Rookie Greenspan Shows Adaptability and Willingness to Learn From Mistakes

Following Joseph Greenspan’s impressive four-year college career at the U.S. Naval Academy, the Colorado Rapids drafted the 6’6” defender in the 2nd Round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. Greenspan officially joined the Rapids in June after receiving permission from the Navy to temporarily forego his service duties, and quickly earned his first two MLS starts against Orlando City FC and Sporting KC. In both games, Greenspan, a towering center back in college, had to adjust to life as an outside back at the professional level, playing against some of the top attacking talent in the league. Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni said that he had confidence in Greenspan’s ability to adapt to the new position. “I talked to Joe quite a bit,” Mastroeni said. “He’s obviously dynamic on set pieces. Defensively, one-v-one he’s pretty good, so there’s a lot of good characteristics to put him in that position.” Nevertheless, Greenspan struggled at times during those games – both of which were 2-0 losses – including a moment in the second half against Orlando when he was unable to contain the speed of Carlos Rivas, who assisted on Orlando’s opening goal. Despite the challenges, Greenspan pulled some valuable lessons from his first two professional games. “I learned I could improve my closing-down speed in cutting down angles for guys,” he said. “If I could’ve angled my body better I could have forced Rivas inside…The coaches gave me a decent bit of instruction during training and before and after matches. It was a bit different because all of my tendencies are as a center back. It’s a bit of an adjustment, but I thought I did a decent job for never playing there before in MLS matches.”

The idea of playing in a different position can be daunting for many players, who might be uncomfortable with unfamiliar responsibilities, or feel pressure from the expectations to perform well. However, being asked to play in a new position doesn’t have to be a source of fear, but should instead be viewed as an opportunity to expand your game. Gaining experience in a new position is a great way to increase your versatility on the field, and improve your ability and understanding of the game as an all-around player. As with any type of adversity you may face, playing in a new position requires focusing on what you can control. Before stepping into that role, reflect on your individual strengths as a player – the parts of your game that have made you effective. Consider how those strengths can help you fulfill the responsibilities of a new position. For example, if you are a striker who is asked to play on the backline, think about how some of your attacking attributes (e.g., speed, movement off the ball, etc.) can help you have success in a defensive role. And, regardless of your position, there are parts of your game that are always under your control, including your attitude, your communication, and your hard work. Also, recognize that, by putting you in a new position, your coach is demonstrating confidence and belief in your ability to play there. Finally, while some players are easily critical of their performance after stepping into a new role, the process of evaluating your performance should not change. Be objective about your play, and identify specific aspects of your performance that allowed you to have success, and specific ways in which you can improve. Don’t be afraid to seek out feedback from coaches and teammates on how you can better yourself in your new position, and then incorporate that feedback into your training. At 22 years old, Greenspan potentially has a long career ahead of him, a career that will be successful as long as he maintains his adaptability and commitment to learning as a player.

http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2015/07/06/colorado-rapids-joseph-greenspan-facing-challenge-transitioning-new-position

http://matchcenter.mlssoccer.com/matchcenter/2015-06-24-orlando-city-sc-vs-colorado-rapids/recap

http://matchcenter.mlssoccer.com/matchcenter/2015-06-27-sporting-kansas-city-vs-colorado-rapids/recap

High Performance Sports provides sport psychology services to athletes for performance enhancement

Pontius Relies on Short-Term Memory to Bounce Back

For the second week in a row, D.C. United midfielder Chris Pontius had an opportunity to score in second-half stoppage time, and this time, he converted. In last week’s frustrating 2-0 loss against the New York Red Bulls, Pontius sent a penalty kick over the bar that would have cut the deficit in half with a few minutes remaining in the game. On Saturday, however, against the defending MLS Cup Champion LA Galaxy, the 27-year-old redeemed himself by scoring the game winner with a diving header in the game’s 93rd minute. Speaking with reporters after the game, Pontius pointed out the importance of bouncing back as a team after a disappointing performance last week against the Red Bulls, and noted that he was also focused on letting go of the past when it came to his individual performance. “We asked ourselves to have a response after a bad loss in New York…Not only this game but past games, you know you just have to have short-term memory and leave that stuff and keep yourself alive. That penalty kick [in New York] didn’t feel good, obviously. Like I said, short-term memory. I was just focused on the team today.”

