Dan Abrahams on Developing your Competitors
Simply put, Dan Abrahams helps athletes perform better. And, he has helped professional soccer players on both sides of the Atlantic.
Here are three simple but important suggestions that can make a huge difference in a soccer player’s ability to perform well on the field.
Effort … energy … focus … passion … intensity …
What words emerge in the mists of your mind when you think of what it is to ‘compete’? What pictures are processed internally when you think about a great competitor? What feelings soar through your body when you imagine your favorite team competing at their best?
Those personal experiences are exciting, right? Inspiring! Maybe they make you want to go watch some soccer. Or perhaps go for a run. Maybe such thoughts and feelings motivate you to write a coaching activity or even a whole session.
Whatever actions you take when you think about great competition, there’s one thing I’d like you to consider.
Competing is a skill.
Competing is a skill and it can be taught and it can be learned.
It’s simply not true that a player can or can’t compete – that a player is a great competitor or isn’t. Everyone can learn to be a better competitor. Everyone can learn to compete.
Recently, I was speaking with a sport scientist (and athletics coach) called Steve Magness. We were recording an episode for my podcast, The Sport Psych Show, and we were discussing the relationship between testosterone and performance.
In simple terms, testosterone appears to be a performance hormone. Its release probably gives players a better opportunity to compete.
It works like this: when you release testosterone you feel more empowered. This empowerment helps you to act with greater strength, power, and energy (to name a few important performance qualities).
Your performance subsequently improves.
How does this play out in soccer? Simple! A player is quicker to the ball and into space. A player sees more and does more as a result of what he or she sees. Anticipation quickens and decision making sharpens.
So, I can guess what you’re thinking: “This sounds great Dan, but how do I help players release testosterone.”
I think it would be spurious to say that we know 100% what to do to help a player release this vital performance hormone. But we can certainly brainstorm some ideas.
Here are three simple suggestions:
Dan Abrahams on Warm-up Challenges for Soccer Players
When players engage in a physical warm-up that’s really all they tend to do – physically warm-up. Fine! But this can be carried out somewhat mindlessly, and all too often players just ‘go through the motions’.
Of course, coaches can combat this kind of lethargy – stand close by and urge players on. Be vocal, support them! And this will indeed turn up the volume of intensity. This has the effect of building focus and commitment. But if we want to help players feel empowered through the release of testosterone then we need to do more.
One idea is to set mini challenges for players to accomplish. Not easy to do, but possible! For one player this might be getting on the ball a certain amount of times during a keep-ball game. For another, it might be being constantly vocal. Another player might need to constantly get his or her body shape right more often.
The key here is this: it doesn’t matter what the challenge is, the main thing is that a player has a challenge. By achieving this challenge the player obtains a mini win! When players perceive themselves to be ‘winning’ they release testosterone.
Dan Abrahams on Body Language for Soccer Players
Unsurprisingly, I’m going to recommend that coaches reinforce the importance of empowered body language.
By holding themselves tall or by walking in a manner that denotes a presence, players can not only portray confidence towards the opposition, they can also give their own body a sense of power and strength.
And this is (probably) all it takes to release testosterone.
Interesting, right? Yep, interesting, but rarely do coaches insist on this. And if they do, they’re not insistent enough. Be braver…be brutal…make sure your players are deliberately experiencing empowerment through their body and through their actions.
Dan Abrahams on the Impact of Past Performances
In line with the notion that experiencing winning can help players to release testosterone, then it’s a fair assumption that remembering winning can have a similar effect.
- “Tell me about your best performance?”
- “Tell me about a game where you played amazingly well”
- “Talk me through your best ever game”
These are the kind of questions you might ask players if you want them to envision their very best, which may (and I want to emphasize the word ‘may’) give their nervous systems a chance to release testosterone.
Recalling the best performances is very empowering.
Players who are given the opportunity to rehearse these types of memories daily are players who are given a better chance to feel confident about their game.
For more information on Dan Abrahams, his books and his popular podcast, please click here.