USWNT World Cup: Objectively Evaluating Performance

On Monday, The United States Women’s National Team competed in its first game of the 2015 World Cup. Sharing a group with Sweden, Nigeria, and Australia, the USWNT matched up against Australia for it’s first game. Entering half-time with a score of 1-1, the USWNT has not played a very strong first half. They managed to pick up the intensity in the second half and started playing more cohesively. Megan Rapinoe succeeded in scoring two goals, leading the team to a 3-1 victory. Despite the victory, the team arguably did not play to its potential. Some post-game reviews claimed that the team did not play it’s best, saying, “For most of the first 60 minutes, Australia was the better team,” and that, “The United States weren’t great as a whole.” Coach Jill Ellis said of the first half: “I didn’t think we really played with a rhythm and a sense of calmness about us.” She said, “The important thing is we grow. The second half is something we can grow upon.”

The USWNT’s first game demonstrates that outcomes do no always reflect the process of performing; the U.S. beat Australia by two goals, but that does not mean they played the best they could. Objective evaluations can be very effective in these instances. After winning a game, it may feel easy to be happy about the outcome, and forget about the game, missing your opportunity to learn from what you did well and what you need to work on. However, after losing, you might find yourself replaying some of your mistakes over and over, and neglecting to think about what you did well. Being objective and evaluating both the good and the bad in the process of your performance – independent of the outcome – can help you recognize what you did well and identify areas for improvement, no matter what the score of the game is. Objectively evaluating your performance requires you to take some time to reflect, and to follow through. After you play, either in a training session or a game, think about what you did well, what you want to improve, and how you want to improve it. Deciding how you want to improve gives you goals to work on in upcoming sessions. If you want to really commit to this, then keep a journal or training log and write down your evaluations. This will help you see what you want to work on in upcoming sessions or games, and track your progress over time. Keep in mind that after games, you are likely to feel emotional, whether you’re feeling happy or excited about a win or good performance, or frustrated about a loss or a poor performance. When you reflect on your play, try to let go of some of those emotions so that you can think objectively. Objectively evaluating their first 2015 World Cup performance and identifying what the team did well and what they need to improve can help the USWNT go into their game tomorrow against Sweden with specific goals and strategies to help them improve their performance.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/dcunited/us-women-rally-past-australia-for-3-1-win-in-world-cup-opener/2015/06/08/5f156054-0e46-11e5-a0fe-dccfea4653ee_story.html

http://www.si.com/planet-futbol/2015/06/08/usa-australia-womens-world-cup-uswnt

http://www.sbnation.com/soccer/2015/6/8/8748803/usa-australia-2015-world-cup-live-updates-score-results-us-womens-soccer

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Rodriguez Maintains Professionalism With Vancouver’s Reserve Team

Soon after joining the Vancouver Whitecaps on a one-year loan in January, Uruguayan defender Diego Rodríguez quickly earned a starting position with the MLS club at center back. His bright start to the season was interrupted, however, when he suffered a quad strain last month against the Columbus Crew. Having finally regained fitness, Rodríguez appeared in his first competitive game since April 8th on Sunday, with Vancouver’s United Soccer League (USL) side, Whitecaps FC 2. And despite being relatively young, at 24 years old, the 6’3” center back wore the captain’s armband and led the reserves to a 2-1 win over Real Monarchs SLC. According to head coach Alan Koch, Rodriguez’s time with WFC2 was a testament to his professionalism. “Diego is a class act,” Koch said. “He’s a true professional. He came and trained with us for the first time and he jumped in right away. He embraced everybody…he was asking guys names, he got to know them. And you could see that he wanted to play the full 90 minutes but we were told to play him for 60 and he put in a quality performance.” For Rodriguez, this professionalism is just part of focusing on what he controls and getting more games with the MLS side. “When the [first-team] coach needs me, I’ll be ready,” Rodriguez said. “I work every day…I feel very healthy, very good, and ready to play.”

Part of having a professional mentality means bringing your best effort and focus to the field, regardless of the environment or the players you are playing with or against. For Rodriguez, spending time with the reserves probably isn’t ideal, given that he came to Vancouver to pursue a career in MLS. However, the young center back displayed remarkable leadership over the weekend, by maintaining a positive attitude, and treating his time with the USL side no differently than if he were playing with the first team. There’s no denying the fact that situations like this can be frustrating for players who want to play at the highest level at all times. However, many players in these circumstances allow their focus and intensity to drop off, either feeling sorry for themselves, bitter about playing with less talented players, or feeling like they don’t need to work hard to be effective at a lower level. In this situation, it’s important to view the experience as an opportunity to improve as a player, by working on your weaknesses and continuing to refine your strengths. Even if you’re not typically a leader on the field, take the opportunity to be a role model in this situation, by holding yourself to high standards and maintaining your best effort and focus during training sessions and games. If, like Rodriguez, you are around new teammates, introduce yourself and do everything you can to get to know them and demonstrate that you are committed. Part of being a professional also means communicating effectively on the field, encouraging other players when they work hard, and providing useful feedback on what they can improve. When it comes to your individual performance in this situation, consider setting new goals, challenging yourself to lift your game to the next level. Above all, recognize that every moment you are on the field, regardless of the players you are competing with or against, is an opportunity to put forth your very best, focus on your role and responsibilities, and improve your game. Rodríguez’s talent and work ethic will greatly contribute to earning him a spot back on Vancouver’s first team. In the meantime, his professional mentality will help him make the most out of his time with the reserves, help the team be successful, and continue to get better on an individual level.

