In the era of social distancing and the cancellation of sports seasons, student-athletes are finding themselves in a conundrum. So how do they retain their competitive focus and drive when there is no field, no opponent and little opportunity for personal camaraderie? Though it’s their off-season, men’s and women’s soccer coaches Keith Cappo and Aileen Ascolese share five tips how the virtual landscape presents unusual opportunities to keep competitive fires burning.
- Stay true to your vision. Remember those daily goals? Ascolese says they’re even more important now. “You’ve got to know where you are right now, and where you want to go. That takes a heightened sense of focus. You can’t rely on others to make you a high-performing competitor.”
- Don’t settle for excuses. “Yeah, your door’s been temporarily shut. So, try the side door, the back door, and if they’re not budging, then break-in,” says Ascolese. “You’re going to have to push harder. High performers know how to control their effort and mindset. Instead of being upset that you cannot train with your team, understand you have the ability to work on your own and master the ball.”
- All in a day’s work. In this time of uncertainty, Cappo says routine can be a lifesaver, especially for competitors. “I tell my players to organize their time to include daily individual training and create a daily schedule that reflects your normal routine,” he says. “Now is the time to develop your technical abilities, work on your weak foot and develop every layer of your game. Don’t consider it a daily grind—it just becomes part of your schedule.”
- Use tech to get back to basics. Both coaches say players should be watching a lot of film. “Really watch yourself in action. Analyze your mechanics, accept your weaknesses, break down your mistakes and elevate your strengths,” Ascolese says, adding that it’s the perfect opportunity to put your competitive fire to good use. “Try juggling or crossbar challenges against teammates on video, or allow ‘takeovers’ where teammates share with you a day of new workouts.”
- Get Smart(er). Cappo says athletes need to prioritize the intellectual side of sport. “Expand your tactical understanding. Study film, perform tactical analysis, prepare scouting reports on teams and players, learn different systems of play,” he says. “And get into e-sports. Use FIFA20 to run simulations with your formation—as well as our competitors.”
Ultimately, student-athletes may miss the physical interaction of playing live. But Cappo says that doesn’t mean the thirst for competition and performance diminishes. “Deep down, every student-athlete know one fundamental equation: Success equals discipline plus commitment. Student-athletes and, to be honest, high performers in any discipline, should focus on owning their development and growth. That’s probably the one constant we have in these unprecedented times.” – By Tom Yencho