Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

Non-League Football

Regardless of what many fans may think, the Premier League is not the only league. It is merely the pinnacle of an extremely large football pyramid. Some may pay attention to the Championship, League 1 or even League 2 but the number of fans also forms a type of inverted pyramid. Millions watch the Premiership, hundreds of thousands watch the Championship, and so on and so forth. Below the fourth level of the pyramid exists “non-league football.” Some the teams are professional. Others are not. Regardless of the level on the pyramid, the wages paid or not, the number of fans or size of the ground, it all matters.

Photo by James Richardson.

Whether Dagenham & Redbridge FC, Peterborough Sports FC, Billericay Town or Wrexham A.F.C.; there are fans out there who wear their jerseys, sing their songs and possibly even tattoo their crest on their body. Fans that the players know by name because the club is a community and not a commodity. The matches are not televised and the players don’t make millions of pounds per year but that’s actually the beauty of it. There is not much more on the line than the joy of the game for the both the players and the fans. It’s been the norm and hopefully it will continue on for a long time to come.

Most of us are playing “non-league football.” We’re not making big money or have adoring fans around the world. Our lives play out in front of small crowds that know and care about us. The God’s honest truth is that we’re probably not going to make it to the top leagues and that’s ok. Finding joy battling in the muck with friends. Giving our all to a performance that will only matter to the people who were there to witness it holds its own form of glory.

Regardless of what league you are in, what you are doing matters. So be sure to give it all that you have. No one remembers the players who shrivel from the challenge. However they will always sing the praises of the ones who gave every last bit of themselves. The fact that you are “non-league” doesn’t matter. You only need to level up on the inside and show what you’ve got.

Give it all that you have!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Do You See the Goal?

The usual dimensions are eight feet high by twenty-four feet wide. That’s one hundred ninety two square feet of target. It’s no small thing considering a team of full grown men cannot cover it when standing shoulder to shoulder (depending on the width of the men). Despite the relatively large space that the ball has to pass through, goals are elusive. Games with three or more are considered high scoring. It is not so much the target itself that creates the challenge, it is all of the obstacles that stand in the way of the ball’s path. Ten normal defenders and a goalkeeper who can use her/his hands. The most talented goal scorers are worth their weight in gold. Their value eventually gets translated to their limbs but it starts with their eyes. They see the goal!

Ivan Toney shoots for Peterborough United. Photo by Joe Dent

At this point, a part of your brain is screaming “everyone sees the goals! It’s 192 square feet!” Unfortunately that’s what makes those goal scoring maestros so valuable. Most players do not see the goal. They see the defender, the goalkeeper, the disappointed face of their coach if they miss, the last three shots that went over, and so on. The vision that they have in their mind’s eye is not a clear path to success that they need to follow. Instead it is a neural pathway that is littered with past events or projections that they believe are partially related to a predictable future. Getting the ball into the goal would be a surprise rather than an expected outcome. The ability to believe in the newness of each attempt is a skill of extreme value.

Most people in the world aren’t trying to hit a perfectly visible 192 square feet. The area of their targets is much less defined and so are the defenders. However the greatest indicator of success or failure still resides in the mind of the person going toward the goal. Some goals are forgotten about because they’ve been mastered for so long. Tying ones shoelaces used to be something but now it is nothing. No defenders, no goal keeper, an open space to be hit with almost no effort. However that final exam, talking to that special person, starting that project: those goals are defended by giants. The goalkeeper is a jungle cat with hands. While the goalmouth itself is covered with well cemented bricks laid by a master mason. Or at least that’s what is represented in their mind. The truth of the matter is there are very few goals in this world that are completely defended.

The question truly becomes “Do you see the goal?” Not the entire general space but the little undefended area where you can get through. With your desired objective can you see past all of the obstacles and find the route to victory? Or can you build up enough desire and strength to muscle through the giants and the jungle cat and blast through the wall that stands in your way? Both are possible strategies but just like those maestros, first you need to see it. Then take the first step to get there. Even the simplest goals don’t score themselves. You need to act first!

Take aim!

