During this summer I was fortunate to travel to France to watch Northern Ireland play in the Euros. We over-achieved as a small country of only 1.8 million people. The team successfully navigated through a tough qualifying group containing Germany, Poland and the Ukraine to reach the last 16? Why does a small nation like Northern Ireland hold the record as the smallest nation to win a game at the World Cup finals? How can we be ranked as high as 26 in the FIFA world rankings? The players dared to dream!
Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy sent an inspirational video to the team before the Euros. It highlighted that for many years Northern Ireland has punched well above its weight and produced world champions and top sports teams. Success has been achieved with many of the same attributes that Leicester City used last year when they went on to win the English Premiership against all the odds. Hard-work, determination, persistence and a contagious belief that obstacles can be overcome to reach the higher levels. Young players must also embrace this commitment to work hard and believe that they do can achieve great things through a commitment to get better every day.
The tide is turning in soccer at the highest levels! The top teams and the so called big players are under pressure. They are being out-worked, out-fought and sometimes out-thought by supposedly less talented opponents. In football (soccer) there is no place to hide on the field. If you are not putting maximum effort in and supremely motivated, you will be found out. Some of the top teams and players who are not on top of their game and letting their standards drop are now been humbled by their smaller opponents.
I think everyone is ready for a new era when the players and teams who are humble, hard-working and willing to do whatever it takes to overcome any obstacles in their path are achieving success. It is a refreshing change and provides our young players with better role models who are humble and demonstrate on a daily basis that success has to be earned.
It is achieved over the long-term with great determination, persistence and hard-work!
So, how do young players seek out and execute the little things that would give them an advantage so that they can dare to dream and over-achieve? Maybe, they implement the 1% rule and achieve all those little improvements that add up to significant performance gains. It can be as simple as getting to training a little bit earlier for some extra warm-up. Maybe it’s going to bed 30 minutes earlier. Maybe it’s trying new moves in training that you have watched on television. Maybe it’s planning ahead so they have a proper snack before training and have hydrated properly.
As a result of all these little things, which may in themselves constitute miniscule improvements, players can perform as much as 4 per cent better each week (that’s 1 per cent better, times 3 training sessions and 1 game each week). After a month, that could mean being 16 per cent better.
Lots of these little things over a period of time make the difference for young players. They are taking ownership for their development, thinking for themselves and striving to be the best they can be. There is no better feeling in sport, and football (soccer) is no different, at looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing that you have done everything you could.
Coaches and top teams seek out these types of players. Teammates love being around them and parents feel proud knowing that their children have developed a set of skills that will be useful throughout their journey in life.
Young players who dare to dream…and put the work in, can over-achieve!
Player Tip: Identify and implement those “little things” into your training program that all add up to significant improvements in performance
Coach Tip: Educate your players on what “little things” they can do on a regular basis to improve performance
Parent Tip: Help your child develop good habits in preparation for training and games.