It’s not easy to recover mentally from a mistake like this, especially when it involves a meaningful moment late in a game. Afterwards, many players can find it difficult to maintain their confidence, composure, and/or focus. After a mistake, it’s probably the case that your mind tends to stray in one of two directions, by either dwelling on the past, or by worrying about the possibility of making more mistakes in the future. Perhaps you even struggle with both. Regardless, when the mind goes to either place (the past or the future), your body is still trying to perform in the present, the “here and now,” and as a result, your play can become hesitant or timid. Developing the ability to stay in the present moment while you perform has a lot to do with having a plan of action when it comes to your mistakes.

First, before going into any competition, recognize that your performance will never be perfect. Mistakes will happen, and your ability to put forth a strong performance largely depends on how you respond in these moments. Second, develop a strategy or plan of action for dealing with mistakes in your game. Practicing “temporary amnesia” means that you let go of whatever happens in the moment, and immediately turn your attention to the next play, choosing to reflect on, and learn from, the mistake later after the game is over. Strategies such as a centered breath or a refocusing cue (e.g., “Flush it” or “Let it go”) can help you in maintaining a short-term memory when it comes to these moments. Keep in mind that these strategies should be brief, because you may not have much time to pause and take your time in the moment. Players will also often use a quick physical cue to symbolize that they are letting go of a mistake, by picking up and tossing away a blade of grass, or by snapping their fingers to bring their focus back to the here and now. After the game, there will be time to objectively reflect on your mistakes and learn from them. However, while competing, it’s important to have a plan for how you will stay in the present moment. With a long season ahead, including a difficult road trip to Orlando this weekend, followed by a rematch against the Red Bulls, this will not be the last mistake Pontius makes this year. However, his ability to maintain a short-term memory, let go of the past, and stay in the present moment during each game will contribute to him staying consistent, while also setting a strong example for the younger, less-experienced players.

http://www.dcunited.com/news/2015/03/pontius-shrugs-it-off-scores-big
http://www.dcunited.com/news/2015/03/post-match-quotes-march-28-2015

High Performance Sports provides sport psychology services to athletes for performance enhancement

Dwyer: Accountable and Objective After Missed Chances

A rematch of last year’s first round playoff game between the New York Red Bulls and Sporting KC was part of the opening weekend of action for the 2015 MLS season. A 1-1 tie left both teams satisfied with their opening performance, while also providing glimpses into what could be improved moving forward. Sporting KC, for example, took 18 shots during the game, despite going down a man for the last 20 minutes. However, all of those chances missed the mark, with the exception of Ike Opara’s goal in the 50th minute. Speaking to reporters after the game, Dom Dwyer, Sporting KC’s leading scorer last year, was quick to accept some of the responsibility, having missed two close-range opportunities to win the game in the second half. “I didn’t do my job tonight,” he said. “We missed out on two points. It’s frustrating, but I’ll learn from it and improve. This one’s on me tonight. We’re a good side, and we should have won the game.” After taking responsibility for his missed chances, Dwyer was also quick to acknowledge the positives in his team’s ability to create so many opportunities on the offensive end. “The amount of chances I got tonight really shows what kind of team we have,” he said. “It’s like I always said: I’m going to get chances in this team – a lot more than last year, I can see. So once I find my feet a little bit and get back into it, I’ll put those ones away. It was a little bit frustrating, but I’m looking at it as a positive. I’ll put them away next time.”

As a player, when things don’t go well for you on any given day, it’s easy to blame your performance on something or someone other than yourself. It’s easy to shift the focus from the things you could have done better to things that are outside your control (i.e., the referee, the field conditions, mistakes by teammates, etc.). Doing so, however, shows a lack of accountability for your performance. Taking responsibility for the things you did well, and especially for the things that you could have done better, plays a big role in any player’s ability to improve on each training session or game.