Pete

PS Here is a video with the goals of Ivan Toney. He’s one of those special ones.

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

The Lasso Way: Being You First

I am a Ted Lasso super fan. Anyone who has had a conversation longer than ten minutes with me over the past two months has been told to watch the show. Somehow Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt and Bill Lawrence created the perfect TV show for me. At this point, I’ve watched each episode at least five times and I’m probably lowballing that number. Despite my love for the content, I’m not going to just sing the praises of the show. I’m focused on the biggest takeaway from the show.

The outside of my laptop. I’m a little obsessed.

Although it is in essence a sitcom, Ted Lasso works on a variety of levels. Laughs are intermingled with possible tears and new vocabulary. While the origins of the Ted Lasso character come from a commercial where he leads with stupidity, the show’s main character leads with caring and empathy. Despite being out of his depth in his job, he is (usually) unapologetically himself. This is a refreshing characteristic to find. In a world where so many people are in a constant state of posturing for their audience, being yourself seems to be a lost art in many ways. Accepting others seems to almost be easier.

The oddities, faults and curiosities that other people carry can be easily overlooked because “it’s not me.” Unfortunately being ourselves is often difficult because the court of public opinion is open 24/7/365 these days. It can be exhausting to maintain a public persona that is different from who you truly are. This tactic also erodes self-esteem over time because it’s hard to “esteem” someone that you’re hiding from the world.

Now this is not an excuse to have an Ally Sheedy in Breakfast Club moment and dump your metaphorical purse into the world’s lap. It is however a call to feel comfortable in your own skin. Live in at least a mental existence where who you are is OK. Then share that person that you most want to be with your world first. Your world is not the world. It’s the people that you love and trust. By doing those experiments at home first, you’ll get a sense of how you come across to other people. Again this is not a call for no filters but rather a bit more honesty. One of my favorite public figures, Tom Bilyeu, admits quite openly that he wants to be a Jedi. Not a lightsaber wielding spaceman but an influencer of people’s minds. That idea or dream of being something outside of the norm is uncomfortable for most of us. However admitting who we are, what we want and how important things are to us is a crucial piece of our development as people. Otherwise we’re a dancer in a Gap commercial. Not dancing for joy but because it’s a job. Not wearing khakis because we love them because that’s the costume.

So here is my public admission. I want to be the team psychologist for Peterborough United. The ridiculousness of this aspiration is not lost upon me. At the moment, I don’t have any of the credentials that a team might require. I’m an American who has mainly coached at the high school and college level. Much like Ted Lasso, I may be in over my head for that job. That doesn’t mean that I need to give up or apologize or lie about my desire to other people or especially myself. Perhaps I’m a fool to believe in this dream but I’d rather be the star in my own sitcom where I’m the butt of many jokes rather than a background character in a Gap commercial where I’m indistinguishable from anyone else.

So start inside your own head. Get comfortable in that skin of yours. It’s not going anywhere and neither are the basics of who you are. You’re not a background dancer. You’re a star! Shine for the people around you!

Be you!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

POSH Need a New Drug

I wrote this before the announcement of the postponements but figured I’d post anyway.

With Peterborough being reclassified as a tier 3 area before this weekend’s fixture, it takes away the fans as an influence on the match. Although POSH were able to go on a long unbeaten streak without fans earlier this season, some performances lacked the energy and commitment that will be required to continue their climb up the table. There is definitely not a lack of talent within the squad. It basically comes down to the emotional/mental state of the players at game time. Ferguson and the players have proven that they can play with energy from the first whistle. Unfortunately the government has sucker punched the POSH (and all clubs) by taking away the fans that just got back to the ground. This undesired circumstance forces the POSH to find a “new drug.”

Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, I’m not talking about any illegal substances. Everything that human beings do, we do in order to produce or reduce some form of feeling. These feelings are caused by chemicals (drugs) inside of our brains/bodies. The good feelings that are produced during a football match by players and fans are generally from four chemicals: endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. My post “Soccer is not a zero sum game” outlines these in greater detail.