http://www.whitecapsfc.com/wfc2/2015/05/news-and-notes-wfc2

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Cech Continues to Put Club First, While Pushing for a Starting Spot

On most teams, it is often the case that competition for playing time can involve two or more talented players fighting for the same position. At the world’s best clubs, this competition can lead to the unfortunate reality that some of the world’s best players are handed a spot on the bench. For Chelsea’s two goalkeepers, Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois, this has been the case all season. Last week, Cech, who has been a reserve for most of this year, staked his claim for the starting spot with an outstanding performance in the club’s 1-0 win over Everton. However, despite the shutout and several impressive saves, he returned to the bench, when Courtois was given the starting spot for Chelsea’s round-of-16 Champions League matchup with Paris St. Germain on Tuesday. Nevertheless, as club captain John Terry recently stated, Cech has continued to show his commitment to the team, despite the lack of playing time. “We have the two best keepers in the world in my opinion both fighting for one place – it’s difficult…Petr still has a lot to give and is fighting for his place, which is great,” said Terry. “He’s not just given up and said, ‘The place is yours, Thibaut’. Credit to him, he’s not even rumbled or sent shockwaves through the dressing room. The manager stresses the importance of the team coming first and he’s done that, Thibaut too. They’re both there for the whole squad. They have both been excellent.”

No player enjoys being left on the bench, especially when it seems like you have performed well and earned playing time. For goalkeepers, this can be especially frustrating, given that starters in this position typically play the entire game, with the rare exception of an injury or disastrous performance. Yet, dwelling on things you cannot control will not help you in these circumstances. While it is normal to be frustrated and disappointed, griping or complaining out loud about your situation will not earn you a starting spot. Instead, it will negatively impact the players around you and drag down the team’s performance. It is important to recognize and accept the fact that your coach has the final decision on these matters. The good news, however, is that you have the power to make that decision a difficult one. The more effort you put in, and the more you push yourself to improve, the harder you will make it for your coach to put any other player into the role you want. Try using any frustration you may feel in this situation to fuel your motivation to earn that spot, and continue doing everything you can to get better. Whether this involves arriving early to training to work on weaknesses, adjusting your habits off the field (e.g., healthy eating, better sleep, lifting weights, etc.), or speaking to your coach about things you can do to earn more playing time, direct your attention to what you control.

Under these circumstances, push yourself to succeed on an individual level, while also putting your team’s goals before your own interests. This may seem like a difficult balance to strike, but it can be accomplished by focusing your energy on contributing to the team’s success in whatever role you find yourself. In training, work hard and push the players around you to get better. During games, provide encouragement and effective communication from the sideline. Continued hard work and commitment in these situations is a strong show of leadership. For a world-class goalkeeper like Petr Cech, spending time on the sideline is never easy. But as Chelsea attempts to win its first Premier League title in five years, the coach and players will be looking to the veteran to continue putting his team first.

http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/12040/9720378/chelsea-captain-john-terry-has-praised-petr-cech-after-the-keeper-was-left-out-in-paris

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Zardes Continues to Prove Himself Through Attitude and Coachability

The US Men’s national team put an end to a five-game winless streak on Sunday with a 2-0 win over Panama. Among the players who put forth good performances was Gyasi Zardes, who earned his first start for the national team after putting together two strong years with the LA Galaxy. With an assist on Clint Dempsey’s first-half goal and an impressive display throughout the full 90 minutes, Zardes was named Man of the Match. Following the game, the 23-year-old also earned praise from head coach Jürgen Klinsmann, as well as many of his teammates, such as USMNT veteran Michael Bradley. “He’s a great kid, great attitude, he comes everyday ready to listen, ready to learn, and he’s good to play with,” said Bradley. “He’s still a young kid and he’s relatively inexperienced, but he has the right mentality.” Klinsmann agreed, noting that Zardes has earned future appearances with the national team. “He’s very teachable, he’s listening, he’s eager to improve, he wants to do extra shifts every day, he’s hungry…[it’s] really fun to work with Gyasi, and I think he deserves to be part now of this group.” Zardes himself was pleased with the experience of starting his first game for the USMNT, and shared his mentality moving forward. “I’ve just been trying to learn what I can from the coaches, but not only the coaches, [also] the players here,” he said. “The players are phenomenal here … and all the feedback they’ve been giving me, I’ve just been taking it in and trying to develop and grow as a player.”

