Don MacNaughton Coaching

Player to Coach: Building Resilience in Tough Times

“Everything is practice.” – Pelé

Football managers and coaches often ask, “How do you build resistance in players to deal with tough times and setbacks; how do you overcome adversity when coaching?” Well, resilience is not something you can learn through reading a book and it’s not something that can be learned through easy times: resilience is something that is learned through tough times. It’s a fact that there are going to be days when you do well and days when you fail at the best of times, but the current lockdown situation is undoubtedly feeling like a particularly tough for many.

However, through tough times, resilience can be developed, and the tough times we now find ourselves in are no exception.

Everything is Practice

We’re living through unprecedented times of social distancing and football is on hold. Practicing your physical game may be limited to solo drills in your garden, but that doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity to improve your mental game.

As Pelé once said, “Everything is practice” – even being in lockdown. The famous quote was first spoken back in the 1970s when Pelé was flying on jets between Brazil and New York. He would stand up and walk down the aisle, leading to the safety of his actions being questioned, considering the potential for turbulence. He responded by pointing out that everything is practice, saying, “I’m practicing my balance.”

Right now, we are all practicing the mental skills we need to build resilience. We’re learning patience; we’re learning to reflect, and we can take this learning into our coaching practice.

An Unconscious Strategy

Until you go through tough times, you can’t know how you’re going to react, but it’s fair to say that setbacks and failures lead to feelings of frustration. For example, an injured player facing a long recovery period would no doubt feel down and fed up at certain points in the recovery process, and it becomes important to validate this. These feelings are natural, but there’s real value in pointing out what is being learned through experiencing them. Getting through the recovery process teaches resilience. Once recovered, the injured player has the knowledge that he/she can get through tough times and come out the other side, and this knowledge becomes an unconscious strategy for coping with setbacks in the future.

As we’re stuck on our sofas at home, many of us are noticing the frustration of this tough time. If this resonates with you, remember that you’ll come through this, and you’ll be able to use what you’ve learned through the experience later in your career. When you’re facing tough times, you’ll have the understanding that you can get through it because you have the experience of getting through things in the past.

Of course, it may not be something you naturally see for yourself, and this is when having someone beside you who can point this out becomes even more valuable.

For the last 17 years Don MacNaughton has worked with thousands of players and coaches on the mental side of their game .If you are interested in working with Don on an individual level please  email donald@zonedinperformance.com

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