Regarding the POSH situation, it has been suggested that the team and some players in particular thrive off of the crowd. This is most likely due to a rush of serotonin. It is the chemical that causes several feelings but in particular it is responsible for the feelings of pride and status. In normal seasons, this is a perfectly appropriate feeling to chase as a footballer. Even at away fixtures, there would normally be handful of fans who would cheer on the players giving them a quasi-hero status. In COVID times, that pursuit has been taken away and it is difficult to say when it will be back. While I recognize that this is an opportunity to get angry at an outside entity that has taken something away from the boys in blue (or pink depending on the day), it may not be the best answer on its own. A healthy dose of oxytocin is the drug that I’m suggesting.

My son and I at London Road. Oxytocin creating moment.

Oxytocin is the chemical that we would normally associate with “love.” A large amount of oxytocin is released during childbirth in order to create a connection between mother and child. This is probably a little more “touchy feely” than footballers would probably prefer to be. So the recognition that similar types of oxytocin filled bonds can be made between soldiers at war or friends with a close relationship. Due to the fact that thousands of fans will not be there to cheer on the successes of the players, they need to double or triple down on each other. The Sammie and Frankie show was born out of friendship. Those feelings need to transfer to the field and spread throughout the squad. Each member of the squad needs to celebrate the success of his teammate as a success that he takes part in. This shared feeling of accomplishment and desire for the good of everyone needs to become an “addiction.”

While I am a huge proponent of the positive, there is a power to the dark side of our emotions. The problem is that anger and other emotions like it become corrosive if they are overused. So my major suggestion is to triple down on connecting with each other but leveraging the power of the negative situation could be useful in spirts. Even though it is not fully true, taking the view that the government and EFL are both against POSH and their fans gives extra juice and unites the group even more. El Presidente named this the “Revenge” tour which goes in line with this perspective although it may lean a bit too much toward a victim’s mentality. My slant would be that this is the “Confirmation Tour.” Confirming the idea that POSH were truly on the promotion trajectory when the season was ended. Other teams are on their own journey confirming the reverse.

So if fans continue to be kept away, it is vital that the players leverage the unity within the group to confirm who they are: the best squad in the division. The obstacles that are thrown in front of all of us need to become the path that we trend. Lamenting and complaining only create an emotion barrier to overcome. Embrace the obstacles and help each other climb over them. They are not impediments to be feared. They are the staircase that leads to the top!

Up the POSH!

Pete

P.S. Had to link this at the bottom. “I want a new drug!”

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All That He Can Give

Tomorrow’s match against MK Dons represents a variety of storylines that impact the approach to the game and the eventual result. The shuffling of the squad did the trick against Rochdale. Many fans have commented that Rochdale’s poor performance was more relevant than the POSH’s youthful lineup. Nothing in life or football exists in a vacuum. Assumptions can never be made about the preparation or outcome of a match. The match is won by the stacking of moments.

My ticket from my first match at London Road. POSH dismantled MK Dons!

Having watched to both managers’ preview interviews, it is obvious that these two clubs are in a different space at the moment. There was a time when MK and POSH were competing with each other. Now each is competing with their own set of circumstances. POSH needs to live up to the expectation of promotion, while MK are looking to find the path back to their former glory. Russell Martin’s time under Darren Ferguson was short but in many ways seems to have been a springboard to a successful playing career. Regardless of the past or future of each club, team and manager, the match is the 90+ minutes between the whistles. All of these variable coalesce into thousands of individual opportunities. Last match Ferguson gave those opportunities to a handful of young players and they took them with great results. The past is now behind them. As many in the dressing room were recently reminded, if you don’t consistently make the best of your opportunities, they are taken from you.

All that either manager can give in tomorrow’s match is opportunities. Each individual has to do the best that they can with it. Russell Martin is a good example of a player who took the opportunities in front of him and ran with them. Players and people usually run into issues when they think that they deserve something. Being a language person, I love to break words apart. That word, DE-SERVE, meaning from service. Players who put an effort in for their teammates will eventually receive opportunities in turn because they are deserved. I refer to it as “soccer karma.” If you give a good ball, you’ll get a good ball. If everyone believes in that ethos, then the chances are much higher that good passes and opportunities will make their way around to everyone. The two cannot be separated though. You need to give first. Regardless of how young or experienced of a lineup Ferguson names tomorrow, those individuals need to take the opportunity that they’ve been given and give back with passion and persistence.