Dwyer’s response to this game also shows the value of objectively evaluating your game as a player. An objective evaluation is a strategy players use to pull useful information – both positive and negative – from any game or training session. Identifying what you or your team did well in a game allows you to build confidence and better understand your strengths. In Dwyer’s case, for example, recognizing that his teammates were able to create so many chances during the game gives him the knowledge that he can rely on this in the future, as the club’s main goal scorer. Knowing that your team has the ability to create chances can motivate you to continue working when you are down a goal or two late in a game. Additionally, recognizing how you can improve on any performance is an important aspect of viewing each game as a learning opportunity. One of the mistakes players often make when evaluating their performance is that they fail to do so objectively. They judge themselves on their weaknesses (e.g., “I’m not a good 1v1 defender”) rather than simply focusing on the useful information they can pull from them (e.g., “I could do a better job of staying patient and not stabbing in when I defend 1v1”). With a long season ahead, Dwyer has plenty of time to improve on Sunday’s match. Accomplishing this should not be an issue, as long as he remains accountable and objective about his performances.

http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2015/03/08/dom-dwyer-laments-missed-chances-after-10-man-sporting-kc-hold-out-draw-new-

High Performance Sports provides sport psychology services to athletes for performance enhancement

Lahoud Overcomes Mistake to Earn Union a Spot in IMG Pro Classic Final

In Wednesday’s IMG Suncoast Pro Classic match against the Columbus Crew, Philadelphia Union’s Michael Lahoud had his first experience playing as a center back when he entered the game in the second half. Throughout the game, both teams found it challenging at times to play in the difficult weather conditions, as fog, rain, and wind battered the field. Philadelphia was able to take the lead with a 27th minute goal by newly acquired striker, Fernando Aristeguieta. However, halfway through the second half, Lahoud slipped moving toward a ball, allowing Crew midfielder Justin Meram to equalize on a breakaway, and send the game to penalties. After Union goalkeeper Rais Mbohli saved Meram’s penalty in the third round, Lahoud converted the Union’s fifth shot to earn the club a place in Saturday’s championship game against the New York Red Bulls. Following the game, Lahoud was quick to take ownership of his earlier mistake, and point out the importance of bouncing back. “I was directly involved,” Lahoud said. “I should have done better. It’s just part of the game. Mistakes are going to happen. Critical mistakes are going to happen. It’s not the final exam, and your mistake isn’t the final exam. It’s how you react to it. I’ve been playing for awhile and kind of knew that there’d be an opportunity to atone for it.”

Recognizing that “mistakes are going to happen” is an important part of being able to cope with them during your performance. Nevertheless, these moments are not easy to bounce back from without practice. Following a mistake, players may feel frustrated or embarrassed, or may wonder what coaches, teammates, and fans are thinking. They may suddenly become worried that they’re going to mess up again. While these reactions are common, it means that your mind is either stuck in the past, or worried about the future, rather than staying the present moment where it should be.
The first step to responding effectively to a mistake is recognizing the times when these ineffective thoughts or emotions are taking you away from the game. After you become aware of these distractions, there are several mental strategies you can use to bring yourself back. During a stoppage in play, take 3-5 seconds to perform a centering breath, drawing air deeply into your stomach, holding it for a brief moment, and releasing it slowly. You can pair this technique with a refocusing cue (e.g., “Flush it” or “Let it go”), so that your exhaled breath corresponds with a mental release of any ineffective thoughts or emotions attached to the mistake. Some players use a physical trigger (e.g., snapping their fingers, or clapping their hands once) to help them bounce back as quickly as possible to the present moment. There will always be time after a game has ended to reflect on your mistakes, and to learn from them through an objective evaluation process. During the game, however, using any of these strategies to practice “temporary amnesia” will allow you to keep your mind in the here and now. While Lahoud’s experience has certainly helped him manage mistakes at the professional level, younger players can learn a lot from the poise he showed in bouncing back in Wednesday’s game, and begin to develop this response in their own performance.