Coachable players like Zardes are fully committed to their development and are constantly showing a desire to learn and improve their performance. They show up on a regular basis to trainings and games and give their best effort, physically and mentally, even if they are tired or don’t feel up to it. They ask questions and they watch and learn from more experienced teammates. And they listen carefully when their coach is giving instructions or providing feedback. Above all, coachable players are able to receive this feedback. Many players struggle to receive feedback from their coach because they become upset or defensive, take it personally, or feel that they don’t need improvement in that area of their game. When your coach is providing you with feedback, remember that he or she is doing so to help you become a better player. Even if you may not agree with what they are telling you, think about ways in which their message can help you improve your game. For example, as a striker, a coach may tell you that you need to work harder on the defensive side of the ball. While some players may feel personally attacked and criticized by this information, coachable players are able to learn from the message at the center of this feedback and use it to improve their performance. And if they don’t fully understand the message, they aren’t afraid to ask questions. Lastly, coachable players take feedback they receive and apply it effectively to their training. After a coach talks to you about some way to improve your performance, it is up to you to put it into action and determine process goals that will allow you to address this area of your game. After putting forth an impressive display in his first start with the national team, the likelihood that Zardes earns more appearances in the future depends on his continued willingness to learn and work on all facets of his performance.

http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2015/02/08/gyasi-zardes-proves-himself-first-usmnt-start-hes-guy-has-be-group-going-for

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Sterling Gradually Adapting to New Role

After changing positions from a midfielder to a target striker in mid-December against Manchester United, Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling initially struggled to adjust, and encountered criticism over his inability to score in his first game, despite several easy chances. Since then, the 20-year-old has shown increased comfort as a center forward, and has scored four goals in eight matches. “It is a role I am learning and adapting to, but that is something if you want to be a good player you have to adapt to different positions, and that is something I am keen on doing,” Sterling said. “When I get in front of goal sometimes I get a bit excited thinking I’ve done it all, but now I am keeping focused and trying to get my game to the next level and chip in with more goals and assists.”

Adjusting to a new position can be an uncomfortable process. Many players become accustomed to the skills and responsibilities of one role, and can feel overwhelmed or nervous about the prospect of stepping into a new one. However, the adaptability it takes to play in multiple positions is an important quality for any player. Adaptable players are often capable of solving problems on the field in creative ways, because they can draw from the experience and perspectives they’ve gained from playing in multiple spots. And, on many teams, adaptable players often earn the most playing time, because they are able to fill into various roles when teammates are injured or under-performing. Finally, these players demonstrate how to put the team first. Setting aside individual interests or preferences for the good of the team is a strong show of commitment and leadership.

Part of being an adaptable player, as Sterling notes, is being able to recognize your strengths on the field and figure out how to apply those strengths to your new position. Rather than feeling the need to completely change your game to perform well in your new role, reflect on your strengths and how those strengths can help you be effective in a different way. For example, if you are a center midfielder with excellent vision on the field, and you are asked to play as an outside back, think about how you will use that vision to help you make quick and effective decisions as a defender and how it can help you organize your backline. This is not to say that adapting to a new position is as simple as applying the way you are accustomed to playing to your role moving forward. There will be a learning curve, and it is important to seek out ways to develop the skills and learn the responsibilities necessary for your new position (e.g., asking your coach for advice, or watching and learning from other players who play in the role). Ultimately, recognize that you have been put in a new position because your coach has confidence that you can perform well there, and see it as a challenge or opportunity, while drawing on your past experience to approach your new role with confidence. As Liverpool attempts to climb the Premier League table in the second half of the season, the coach and players will continue relying on Sterling to learn and adapt.

http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/11669/9655510/raheem-sterling-still-adapting-to-new-liverpool-central-role

http://www.espnfc.com/barclays-premier-league/story/2257447/english-premier-league-raheem-sterling-adapting-to-new-role-in-liverpool-attack

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Henry Leaves Behind Legacy of Professionalism and Excellence

On Monday, Thierry Henry announced that he would be leaving Major League Soccer after five seasons with the New York Red Bulls. Whether or not this announcement has signaled the end of a masterful career, the 37-year-old’s status as a world-class striker has already been established. Since he first made his professional debut 20 years ago, Henry has scored 360 goals for various top-level clubs, including Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal, and Barcelona. He has also scored 51 times for his country, and was the top scorer on France’s 1998 World Cup winning squad. Since Henry’s arrival in New York in 2010, the Red Bulls have made the MLS playoffs all five years and won the MLS Supporters’ Shield last season. And while his many achievements speak for themselves, the praise Henry has received from current and former teammates and coaches provides a true testament to his quality.