The match will be won by the team who effectively wins the right moments. Since it is impossible to know which moments are crucial, respecting them all is the only strategy. The opportunity is all that a manager can give. It is up to the player to take it! The past means nothing in those 90+ minutes.

Up the POSH!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

POSH Wobble Is Over, Unless…

One win in an almost meaningless cup game that was played by fringe players against West Ham’s youth team and POSH is back? The voice of Matt Kisby from the Yellow Block podcast is the one that I hear refuting my claim that the POSH are about to go back on a run. After just listening to their latest episode about Fergie In or Out, I had to put my thoughts out there. The decline in confidence amongst POSH fans is not surprising after a run of losses with 41% saying Fergie Out. However, those numbers will rebound before the end of the season as we push toward promotion.

Fans can be fickle and there are some that have a distaste for Ferguson regardless of the results. It’s hard to moan about a manager who is winning but one that goes on a string of losses, get out the torches and pitchforks. Despite those losses, Ferguson isn’t going anywhere. The owners believe that this manager is the architect for their club. His job is safe through wobbles. Only a complete collapse would be grounds for removal and that isn’t happening. The ship is already heading back in the right direction.

The win against West Ham is relatively meaningless other than the lineup. It was a game that required the lower half of the squad to play. The lineup was consistent with the others from the Papas Johns Trophy. Now it is up to Ferguson to get the players to believe that they are a squad again. The recent downturn in form is not a lack of talent. It is actually due to a squad that is full of talent but it needs to be utilized based on merit. Ferguson knows this and his salty interview is an indication of change to come.

Humans lead with belief and their actions tend to reflect it. Comfortable players do not give you their best effort. So a player who believes that his place in the starting eleven is secure will tend not give everything that he has. The flip side of that coin is that a player who believes that nothing he does will get him into the starting eleven tends to give less than optimal performance as well. Often this belief system will rear its ugly head when the bench player comes on late in a game. Not much time to impress makes every touch of the ball count. So the anxiety of the situation undermines the performance of a fully capable replacement.

The POSH players, both starters and replacements, need to believe that they are part of the equation. Mo Eisa needs to believe that he can contribute and has a chance when someone’s form drops. Sammie Szmodics needs to believe that the team scoring is far more important than him scoring and then goals will come. Ferguson’s frustration in the interview after Portsmouth came from his players underperforming and as Tim said in the Yellow Block Podcast, it is his fault. I truly believe that the team selection and result in the FA Cup caused a downturn in the squad’s belief that had already begun. A rotated squad for that game sends the message to the fringe players that they matter and to the starters that their position is not completely safe. Ferguson has proved time after time in his career that he knows how to strike this balance.

Although the psychology of each individual is important, a team or group also develops their own psychology based on the environment created by the leader/manager. The consistency with which Ferguson has gotten teams to perform at a high level lets me know that he can get this team to believe again. He doesn’t seem to lead completely with “fear.” Hitting that button too many times leads to players who resent their manager (Steve Evans). Whatever was said in the locker room needed to stay there, those who heard it most likely have gotten this message. The free passes are gone. None of us is bigger than all of us and we cannot wait for you to get it right. Unless I’ve completely misjudged him, Ferguson is going to get it right!

Up the POSH!

And listen to the Yellow Block! They’re good lads. (Can I say that as an American? Good guys is what I would normally say.)

Pete

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All of Kilimanjaro, Not a Quarter of Everest

Focus is more than a skill, it truly is our experience. Whether we realize it or not, there are truly a millions of things going on around us. The only things that leave a lasting impression are the ones that we focus on. Much like the lens of a camera, we can either sharpen or blur our experience based on how attuned our “equipment” is to our world. With all of this action, it’s easy to get distracted by the shiny, convenient, historic, new, expensive or controversial thing. Keeping a singular focus is difficult.

