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7 Life Lessons I Learned from 4 Great Soccer Coaches

Reflecting on 16 years of coaching soccer, I appreciate the great lessons I learned from all four of my esteemed soccer coaching mentors. And, the cool thing is that they are great lessons for business and life.

  1. How I train is how I play!

  2. Intensity and focus are 100% controllable. Control what I can!

  3. Paint the picture.

  4. Assess and adjust.

  5. Technical (fundamental) skills are huge!

  6. Have a plan with a system of play.

  7. Keep it simple.

I truly believe that how I train is a mirror for how I play. And, I believe this is true for business and life. On the pitch with players during training, maintaining a game-like level of intensity and focus can be challenging. When the players get it and embrace it, a wonderful skill set for life is created. And, of course, they can bring that high level of intensity and focus to their games! Very helpful.

Intensity and focus are super important in soccer games. Often the team battling harder and with purpose wins the game even if they are technically, tactically, and physically weaker. It is their mental strength that makes the difference. Lots of parallels in business and life.

The most important lesson for me with intensity and focus is that they are 100% within my control. Most of the game is out of my control. I can't control other players, the coaches, the referees, the field conditions, the weather, my family, fans, or the bounce of the ball. So, I must focus on what I can control and maximize that with unending pursuit. It can be challenging to discover peak performance. And even more challenging to sustain it during games and trainings, as well as business and life for that matter.

An expression and training tool I learned from my first mentor, WWU Head Coach Travis Connell, was Paint the Picture. When freezing a training to make a point, I appreciated how well Travis would reconstruct and paint the picture of what he saw and wanted. And, even ask players to paint their picture.

It is important for players to have a running map of the ball, field, teammates, opponents and the flow of the game. But, it's not an easy skill to develop. I didn't develop I lot of my skills until I basically went through the Ranger U12-U18 club soccer program as a coach in my 40s. There is still a ton to learn and I'm eager.

On the pitch, everything is always changing. It's a real life first-person action game requiring non-stop decision making. I love the challenge created by the massive amount of changing information that happens during a soccer game.

In business and life, I see great value and necessity in continually assessing and adjusting. Change is here to stay and the rate of change is accelerating with the information age. The heart of physics is modeling the universe. Predictions are made. Observations are assessed. Models are adjusted. The process is repeated. From focused, daily activities to long term endeavors, the journey to completion will share plenty of surprises. Assess and adjust.

All soccer attributes are important. But, a lack of technical (fundamental) skills is a game changer. Players have to be able to settle, protect and pass the ball. They can be the best tactical, physical, and mental player on the field. But, if their first touch or pass turns the ball over consistently, the player is more of a harm than a help. All four of my soccer mentors were continually working on technical skills at all age groups and levels.

My last two items, unfortunately, get put on the back burner way to often and at dire costs. Having a plan and keeping things simple are massively important. Gotta have a training and game plan for soccer. Gotta have a business plan. Gotta have a life plan. With soccer, keeping it simple can include playing the ball the direction you are facing, playing the simple pass, or focusing on only 1 topic for a training session. With business and life, Einstein and Steve Jobs did a pretty good job of convincing me of the simple way. It's a life and business philosophy that I'm attracted to.

I would like to give a big thank you to my four soccer mentors to date. I not only learned a ton, but had a blast and made some amazing friends. They made my Ranger soccer club experience life changing and gave me a very solid footing to continue developing as a soccer coach. Cheers and see ya on the pitch... :D

Jason Conway, Head Coach Bellingham United and Rangers and Coord

Travis Connell, Head Coach WWU and Rangers and Coordinator

Scott Caldwell, Head Coach Rangers and Coordinator

Lance Calloway, Head Coach Bellingham United Semi-Pro and Rangers

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