The Philadelphia Union opened up its 2015 season with its first training session on Monday, held at YSC Sports. The session provided the coaching staff with its first glimpse at many of the players who will make up the first team roster this year. Joining the returning Union players on Monday were some youth academy players, trialists, and the four players selected by Philadelphia in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft last week: forward Dzenan Catic (Davenport University), midfielder Eric Bird (University of Virginia), and defenders Aaron Simmons (UCLA) and Raymond Lee (Saint Louis University). The club begins 2015 looking to add talent into roles recently vacated by players like Amobi Okugo, Zac MacMath, Pedro Ribeiro, and Brian Brown. Facing his first full season in charge of the club, head coach Jim Curtin offered up some words of wisdom for the new players looking to earn a spot. “I told all of the young guys that they’re not going to impress us in the first four minutes of a training session,” Curtin said. “So you’re not going to make a team by doing a trick or a step-over. It’s about guys putting together a good day, then a good week, then a good two weeks and then a good month. … I think that’s a good message for any young player.”
Facing a trial or tryout scenario can be a psychologically challenging experience for young players looking to make the jump from college to the professional ranks. However, Curtin’s message is valuable for nearly any player hoping to be selected to a team, recruited, or even trying to make the starting lineup. Learning how to mentally approach these experiences can play a key role in helping you perform well. First, it is important to view them as opportunities to show your strengths. Avoid dwelling on any possible outcome (i.e., making the team or not), and focus on the whole process. Second, many players become overwhelmed with the idea that they are being evaluated or tested in these situations, and they feel the need to drastically change their game to impress coaches or scouts. Instead, focus on what you do consistently well as a player. Be patient, because coaches are not making decisions based on any one spectacular play or any one mistake. In these situations, resist the temptation to try to do too much. Use your routine to help you remain consistent and focus on what you control by demonstrating good habits (i.e., effort, a positive attitude, and effective communication). Third, while you may feel nervous leading up to these opportunities, focus on how you are interpreting these nerves. View them as a sign that your body is preparing to compete. Some athletes like to think of this as getting their butterflies to “fly in formation.” It’s all about how you interpret and manage your emotions. Finally, in these situations, coaches want to see how you respond to adversity as a player. If you make a mistake, stay in the present moment and get back to focusing on what you know you do well. And above all, enjoy the opportunity you have in front of you. With more than a month of preseason before the Union’s first game against the Colorado Rapids, the new players have time to focus on, and enjoy, the process in front of them, and demonstrate to the coaching staff that they can contribute to the club’s goals this year.
High Performance Sports provides sport psychology services to athletes for performance enhancement