The inspiration for this post is my beloved Peterborough United’s early exit from the FA Cup. They were beaten by Chorley who are a club several leagues below the POSH. It was clearly an upset that now has Chorley in the 3rd round playing against Derby County. I couldn’t be happier! My team lost in the world famous FA Cup and I’m happy? No doubt about it and I hope that we fall out of the other cup competitions too. While I’m sure that the ownership, manager, players and other fans do not share my opinion, it is my muse today. For those of you who do not pay attention to League 1 football in England, the POSH are in third in the league at the moment. Our expressed goal for the season is to earn promotion to the Championship. As many Americans learned in the last episode of Ted Lasso, that is the league below the Premier League.

It’s possible to do two things at once. Walking and chewing gum is simple, unless your hair is on fire! While that seems like an extreme example, it is not completely without merit. Getting to the 3rd round or more in the FA Cup is icing on the cake in a normal year. At the moment, vying for promotion in a pandemic, without fans, playing a compressed schedule, while trying to make a cup run is probably too much. So I say it again, all of Kilimanjaro, not a quarter of Everest!

Each of us in our own lives needs to have a vision for our future. Focus is a key component to whether or not we get where it is that we say we want to go. Regardless of who you are, there are always going to be distractions, obstacles and other prizes on your horizon. Don’t let the “nice to haves” in your world, get in the way of what you really want. There are more than enough stumbling blocks out there, you don’t need to tie your shoelaces together. Find your true north and head in that direction with all due haste.

Up the POSH!

Pete

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Szmodics Can’t Outrun This Defender

Let me start by saying, that I am a huge Sammie Szmodics fan! Not just for his play on the field but the way he seems to conduct himself outside of the game. Last season he seemed to pop up in a variety fans’ Twitter or Instagram feeds, not just posing for a picture but also engaging on a personal level. It was great to see and I was ecstatic when it was announced that he was coming back. Thus far he has not lived up to the expectations that many people (including him) have had. While I’ve seen it suggested that he will be fine once he scores a few more goals, the ingredients are there for the goals to have gone in already. So I believe there is something more to cope with.

Last season Sammie came in as a breath of fresh air to replace the Maddison circus as it left town. Despite the high hopes for him, there was no pressure. It was a loan, not a long term signing. Ivan was scoring for fun and therefore he drew defenders’ attention. Sammie also had “something to prove” because he had been sitting on the bench for Bristol for the first half of the season. All of these circumstances gave him the perfect platform to be a smashing success with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

This time around the situation is completely different and Sammie is struggling with the opponent inside at the moment. The pressure of being a highly sought after signing is a far cry from replacing a team cancer. Expectations from fans, management and especially Sammie himself have put an invisible cover on the goal. Obviously there is not a cover on the goal itself but rather an obstacle inside of his own head. The pressure of not scoring regularly causes him to overthink things that just flowed last season.

The thing is that he has probably scored hundreds maybe thousands of times in more difficult circumstances in the past. The myelin* is there to repeat past positive performances. His amygdala** is firing off fear signals in those crucial moments because this year means more. If he misses, then was Bristol right to let him go? Is he worth the investment? Was it all just Ivan’s influence last season? We all do this in pressure situations with our own personal story.

At this moment, Sammie and a few other players need to change the story that is going on inside of their head. The chances to score are not any more difficult. The money, outside pressures or situations do not change one’s ability to kick the ball in that moment. The narrative that we all tell ourselves affects how we perform and we can control that. Creating a new story inside of his own head about what he has to do in order to be “successful” is a key action. Separating himself from the expectation will give him the freedom to be exactly who he is. Rehearsing his future successes in his mind will open the pathway to better performance and remove the cover from the goal.

Whether he does these actions explicitly or time allows for the pressure to subside will eventually play itself out. Sammie is quality player who has had a small dip in form that will be worked out. He just can’t outrun this defender because it is the one that is matching him step for step everywhere he goes. I wish him nothing but the best in this battle. It is the one that we are all fighting and it’s never completely won!

