Youth Soccer Parents: Understand the Four Pillars of Athlete Development

Youth Soccer Parents: Understand the Four Pillars of Athlete Development

Parents, see if you can relate to the following: Does your soccer player perform well at practice, and not so much in a game? Do they get overtaken by nerves and fears before a game? Do they tend to focus on the negatives and forget about the positives?

Well, the good news is that the real problem with these and other situations is that the solution lies within every player.

Whether it’s these challenges or any other, I’m going to continue with the journey of helping you help your child learn to be more confident, focused and resilient, even in the most difficult of situations.

Today we start with Step #1 of the 5-step process that is going to help your athlete learn how to overcome anxiety, doubt and fear, and be able to make more calm and confident decisions.

Step #1: Understand the Four Pillars of Development.

In the area of athlete development, there is a universally accepted principle that athletes need to focus on four areas of their development in order for them to reach their full potential.

The first area is technical development. This is the one that all soccer players spend tons of time on, and rightly so. This is all the work that is done to focus on the specific soccer skills a player needs to improve on.

The second area is physical development. Again, any serious soccer player spends plenty of time developing this, whether it’s with the team or on their own. Another no-brainer. Soccer players need to be physically ready to compete.

The third area is social development. In its simplest terms, it’s about how a player develops in the process of becoming a good teammate, building communication skills, etc. This happens a lot via team-building events and eventually with social media connections within the team environment. Further work could definitely be done in this area by coaches and managers, but this is being developed to a certain extent.

The fourth area is the most concerning, and that’s because despite it being the most important in many ways, it’s the one that is almost universally overlooked. This is the area of psychological development. I realize that most of you would already concede that it’s important, and all coaches understand how important it is, but yet no one really does anything to develop this part of the athlete.

The truth is that soccer coaches, when they get their coaching certification, are not trained in this area. We are given tons of information and feedback on technical sessions, physical outlines of how players should prepare and team-building guidelines, but next to nothing on developing a player’s mental strength.

This is a huge gap in the coaching system, and the development of all players suffers because of this.

This is especially true when a player grows into higher levels of competition, as the importance of psychological development becomes even more pronounced. How many times have you heard a player or coach after winning a championship talk about their resiliency and mental toughness?

A player could be prepared technically, physically, and get along well with his or her teammates, but if they are not making good decisions when it matters most, everything falls apart! This is why Step #1 in becoming more confident, focused and resilient is to acknowledge that mental training missing from your child’s training program, and that it can no longer be ignored.


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