By Greg Bach
During Chelsee Washington’s journey from the sun-baked soccer fields of her Texas youth to the professional ranks one of the most important lessons she learned was that confidence must come from within to be able to perform at your best.
And it’s a message she shares with young players every chance she gets.
“Confidence is huge,” says Washington, a midfielder with the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). “It’s truly everything.”
When it's lacking it's what derails many young players, often zapping their interest and enthusiasm for competing.
“What I’ve learned through a lot of mental work, and what I try to tell younger kids is if you rely on your confidence to come from every time a coach tells you ‘good job’ or when you score a goal then it’s going to fluctuate a lot and you’re going to feel a rollercoaster of emotions all the time,” Washington says. “Confidence has to come from yourself – it can’t depend on anybody else. The more you depend and wait on it from somebody else it’s just going to be if that person is up for giving you a compliment that day, and that person might not even know that your confidence is relying on them.”
90/10 PERFORMANCE CO.
Washington was a standout at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where she was the Mid-American Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year during her senior season. She was also the school’s first-ever player drafted into the NWSL.
When she’s not causing havoc for defenders on the field she’s sharing her knowledge and insights off the field to help younger players navigate the complexities of competing.
“I always tell kids if I could go back and do anything differently in my playing career it would really be to take the mental side a lot more seriously early on,” she says. “So I started thinking about how I could take all this information that I have consumed and use it to help others.”
So she began her 90/10 Performance Co., a specialized mindset strategy program tailored to young female soccer players ages 13 and up.
She works with players and teams worldwide via Zoom; and in-person in the Orlando area.
“Speaking with kids who are open to learning and hearing these types of things is incredible,” she says. “It’s given me this new spark for the game and to help out however I can.”
TIPS FOR BOOSTING PERFORMANCES
Washington passed along these tips to help your young players boost their performances:
Dealing with post-game disappointment: “There’s a lot of build-up to games and we put a lot of emphasis on our performances,” Washington says. “So I don’t think it’s very realistic to tell kids to get over a loss or a disappointing performance just like that. Give kids about 30 minutes to come down. It’s really hard when you are growing up to realize that I am more than a soccer player and if I lost that game it doesn’t mean I’m the worst soccer player in the world.”
Advantages of adversity: Going through rocky patches and disappointing moments is critical for building that all-important resiliency in young players. So players shouldn’t be shielded from tough games and challenging moments. “Confidence comes from that as well, being able to overcome obstacles and adversity that life and the sport can bring,” Washington says. “Whenever you’re playing in that flow state and you’re feeling good it feels a lot better because you know all the stuff you had to overcome to get to that point.”
Prioritize self-talk: Washington encourages youth coaches to stress positive self-talk with their players. “We all talk to ourselves and have that voice inside our head,” she says. “When we are hit with a roadblock or some sort of issue it’s really important what we are telling ourselves. So it’s important to open that dialogue with kids to start teaching them what we tell ourselves really affects us on the field and in our lives. Promoting positive self-talk is so big.”
Follow Chelsee Washington on Instagram @chels_washington and Twitter @ChelsWashington
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Add these tips to your coaching toolkit to help young athletes broaden their outlooks, enhance their emotional health, and compete with honor