Up the POSH

Pete

*Myelin is an insulating layer or covering that allows electrical impulses within the brain to travel more quickly and efficiently. The more times that an action or thought is repeated, the more that the myelin insulates that neural pathway.

**Amygdala is an almond shaped structure within the brain that produces several base emotions like fear and is linked with the “fight or flight” response.

Blogpost, posh

Uninspired POSH Need Last Piece of Ferguson Puzzle

For almost two decades, I’ve been supporting Peterborough United from afar. Despite the inconvenience of supporting a team that I rarely get to watch, I’m comforted by the fact that I know what to expect from POSH. Our chairman (or el presidente) will be on Twitter or his podcast speaking his mind about POSH or anything else. Barry Fry will be working the deals, although much quieter than in the past. Finally whenever Darren Ferguson is our manager, we’ll be close to promotion.

With the disappointment of last season fresh in POSH fans minds, the recognition that we need to amass as many points as soon as possible is plain for all to see. With the backing of the owners and other fortunate circumstances, most of the pieces are in place for us to withstand this marathon of a season near the automatic promotion places. The squad is made up of players who can replace one another with minimal dips in ability. Therefore the tight schedule will affect us less than other squads. The lack of crowds at the moment works slightly to our favor because our away form is usually a factor in keeping us from promotion. By the time that crowds are allowed back, our position in the league and the novelty of being at games bring great support to home matches rather than a fickle POSH crowd. Ferguson’s calculated approach will continue to produce consistent results that will have us in the playoff or automatic places as the season comes to a close. Despite the unique circumstances, this sounds like a pretty typical season under Darren Ferguson. Selfishly though, I’m looking for more.

As I’ve stated prior, I am a huge Ferguson supporter. He has been the manager for a good portion of my time as a POSH fan and enjoy watching his teams play and the way that he conducts himself. However it seems that he is missing one piece from his managerial arsenal. Based on my observation, POSH teams tend to start games slow and only “turn it on” in the second half. There could be many reasons for this but as a person who believes heavily in the emotional side of the game, I think it is due to a lack of emotional priming.

Most of my coaching career has been spent at the high school and college where the tactics and techniques are important but usually in close matches, the emotional side of the game wins. The professional level definitely requires a more steady approach to the management of players’ emotions. However that does not mean that it is not important. As the son of Sir Alex, I’m sure that the halftime resurgence of POSH teams is partially due to a few “hairdryer” treatments. While this has its place, training players on how to manage themselves and especially to “prime” themselves for a peak emotional state at game time is crucial.

This is the last piece to Ferguson’s puzzle. His tactical awareness and man management on a longitudinal basis seem to be spot on. The place where POSH fizzle at times is their ability to start the game on the emotional front foot. A combination of confidence and desire to do what it necessary. The difference between last season’s team that looked like a juggernaut going into the late part of the season and this season is the lack of an emotional focal point. Ivan Toney (the only thing I’ll give Steve Evans credit for getting right) allowed the players around him to play with confidence and joy because he was going to give them a chance to win regardless of how they played. None of the players at the moment has that power. So it needs to be taught to all of them. The POSH team of this year will only dominate this league if each and every player comes to the field with his best mindset available. Expecting 25+ goals out of Clarke-Harris, Dembele or Eisa seems unlikely. So the squad must do it and cannot continually take the first half at half capacity.

Developing a system of emotional priming is not outside of Ferguson’s skillset, he did it beautifully leading into the promotion push from years ago using the video with the Adele song. However this work needs to be done a much more individualized basis. This work cannot be done to the players, it must be done with the players. Dan Abrahams, who has worked with several teams and individual athletes, has players create a persona to bring out their best attributes at the crucial moments. His work is not the only possibility for priming athletes but having heard him speak a few times, I’m a fan of his work.

So the question is not whether or not POSH have it in them to win this league, they do. The question is whether or not they can consistently demand more from themselves physically, mentally and emotionally than their opponents. The difference between this and any other POSH year may come down to the players being trained on how to turn on their own fire without the “hairdryer”.

