You may hear young football players and enthusiasts talk about growing up and following in the footsteps of their favourite pro footballers – yet very few people truly understand the consistent grind and determination it takes to get, and stay, there.
It is a popular notion all over the world, that becoming a professional footballer is the ultimate “Dream Job”. This perspective comes from the idea of being able to play football as your daily job – and who wouldn’t want that? Also, the perks and fun that comes with the lifestyle – luxury items, global travel, millions of fans – all of these add to the impression that being a professional footballer should be the final goal. While elements of this is true, it’s far from the real journey and hard work involved.
Many fail to see the struggles and difficulties that professional footballers face. From missing important family events because they are away, to feeling so tired and fatigued due to being over trained with very little rest, and struggling to balance training with family and social time, the realities differ from what is perceived. Lots of people argue that the amount of money these professionals get paid leaves them no room to argue or complain about the lifestyle they have to live. However, here at Alliance Football Club, we see beyond the professional athlete and understand the many ups and downs the person has to face.
A large part of what we do here at Alliance has a focus on the person as well as the player. We have to remember that these athletes that turn up to train with us every single day, are also people and may have other things going on away from football, that could be helping them, or hindering them. If a child has a bad day at school, and turns up to our sessions sad and not trying their hardest, it is our job as coaches to recognise the triggers these young players are showing us, and find a way to support them if needed. On the other hand, a player may be working harder than ever before, and really impressing in your session, this is also our job as coaches to highlight the hard work and make a positive memory from this moment to encourage the individual, but also use it as a tool to positively influence their team mates.
There are lots of things we encourage and promote at Alliance. We try and teach our players to focus on things within their control. In doing this, they will become better at seeing past the things out of their control, and naturally become more positive in their thinking and behaviours as they feel more in control of their actions and performances. With this idea, we also ask for our players to be realistic with goals and targets that they set. Having player review meetings allows for an open platform to discuss anything the player wants to talk about. We also ask that they create some goals for the term, to give them a clear focus for the next 10/12 weeks, but to also show them the importance of being realistic, being organised, and being determined and confident to strive towards achieving something positive.
Along the way, our players will be faced with many challenges. This may be learning something new in training and not picking it up straight away, when their team mates can already do it. In this moment is a golden opportunity for our players to tap into their positive mindset, and use some of the tips we provide them with. For example, worrying about what their team mates can do is focusing on something that is not in their control, therefore we would encourage them to focus on themselves and their own development. Asking players to set mini goals and targets will soon help them to see small successes along the way, and also highlight the growth they have made in such short space of time. Encouraging these behaviours prevents our players from feeling frustrated with themselves, comparing themselves to others, but also guides them in the right direction to see their own value and worth within the team.
As football is a team sport, having team mates around you that are also positive thinkers can positively influence the way you think and behave as they are setting a positive example. It is important at Alliance that we use positive characters in the team to support new comers and players who may be new to the game, to show them that our environment is a safe place to play, learn and grow. Using these types of players not only gives our new starters someone to get to know straight away, but it also encourages the other player to keep doing what they are doing, which rewards and successes should be highlighted from time to time, even for those who are already positive thinkers.
Lastly, remembering why you came to Alliance Football Club is important to us and what we do. When players may be having a difficult session, it is important to remind them why they are here. They are here to be challenged, to learn, and to grow in many aspects of the game, but most importantly as people. If we did not pose problems and challenges to our players, they would not learn new skills, or develop their characteristics that they will need for future life. Encouraging people to have desire and determination to overcome challenges, to have the confidence to ask for help when needed, and to have the self-belief to grow and get better every single session, all leads to becoming a more positive thinker, both on the pitch as players, but off the pitch as people too.