CJFC is a competitive youth soccer club committed to offering central New Jersey players an organized and professional association that encourages player and character development, teamwork, sportsmanship, social responsibility and a love and appreciation
 
 
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The Winning Mentality
 

The winning mentality is defined as follows:
  • Playing with the understanding and an ability to read the game.
  • A desire to compete every second of the game, both on and off the ball.
Soccer is a game with moments of intensity in which the player is directly affecting the ball, and thus the game. It is followed by moments of passivity where that same player is indirectly affecting the game. However, in these moments of rest where the game slows down it must be clear that at no time can the player mentally let down. What the player does off the ball is just as important and sometimes more important than what he does on it. Furthermore soccer is a dynamic sport in which the situation is constantly changing. The situation changes between the three aspects of the game; when a team possesses, attacking, when a team does not possess and are trying to dispossess the opponent, defending, and the moments in between when neither team posses, transition. The mentality of a player; their thought process and analytical dissemination of information varies dramatically from when they are in possession as opposed to when they are not. However, one constant remains throughout the game; the dynamic nature of soccer, thus a player must be hyper-aware of how his presence affects the game at all times, whether on the ball, off the ball, or way off the ball.

1) Understanding and ability to read the game:
In this game the only way, as a player to properly prepare for a game is in training. In the game, mental lapses, more often than physical lapses, are often the reason for breakdowns in the game. When on the field, you must become hyper aware of what is happening all around you at every moment of the game. As you evolve as a player you will be able to “see” the game develop in front of you before it happens. As a player your mental state must be such that you are continually evaluating the game, even if the action is on the other side of the field such that you end up in better place to react to the situation well before the play moves towards your position on the field. This is one aspect of the winning mentality; the determination and ability to read the game as it develops while off the ball. It can best be described as a continual evaluation of time and placement in regards to the ball when off the ball and continual understanding and evaluation of what is happening off the ball when you are on it. This will be taught in training, by myself the coach, and expected to be transferred to games by you, the player.

2) Desire to compete:
Mentality also refers to a players desire to compete, not only to win the game, but to win every single battle they engage in during the course of play. This refers not only to a one versus one engagement over the ball but also the manner in which one plays the game off the ball.

Mentality off the ball:This is the speed at which a forward checks to the ball in a seam, the intensity with which an outside midfielder makes a back post run, and the dropping back of a fullback to cover the goal line when a keeper is out. These are all examples of having a competitive mentality even when it is possible that these actions will not have a direct impact on the play. However, they quite likely will have indirect effects on the play. After all the back post run may not receive the serve, but the defender it pulls from the middle will create space for the forwards to work. The fullback may not need to keep the ball out of the goal however the one time he does will save the game. The checking forward may not receive the ball but his run into space will open up space for the second runner or second forward to receive. These opportunities are created (or not created) by the player off the ball going one hundred percent, playing to create opportunities. When players play with this mentality it leads to success as the work rate dictates success.

Mentality on the ball:It is much more common for a player on the ball to have the desire and the “want” to win the ball. However there is a difference between the player who goes up for a 50-50 knowing he is going to win the ball and one who simply goes up for it. There is a difference between the player who tackles with purpose and determination and the player who tackles without confidence. There is a difference between the player who checks for the ball at full pace with the intent of winning the ball and the player who checks thinking they’ll have a chance at the ball. Simply put there is a difference between playing all out and simply playing the game. Playing with the winning mentality means going one hundred percent with the understanding that they will win the ball, they will possess the ball, and they will make the play. This does not mean every challenge will go their way, it means they think it will go their way.

For a coach, the winning mentality starts in training sessions and it can be taught. It is the job of the coach to help foster this mentality. There must be expectation of excellence bordering upon perfection during training sessions. Practice makes perfect is often used around many practice fields but is very far from accurate. Perfect practice makes perfect is far closer to the truth. The coach must train in the proper manner else excellence will not be achieve. They must also will train with the idea that whatever is covered in practice must be done with excellence in mind.

It is the job of the coach to set this tone seeking to build within the players a desire to achieve excellence. This desire leads directly to a winning mentality. When players start training with the intent to be excellent they are on the right path; they are on the way to developing a winning expectation within themselves. This is the ultimate goal in the training environment. Furthermore as the training progresses and training occurs in different aspects of the game, more and more of the expectations will be transferred to you, the players for excellence within the training environment as well as the game. As this environment of excellence develops it is now the duty of the coach to hold the player to a higher level of expectation. It is the duty of the player to internalize this mentality until it becomes their own. As this happens the players will begin to hold themselves and their teammates to a higher level of achievement. Soon just playing is superseded by playing excellently. Simply training is superseded by training excellently and thus the winning mentality will be born.

A point of caution however must be made. Perfection will never be achieved and though it is important to seek it, it must be understood that it will never be found. Instead strive for perfection but seek excellence. Seek perfection; in fact want it more than anything else, but at the end of the day the goal is excellence not perfection as perfection will never be achieved. Be grateful for true improvement and quality victories. Take from a match both the good and the bad. Reinforce the good; remember the mistakes and train to improve in those areas. When training train to be excellent at all times. When the players do this as individuals they will see improvement and as a team there will be growth.