Speaking with experienced coach and former player, Michael Briceno, founder of Briceno Soccer Club, the topic of mistakes came up. As he put it, there needs to be room for players to make mistakes. The player has to be able to recover psychologically from an error. In America, youth players tend to be perfectionists. This is good to a point. He and many other coaches have found over the years that American players - at times - let their need for perfectionism get in the way of their ability to create on the field; they sometimes become robotic; they lose that knack to try and dribble past somebody. It's always necessary to reach for perfection but having the ability to fail along the way is crucial for the growth of a player's confidence. Many would argue it's better to try and be a perfectionist as opposed to letting loose, going wild on the field. But players also have to be able to try new things, and test the waters of their abilities. Within the system of players trying to get everything just right, there is also the larger system of coaches and parents that insist on perfectionism. Again, it's good to an extent but if coaches and parents have an up-tight attitude toward "error" in general, then a negative environment is often the result which leads to players being cautious, rigid, and, for lack of a better word, boring. On the other hand, if coaches and parents accept mistakes and allow some wiggle room then players know a few mistakes is not the end of the world. In this sort of atmosphere players are more relaxed and more confident. That's what you want. You want players to know it's okay to screw up every once in a while. At the top professional levels there are mistakes all the time; anything from mis-traps, to bad passes, to lapses on defense. What sets most professional players apart from others is their ability to come back the next play with the same confidence they have always had. Of course, some pro players and youth players - however good they are - will go through slumps, doubting their personal abilities. Tell the players they're going to make mistakes. They have to anticipate this. As they start to see what caused the error they should be able to improve off of that, hopefully eliminating future mistakes. Most importantly, they have to shrug it aside, getting ready for the next situation. Because no matter what, any player, at any level, is going to have the ball hit off their foot awkwardly, going out of bounds. How you recover from mistakes like this is the key. Mentally, you have to come back stronger on the next play. Once players have this mindset their confidence will grow as they approach the field for any game.
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