A National Alliance for Youth Sports resource helping coaches, parents and administrators provide the best youth sports experiences for children.
Revving up the right reactions
By Greg Bach
The message was delivered to soccer star Kristen Edmonds at a young age.
And it’s never been forgotten.
“I was lucky that I was taught by the coaches that I played for growing up and by my mentors that it’s not the mistake – it’s the reaction after the mistake that makes the difference,” says Edmonds, a star midfielder for the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League. “So if you mess up it’s OK, no one is going to complete 100 percent of their passes; no one is going to play a perfect ball every single time; and every shot you take isn’t going to go in the back of the net.”
But what defines players, and tilts games in a team’s favor, is how players respond to having the ball taken from them.
Or their passes intercepted.
“If you make a bad pass is your reaction to win it back right away or is your reaction to put your head down?” Edmonds says. “If it’s to put your head down then the mistake that you made can lead to something better for the other team, but if you react right away and try to win the ball back then maybe you or one of your teammates can get it back the same way it was lost.”
A MESSAGE WORTH REMEMBERING
Edmonds led the Pride in goals last season with six to earn the team’s Golden Boot award. She was named to the U.S. Women’s National Team training camp roster last year. She’s one of the most versatile players in a league filled with super talented players.
And her message to young players – and those who coach them – is that everyone makes mistakes, including her and all the best players on the planet.
“If a player messes up it’s OK,” she says. “It happens to everyone. Carli Lloyd, the FIFA Player of the Year, makes mistakes all the time, but the next time she’s going to complete that pass because she’s confident and because if she messes up she knows it’s OK because it’s not the end of the world.”
So, coaches should take that message to the field with their young players. Teach them to respond to mistakes by working even harder to regain possession of the ball instead of dwelling on what just happened.
Stress it during practices and remind players during games – it is a valuable and important mindset to have.
And it’s one Edmonds is thankful was stressed to her early on in her development.
“It’s a player’s reaction to the mistake that can either fix things or make them worse,” Edmonds says.
PATH TO THE PROS
Growing up in New Jersey, Edmonds played all sorts of sports.
“I played basketball, softball, I ran track, did karate, swam and I even did ballet,” she says. “My parents wanted me to try everything and once I touched the soccer ball I just kind of fell in love with it.”
That variety of experiences paid big dividends for her too.
“I think basketball probably helped me the most because of all the agility that is involved,” she says. “But I think just growing up playing different sports helped me find what I really liked the most because I wasn’t just put into soccer where it was ‘OK, you like it, let’s just do this from 4 years old for the rest of your life.'”
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Youngsters don’t need to be vocal to be a difference maker for their teams.
Edmonds points out that kids can let their play do the proverbial talking – and giving maximum effort no matter what the score speaks volumes.
“For kids, if maybe you’re one of the quiet ones that’s OK,” she says. “Somebody can learn something from you in another way that doesn’t have to come out of your mouth. It can come through actions instead.”
Edmonds takes that approach with her play.
“I think I lead more from example rather than verbally,” she says. “I’ve never been one to speak up a lot and be that voice on or off the field but I think that what you are going to get out of me every game is going to be the same effort. I’m going to do the work that other people don’t want to do, making the long runs and everything like that, so I think that the work that I do on the field is an example.”
Sending kids home after practice with positive messages fuels confidence and passion for the sport. See how Tulsa football coach Philip Montgomery makes it happen with his team and adopt his approach to benefit your players, too
Troy Calhoun, the head football coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy, on helping young athletes learn, improve and savor competing
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