Up the POSH!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

5 Things Professional Soccer Coaches Can Learn from a Foreign Language Teacher

A foreign language can be exactly that to many people “foreign”.  Despite that fact, there are lessons to be learned and applied from the study of language that reach into the sports world extremely easily.  At the highest level, the margin for error is so slim that all possible advantages must be explored.

Darren Ferguson, manager Peterborough United.
  1.  Language is an agreement – This is crucial.  Right now you (the reader) and I are working under the English agreement.  We must agree in order for messages to travel freely and easily.  This is simple when we’re talking about identifying a table or a ball.  However this idea goes much deeper.  It involves vocabulary, tone, context and audience.  As a coach, when you address the team, it leaves your lips as one message but gets received eleven or more different ways.  This recognition by itself can be powerful but knowing your receivers can allow you to improve your messages.  Your business is results.  Anyone can bark orders.  Not everyone can craft a message. So learn to give the message in a way that will be received.
  1. You’re doing it to yourself – It doesn’t exist in every language but in several, there is a construction called a reflexive verb.  This is when the person doing the action is also receiving the action.  Think of washing your hair, brushing your teeth or shaving.  In Spanish there is a verb “ponerse”.  It means “to put on”.  Although it can be used for clothing, it also gets used for emotions.  You put anger onto yourself or sadness or excitement.  Even though your language may not represent it that way, it is exactly what happens.  You and your players are making yourselves feel a certain way.  Feelings don’t infect us.  We create them.  Do your players put excitement on by themselves at training or matches?  Or do they need your help? As the person who will eventually be held accountable for the results of the team, it is important to consider what emotions are continually being put onto everyone involved. Can you direct that more effectively?
  1. Permanent/Consistent or Temporary – Much like the last concept, language frames the way that we look at the world.  In Spanish, there are two words for the word “to be”: Ser and Estar.  Ser is used for things that are permanent or consistent.  Estar is used for things that are temporary.  In English it is possible for someone to say “I am depressed.”  Since there is only one word for “to be”, this could be a temporary thing or a long term.  The signal to other people and the mind can be difficult to decipher.  This overlaps with the concept above about agreement.  “John is horrible” and “John is having a horrible day” have very different meanings to both the sender and receiver.  In your team’s culture, what ideas or concepts do you want to be permanent/consistent?  What is meant to be temporary?  Listen to your players’ language patterns when they talk about themselves and others.  Are there patterns that are undermining success? Are you the one who put them there or did you allow them to stay?
  1. Slow Process vs. Fast Process – Languages are broken into four different modalities:  reading, writing, listening and speaking.  Reading and writing are slow processes that allow the person to take their time as they are doing it.  Listening and speaking are done in real time.  Therefore each can be more valuable at different times or may be used in tandem.  Consider the importance of the message that you want to send.  Is saying it enough?  Remember, you already know the message that you want them to receive.  So be sure to give them the opportunity to get it with the amount of depth that you intend for it.  Should you write it down for them to see it?  Should they write it down in their own words?  In their own language? Your players are going to be performing in a high stress environment. Make sure that the messages that matter stick.
  2. Question Words Require Extra – Who? What? ¿Dónde? Quand? Jak? And WHY?  Although there may be times when all you want is the simple yes or no, your players are complex creatures who have lives beyond the game.  Probing beyond the surface level may be the key to unlocking a level of focus and commitment that you never knew existed from an individual.  Yes men are easy to find and easy to replace.  Although all question words elicit extra information, they are not all created equal.  WHY is the eventual question that you want to find an answer for.  If you know a player’s WHY and are able to link it to the team’s goals, you’ll have a brother in arms rather than a mercenary.  One of my favorite illustrations of the concept of WHY comes from the movie Cinderella Man (2:00 minutes in).  He says what he’s fighting for but it puts his WHY on full display.           

In the world of professional soccer, everyone’s job is to prepare to the best of their ability in order to achieve a result on game day. Coaches are using words as their main tool to get the most from their players. Despite that fact, language patterns and word choice rarely get considered. The best version of you as a coach requires that you and your players understand one another. Be sure that your message is not being lost in translation.