“There are still two or three guys who aren’t willing to pay the price to win a game. This is not Wal-Mart.® There are no discounts in this league.” —Ron Wilson, NHL Head Coach for 18 seasons
How Inspirational Athletes Can Inceares Their Team Impact
Player leaders who can model inspirational behaviors will impact the team.
- Truly love playing the game and their specific positions and take pride in their efforts
- Consistently “into it” and do all that is necessary to improve upon their individual play
- Willingly make sacrifices of their time, their bodies (within reason), and their social activities for the sake of their individual pursuit and the team’s goals
- Know exactly why they play soccer and what they plan to accomplish in the sport
- Find inspiration from a multitude of sources, including their own maximal efforts, and those from others, including teammates, coaches, past coaches and teammates, elite players, and from resources such as documentaries (ESPN’s 30 for 30 series), videos, articles, books, or podcasts
- Athletes who “practice what they preach.” They are ethical, process- focused, and able to balance their sport with other important aspects of their lives, including school, family, jobs, and friends. They also know that they are more than just soccer players.
- Practice sound sportspersonship behaviors, including respect for the rules, their opponents, soccer etiquette, and personal commitment to their efforts on/off the field
A Player’s Philosophy
Talk is so cheap! Players can say all they want, but it’s their actions that matter. There are no shortcuts or discounts to victory and consistent, purposeful effort. What is not addressed in most coaching education and sport psychology articles/books is players’ philosophy. A player’s philosophy guides his/her work rate, quality (or lack of quality) of training, and commitment to getting better and maximizing potential. This philosophy of playing is synonymous with the level of inspiration.
Athletes, who are inspired to become the best players, can have the philosophy, drive, and training habits that mirror their drives and goals to be the best. These players are self-motivated and low-maintenance. They are always there for their coaches and teammates and do consistently.
How many players of this caliber do you have on your team? How many players do you have on your team who are:
- Exhibit lower self-motivation levels?
- Whose games go up and down depending upon their attitudes?
So much is said about coaches’ philosophies, but what philosophy a player has about the process involved in being a consistent performer and his/her training is a large determinant of his/her resulting success.
Six Impact Factors Of An Inspirational Player And Leader
These characteristics could and should be applied to coaches as well. When players can internalize the lessons learned from their sporting experience and apply them to their lives, they tend to embrace the challenge and processes involved in the mastery of skills in the competitive arena. How inspirational are you as a coach? How inspirational are your player leaders?
Value the sport experience as an opportunity to learn about themselves. They take their sporting experience seriously yet appreciate it as a game and value it as such. They also take advantage of the many lessons learned through sport, such as winning, losing, dealing with adversity and setbacks, team unity, and leadership.
Can take responsibility for actions, attitudes, and the pursuit of meaningful goals. Soccer is a team game that allows for plenty of opportunities to practice “social loafing,” whereby players let someone else do the dirty work instead of giving more to the team effort. When big plays are given up or games are lost, philosophical players do not look for someone to blame. They look at themselves first and then seek to learn lessons to assure that history does not repeat itself.
Show respect for themselves, teammates, coaches, the opponent, and the ideals of the sport. Respectful players play within the rules of the game and steer clear from playing “on the fringe” through bad gamesmanship practices (trash-talking and other “shady” practices). Respectful players want to challenge themselves and their teammates by beating the opponents on a level playing field—may the best team win. Respectful players also respect their coaches and teammates by following team rules and adequately preparing for practice and gameplay by taking care of themselves and others.
Embrace their moments of challenge, which are also referred to as self-revealing moments. Throughout the sporting experience, players are often faced with moments of extreme challenge. Philosophical players plan, prepare, and embrace these defining moments. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, players take what they can from these experiences and learn how best to manage the situation the next time it occurs.
Seek “lived knowledge” in their sporting endeavors by appreciating what is learned during play and the experience of being a soccer player. Coaches are ideal for having an open dialogue with their players about peak experience in sports. Getting into a discussion about each player’s best experiences on the pitch can be an exciting and empowering experience. Learning what each player did, how they felt, and what they did/thought about prior to, during, and after these “zone” moments, can be a valuable learning experience.
Adopt a process orientation, where they set out to outcompete themselves daily, rather than simply beating someone else. Imagine what a difficult task it was for Messi to outdo himself every game. Some players are driven more by an outcome orientation, with which they set out just to get the win, regardless of what it takes to get there. Adopting this type of philosophy opens up the possibility of unethical practices since the “ends justify the means.” Philosophical players want their opponents to bring their best to the pitch, because it will bring out the best in them. This situation is the only way to determine who the better team is on any given day.
Portions of this article are adapted from Dr. V’s 2nd edition of Mental Toughness Training for Football (2020, Coaches Choice Publishing), and from his writings that have appeared in the United Soccer Coaches Association’s Soccer Journal.
- Thrash, T. M. and Elliot, A. J., Inspiration as a Psychological Construct, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003, 84, 871-889.
- Thrash, T. M. and Elliot, A. J., Inspiration: Core Characteristics, Component Processes, Antecedents, and Function, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2004, 87, 957-973.
- Vallerand, R. J., Brière, N. M., Blanchard, C., & Provencher, P. (1997). Development and validation of the multidimensional sportspersonship orientations scale. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 19, 197-206.