http://www.bradenton.com/2015/02/25/5658048/img-suncoast-pro-classic-philadelphia.html#storylink=cpy

High Performance Sports provides sport psychology services to athletes for performance enhancement

Keane Recovers from Early Mistakes to Score Late in MLS Cup

For the third time in four seasons, on Sunday afternoon the LA Galaxy won the MLS Cup, beating the New England Revolution 2-1 in extra time at the StubHub Center. The game was surprisingly sloppy throughout, as neither team put forth its best performance, and the Galaxy had to rely on a goal in the 111th minute from MLS regular season MVP Robbie Keane to claim the title. The Irish international recorded 19 goals and 14 assists during the regular season to earn league MVP honors. However, he was far from his best in Sunday’s game, and failed to convert on several early opportunities. In his postgame interview, Keane was asked about several of the chances he had missed early in the game. “I’ve been playing for 15 years…you miss chances and you score chances…I don’t worry about missing chances,” Keane said. “For me, I always tell young strikers that as long as you’re getting into the right areas, and you keep getting in there, you’ll score goals…I knew if I got another chance, I would put it away.” This belief paid off, and after Keane scored the winner with 9 minutes remaining in extra time, commentator Taylor Twellman said, “It doesn’t matter when you’ve had the kind of game that Robbie Keane has had…all it takes is one.”

Despite a slow start, Keane ultimately showed why he is LA’s captain and the league MVP, partly through his ability to cope with mistakes. As a player, it is important to recognize that mistakes will happen and accept them as moments to cope with and overcome throughout a game. Before competing, rather than dwelling on mistakes that will happen, focus your energy on how you will respond to those mistakes. Failing to let go of a mistake can often cause effort and focus to drop off, because you disengage from the game by remaining preoccupied with the past. Dwelling on a mistake that has just happened only pulls your focus away from the present moment. Instead, work to keep your mind in the ‘here and now’, and focus on the parts of your game that you can control. Keane notes the importance of strikers putting themselves “in the right areas.” This awareness of effective movement and positioning, along with effort, communication, and a positive attitude, are great examples of the “controllables” that you can focus on immediately after making a mistake. The use of refocusing cues can also help you let go of mistakes and keep your focus in the present. Imagine, as a striker, that you’ve missed an easy tap-in in front of goal. You may feel frustrated, disappointed in yourself, and embarrassed at your inability to capitalize. Using a refocusing cue (i.e., “Let it go” or “Flush it”) can help you turn your attention back to where it needs to be, and focus on what you can control. Twellman’s comment following the winning goal on Sunday – “all it takes is one” – is a powerful message for young players watching Keane manage an “off-day” and ultimately deliver for the Galaxy when it mattered most.

http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2014/12/03/la-galaxy-forward-robbie-keane-2014-volkswagen-mls-most-valuable-player
http://www.mlssoccer.com/mlscup/2014/news/article/2014/12/07/mls-cup-2014-post-game-press-conference-be-streamed-live-mlssoccercom

High Performance Sports provides sport psychology services to athletes for performance enhancement

For Jones, Most Recent Loss Provides Fuel and Lessons for Postseason

The New England Revolution is riding a hot streak at the right time, as it prepares for its MLS playoff matchup with the Columbus Crew. The club is unbeaten in 10 of its last 11 matches, and the impressive string of results has been partly due to the contributions of Jermaine Jones, who was added as a Designated Player in August, after a career with top-level German clubs such as Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer, Leverkusen, and Schalke 04. However, despite his contributions and his club’s strong performance recently, the 32-year-old defensive midfielder feels that the most important game in the last 11 was the only loss during that time: a 1-0 setback against the Crew on September 20th. While the Revolution bounced back against the Crew with a win a few weeks later, Jones hopes that the loss will serve as motivation and a learning experience for his team, as it prepares to face Columbus again on Saturday. “[That] one game showed us that when we don’t play 100-percent focused on the game that we can lose it…[The] second game at home, everybody was focused that we can beat them and we can give them a lot of trouble…We have to be focused, the same like when we were playing Columbus here at home. I think when we are 100-percent concentrated we can take something.”