“I don’t think there will ever be a player in this league – there never has been – that has what Thierry has in all aspects…It’s just been a phenomenal two years as a head coach to have a mind like that and a person like that.” – New York Red Bulls manager Mike Petke

“I have to say I haven’t seen a player like him. He’s an athlete with great technical ability and a tremendous desire to be the best.” – Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith

For any athlete, this sort of respect and admiration is not earned overnight. It comes from years of excellence and professionalism, both on and off the field. Henry’s career has been nothing short of legendary, and he serves as a wonderful role model for young players striving to advance to higher levels of the game. As a player, professionalism starts with the recognition that you are in control of your development. It means that you take responsibility for your game, and that you are committed to taking care of the details off the field (i.e., nutrition, proper sleep, etc.) so that you are at your best whenever you play. Treat every training session or game as an opportunity to improve. Use routines to ensure that you are physically and mentally prepared each time you step onto the field, whether for training or competition. Show respect to other players, referees, coaches, and parents, while also competing relentlessly on the field. Above all, professionalism means that you bring your competitive edge and commitment to the game by holding yourself to high standards whenever you play. When you train, recognize that each drill, each pass, and each touch on the ball is an opportunity for you to become a better player. For any young player, this kind of mentality also means that you are able to acknowledge weaknesses in your game and work to turn them into strengths by identifying areas you want to improve upon and setting up specific plans to go about doing so. Lastly, professionalism also means that you are committed to raising the bar for yourself, rather than becoming satisfied with your development. Henry’s legacy has been defined by an insatiable desire to always be the best, no matter what environment he is in: “I’m obsessed by the idea of making my mark on history.” Even as a 37-year-old, playing well beyond the time most players retire, he has continued to make this mark, and is a model of professionalism and excellence over a wonderful career.

http://www.mlssoccer.com/mlscup/2014/news/article/2014/11/30/new-york-red-bulls-hail-captain-thierry-henry-after-what-could-have-been-his

http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2014/12/01/thierry-henry-announces-he-will-not-return-new-york-red-bulls-2015

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2004/oct/03/newsstory.sport1

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Lambert Responds to Poor Performance With Accountability

Since Rickie Lambert completed his move in June from Southamptom F.C. to Liverpool (the club he grew up supporting as a boy), playing time has been hard to come by for the 32-year-old striker. In fact, he has often watched from the sideline this season, as head coach Brendan Rodgers has selected other players such as Daniel Sturridge, and newly acquired striker Mario Balotelli, to play up front. However, when Liverpool faced Middlesbrough at home, in the third round of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, Lambert’s patience paid off, as he earned a starting spot as well as the captain’s armband. However, while Liverpool won in dramatic fashion, 14-13 on penalties, Lambert struggled to find a rhythm on the field, and was ultimately subbed off in the 74th minute for Balotelli. Following the game, Lambert noted that he felt honored to captain the team he had supported as a young player, but was disappointed in his contributions on the field. “I wasn’t happy with my own performance…I didn’t feel as sharp as I want to feel. I want to get my match fitness up because obviously everyone knows I’m not playing every game so I have to adapt myself now. I think I’m going to have to do more so my fitness is up to the same level as everybody else’s…I’m going to have to go to the fitness coach and see if I can do more.”

While Lambert is undoubtedly frustrated with his recent play, his response provides a great example of a player taking responsibility for his game. In a similar situation, other players might have chosen to complain about their lack of playing time and its impact on their fitness level, or to blame the coach or the circumstances for their lack of readiness. Instead, Lambert’s reaction shows that he has accountability for his performance, and recognizes the need to adapt to his situation and take personal control of his preparation. As a player, there will be times when you face frustration on the field (i.e., a lack of playing time, a drop in your play, or another form of adversity). Your attitude in dealing with these circumstances plays a significant role in responding effectively. It is important to always take responsibility for your performance. Focus on what you can control as a player, and have the willingness to own up to whatever part of your game may need work. If you are unsure about what steps you can take to get more playing time or to improve some part of your performance on the field, talk with your coach, and ask for his or her advice. Even if you feel that you are being treated unfairly, or you are dealing with factors outside your control, maintain your focus on what you can specifically do to improve. In many cases, similar to Lambert’s, this may require that you put in extra effort outside your normal training regimen to increase your fitness level or strength. If you feel that this is the case, it is always wise to discuss it with your coach first, to ensure that you are not overtraining yourself. Even if he faces further time on the bench this weekend, when Liverpool returns to Premier League action against Everton, Lambert’s ability to focus on the controllables gives him the best shot at earning more opportunities on the field.

http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/11669/9487803/premier-league-liverpools-rickie-lambert-admits-fitness-concern
http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/liverpools-rickie-lambert-admits-not-4317148

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