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Resources Feb 01, 2016

Chapter 43: POSITIONING AND THE GREAT MISTAKE – ROOKIE: Surviving Your Freshman Year of College Soccer

ROOKIE Cover JPEGThere are two ways to be a starter:

– Be the best player in that position
– Be the second best player when the best player becomes unavailable

If you are not a starter, it’s because you aren’t one of the best 11 players – at least not yet. This is not a time to panic and it’s not a time to give up the fight. It’s a time to give yourself the best possible chance to get on the field. In short, it’s time to become the best of the rest.

I’m going to share with you a story that repeats itself each year at universities throughout the country.

After the first weekend of games, a loose hierarchy will have developed and players will have a fairly good idea of the tier that they inhabit. The problem is that some players forget that this hierarchy is not iron clad. They get so deflated after two games that they give up hope on the rest of the season. Immediately there’s a noticeable decline in their training habits and their intensity level and they look nothing like the player who arrived at preseason full of excitement and determination. At team meetings, their minds are somewhere other than in the room. Everything they do says, “I’m just going through the motions.” In short, they check out. And checking out is the great mistake.

You have to understand that a lot can and will happen in a college soccer season. The players who started the first game will not start every game, and there are a variety of reasons why. Some of those players will get injured or ill. Some will get suspended. Some will just get outplayed. These things happen all the time. The tier you inhabit doesn’t have to be your permanent address. But if you’re going to advance up the ladder, it won’t happen by accident.

Instead of checking out, let’s go the opposite direction and start thinking about positioning. Let’s say you’re an outside back, but you’re not the starting outside back. The starter is the #1. That’s her position and it will stay her position until further notice. You and the other reserve defenders are occupying spots 2-5. At that point, your top priority shouldn’t be to win the starting spot – remember you don’t control playing time; your top priority should be securing yourself in the #2 position. To put it another way, you want to be #2 and not #3, 4 or 5. Now, you don’t want the #1 to get injured or to fail, but if something like that happens, you most certainly want to be the one who picks up the crumbs.

When you’re not the #1, you’ve got to put your faith in the long haul. You’ve got to keep bringing your very best on a daily basis and hoping that your hard work will eventually get rewarded. You can’t give up the fight after a day or a week or a month. If you want to eventually become a starter, then you have to train like one on a daily basis. It might not reap rewards as quickly as you like, but then again, it might. Either way, the coach is going to notice. He knows who the #1 is, but he is always making judgments about who will replace the #1 if circumstances arise.

Some of your teammates are going to check out. That’s fine. It helps your cause. Just don’t go down that road with them. Keep fighting for every inch, every step of the way, even when it feels like your effort is being wasted. When opportunity knocks, make sure it’s you who gets to open the door.


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