Coming from someone with a wealth of experience playing at the game’s highest levels, Jones’s comments can provide some useful mental insight for young players. While it is important to draw confidence from success and build on momentum, it is equally important to constantly challenge yourself as a player to remember, and learn from, your setbacks. While New England’s players can certainly take pride in their recent form, failing to adjust and improve on mistakes they’ve made in the past will likely hurt them under the pressure of postseason play.

Furthermore, what can Jones’s comments offer players who may struggle to maintain focus during competition? While every player may desire to be “100-percent focused” at all times throughout a game, this can be difficult to maintain, with the many distractions that can arise during competition (i.e., mistakes, parents or coaches on the sideline, a referee’s decisions). As such, it is important to (1) be aware when you lose your focus during a game, and (2) develop the ability to quickly and effectively regain your focus when it gets pulled away. Refocusing cues (i.e., “Here and now” or “Zone in”) can be useful and simple tools to recover your attention when you become distracted. Reflect on your playing experiences and acknowledge situations in which you have lost focus during a game in the past. Begin using a refocusing cue or two during your training sessions to become comfortable with them, until they become more automatic while you play. As the Revs prepare to face the Crew for the fourth time this season, it will be up to each player to learn from individual mistakes and team setbacks in the past, and bring a high level of focus to the field for each playoff game.

http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2014/10/29/new-england-revolutions-jermaine-jones-draws-loss-columbus-crew-motivation-p

High Performance Sports provides sport psychology services to athletes for performance enhancement

Dwyer Brushes Off Mistakes, But Still Wants More

In only his third season in the MLS, Sporting Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer has already broken several records, but remains unsatisfied. The English striker has 21 goals in 31 MLS games this season, which set a new club record and is currently the second most in the league. However, after the most recent goal against the Chicago Fire, Dwyer noted that he still wants more, and even half-jokingly told reporters that he was aiming to add another 10 goals to his club record, with only two regular season games remaining. In fact, his goal total would have been higher had he not missed his first penalty of the year in the 13th minute of the game against the Fire. “I know, throughout my career, I’m going to miss,” Dwyer said. “I’m going to miss another PK. There’s going to be a time I miss an open goal. It’s going to happen to everyone. You see Messi. You see Ronaldo. You see the best players in the world missing. That’s something you have to deal with in the game, and I’ve matured and learned to deal with it…you brush it off and move on and make sure you put away the next one…I’m still out to prove I’m getting better each game,” he said. “That’s all I want to do. I’m not satisfied. I want more.

As a player, it can be very difficult to strike a balance between holding yourself to high standards (always wanting more out of your performance), and also recognizing that mistakes will happen and accepting them. Dwyer provides an example of a player who has demonstrated a remarkable ability to strike this balance. In each game, he acknowledges that he will not be perfect, but he also continues to raise the bar for himself each time he steps onto the field. For players who want to continue developing and moving up to higher levels of the game, Dwyer’s mentality provides an excellent example of what is often needed for that continued growth: a refusal to be satisfied with achievement, along with an acceptance of imperfection. Goal setting can be an important element to this process, because goals provide milestones to help you maintain your focus and motivation over time. However, they also allow you to continue lifting the bar for yourself. Thus, if you achieve an objective you previously set, pick a new one. Along with goal setting however, on a day-to-day basis, it is important to allow yourself to make mistakes on the field. Goals should help guide your motivation and your focus, but they should also be realistic and allow for mistakes and growth. As a player, coping with mistakes during a training session or game involves your ability to stay in the present moment or the “here and now”. Consider using a refocusing cue (i.e., “Flush it” or “Let it go”) to maintain your composure and regain your focus after a mistake has happened. Dwyer’s professional career is still young, but the striker will likely continue to improve and will be around for some time, based on his ability to let go of mistakes in the moment, while challenging himself to prove that he is “getting better each game.”

http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2014/10/13/sporting-kansas-citys-dom-dwyer-insists-hes-not-done-after-21st-goal-2014-i-

High Performance Sports provides sport psychology services to athletes for performance enhancement