical ability of all the players I've coached and evaluated over the years. This is the one aspect of the game that can be controlled. Speed, height, and athleticism are all things that are to a large extent out of their control. There are many soccer players at high levels still struggling with fundamentals like basic passing technique and first touch.
I can't remember the first time this thought came to mind but it must have been close to ten years ago when I first started coaching at the college level. I remember thinking to myself on the sidelines of recruiting events and games "Why is the pass completion rate so low? Why is their first touch so inconsistent?"
This week, I met with a great group of four high school soccer players in a small facility in Westwood, NJ where for the last seven weeks we've met to "go back to the basics." All four of the players play for top clubs in New Jersey and for seven weeks we've spent an hour working on perfecting basic passing techniques and first touch. I've made them repeat a basic pass until it was completed without a bounce, with perfect accuracy, and the perfect weight over and over. It was this week, at week seven, that I noticed the biggest jump in their comfort level with the ball.
This was a great moment for me...I proved what I've believed all along....Quality practice makes perfect!
Today marks a milestone for me...I never thought I would be a blogger!
Three years ago I decided to start a side business as I was coaching full-time at Princeton University. I wanted to work with kids in the Princeton community and share my passion for the game with them. Champions League Soccer Academy started as a side project and has since blossomed into a successful supplemental soccer training academy based in New Jersey. Since I started the soccer academy in 2013, I've witnessed the tremendous growth of so many of my soccer players. Players have moved up to ECNL clubs, higher level clubs, and have gotten increased playing time :-) Not only have they improved dramatically, but their love of the game has grown exponentially. For me, that is the most rewarding element of it all!
The only way I can really describe my passion and love for the game of soccer is to reference the Kevin Costner movie "For Love of the Game." Does anyone remember that one (probably only parents :-))?? I could watch that movie on repeat and have probably seen it fifteen times in my life. The movie never gets old, because I can completely relate with Kevin Costner. To have a true passion and something that brings you so much joy in your life is a true blessing. While the journey of following your passion comes with its successes and hardships, so does life and I think that movie really hits the nail on the head! Soccer has brought me so much joy and sometimes a bit of anguish but it has also opened up so many doors and possibilities for me to see the world, meet amazing people, and continue to stay as active and young as I possibly can. It has made me feel alive!
To see passion for the game grow in my players, is like watching For Love of the Game all over again...and that story will never get old :-)