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Advice Sep 24, 2020

The Only 3 Things Youth Soccer Players Need to Focus on to Improve Performance

By Coach Gad Espinosa

Editor’s Note: This article is an in-depth examination of Tip #2 in Coach Gad’s previous piece, entitled: ‘Soccer Parents: 4 Key Mindset Changes Your Youth Player Needs to Make ASAP

“Never let your emotions overpower your intelligence” – Anonymous

The quote above is much easier said than done, especially when it comes to soccer. In a young soccer player, the emotional part of the brain is at least five times more powerful than the logical part. It’s no wonder it overpowers them!

When players focus on things they can’t control, they generate unnecessary anxiety and doubt. Hands up if you’ve seen a player or coach stay on a referee after a bad call? This was one of my most significant weaknesses as a player.

Whether it’s a referee’s bad call, a coach’s decision, the behavior of others, the weather, or the other team, a young soccer player is exposed to so many potential distractions. This is why they must build the discipline to focus only on things they have 100% control over.

The good news is, there are only three:

1. Their Physical Readiness – This has to do with players being physically ready to compete. It includes skill training, strength and conditioning, nutrition and sleep. A player has full control over this aspect, and although skill and strength training is a no-brainer for most serious athletes, they can’t ignore all aspects that prepare their body to compete at the highest levels. An athlete needs to know what they can improve, and get to it.

2. Their Effort Level – It shouldn’t matter what the score is. Up by three with five minutes left, or down by three, players have full control of the effort they give all the time. But this also comes into play at practice, during warm-ups and beyond. Again, this seems like no great revelation, but a soccer player needs to make the conscious decision to give it all they have, no matter the situation.

3. Their Thinking! – It’s the hardest of the three, but there’s no doubt it’s the most important. A player’s thinking affects their feelings, which have a direct effect on their performance. Limiting beliefs produce fear and tentativeness. Having a mindset focused on success will bring about better and more consistent performance. The catch – this part of a young soccer player’s development takes training and time. My goal is to help your soccer player to continue to develop their mindset through these articles and other resources I will make available to you (Please check at the end of this article for these resources).

That’s it, only three things a soccer player needs to focus on! If their mind is somewhere else, I can guarantee they are wasting their time and energy.

By focusing on things they can control, young soccer players are able to manage their emotions better. They won’t let nerves, anger, frustration and impatience overpower them. Instead, they will feel calmer and be more focused on the task at hand.

Make sure your soccer player memorizes the three things they have 100% control over!

There you have it: An in-depth look at key mindset change #2 of the four every athlete needs to make ASAP, so they can become mentally strong.

P.S. – Attend my free live webinar – 5 Steps to Being Mentally Tough & Thinking Like a Pro’ and you’ll receive my detailed guide on the ‘4 Keys’. To register CLICK HERE!


Gad Espinosa is a certified Mental Skills Coach, author, speaker and founder of the Mental Toughness Academy. He’s been interviewed in numerous newspapers, radio shows and podcasts. As a former professional athlete, who has represented his country internationally, a college Head Coach and father of two high-performance athletes Gad’s unique perspective allowed him to create the ‘Mentally Tough Athlete’ coaching program.

Clients include athletes and teams at all levels, from those just starting their athletic careers to full-time professional athletes and others who have gone on to represent their country and succeed at World Championships and Olympic Games.

Gad is passionate about helping athletes and teams discover mental strength breakthroughs that allow them to maximize their potential development not just in the quality of their athletic performances, but also in their life satisfaction and overall well-being.

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