Improve Your Game with Goal Setting this Summer

celebrating soccer success with goalsetting

How are you going to improve your soccer game this summer?  Have you considered setting measurable and timely goals to get you to the next level?  Read on for tips and ideas.

What is Goal Setting?

Goal setting is identifying what you want to accomplish and making a measurable and timely plan to achieve that goal. When creating goals you need to ensure that you can identify steps to achieve your main goal. Setting goals and plans to achieve them can increase and maintain motivation and break down large tasks into more manageable steps.

Why is it important?

Goal Setting is important to provide long-term vision and short-term motivation. Furthermore, goal setting allows you to focus your time and resources to help achieve your aspirations. All high level soccer players set goals. Goals can be how many goals you want to score to how many shutouts you want that season. Whatever your goal, it is important to make sure your goals are measurable. A goal that says I want to give 100% in each game is hard to measure and then hard to maintain over a season.

Realistic goals for a high school athlete this summer could include improving your game knowledge by both playing competitive matches at least once a week in the summer and watching professional games as well.  It's World Cup so start watching and pay special attention to players who play in your field position.  Consider how they move off the ball and position themselves on the field.  Look to engage with local summer leagues and even ask around about  pick-up game opportunities in addition to summer camps and tournaments. 

Another realistic goal for the summer is to improve your fitness.  Find a way to measure your current fitness with a test such as the beep test.  Talk to your coach or fitness trainer to develop a summer training schedule and test yourself against your baseline throughout the summer.  Celebrate your success.  Remember, this will pay off this fall season!

Make sure your goals are challenging, and not really easy to achieve. You want your goals to push you to be a better player. Using the SMART goal framework is one of the simplest ways to set goals.  Below is a link to the University of California San Diego SMART goal sheet that walks you through how to set goals.  Good luck!

3 Things Coaches Look for in a Prospective Player that You Can Improve Today!

coaches at Collegiate Soccer Academy in Boston evaluating soccer mentality of high school athletes

While coaches are obviously evaluating players for technical skill, athleticism, and game awareness, there are other things that may lead a coach to select you.   And while you can't change technical ability or athleticism overnight, you can adjust your soccer mentality to impress and attract coaches today.  Recruiting coaches will explore a player’s mentality by watching him/her on and off the field and through general conversations. But what are they looking for? Three common factors have been raised over and over again by coaches of what they look for in players.

1. Winning mentality

The first key mentality factor coaches want to see is if you have a winning mentality. This centers around the question: how much do you want to win? They want to see that you are willing to battle for your teammates and often put the team’s priorities ahead of your own.  They want to see that you are passionate about winning and commit as much effort as possible to win in training and matches.

2. Coachability/desire to improve

The second key mentality factor is coachability and desire to improve. Coaches want to see that you want to improve as a player and a person. Players who embrace the idea of continual development often have a better chance of a successful college career as they can adapt to the immanent bumps that will arise along the road. Coachability also applies outside of personal development. Can you be coached and buy into a system that the team plays? Can you embrace a new role in the team that you may not have played before? Are you interested to learn more about the position you are playing? Do you ask questions about your personal performance and about team performances? All of these questions are important things you should be considering in order to be a coachable player.

3. Ability to accept criticism

The third key mentality is ability to accept criticism. Unlike club team where you are in a familiar surrounding with a coach who perhaps favors you or has coached you for a long time, college coaches have 20+ other players like yourself they have to worry about. Inevitably you will be criticized by team mates who often are vastly experienced themselves and will be criticized by coaches. Be ready and willing to embrace criticism. Coaches expect you to be mature enough to be criticized without it affecting your performances. If you are able to take criticism and turn that into a learning opportunity to get better and not let that criticism affect your performance then you will be an a much better position to reach the starting 11 but more importantly enjoy your college career.

These are three key mentalities that college coaches have found imperative to success in college soccer. There are many more to choose from but if you can master these three then you will be in a very strong position to have an enjoyable and successful college career.


Tactical Awareness

As a collegiate soccer player, you must have a high “soccer IQ”, in other words, tactical awareness. Your ability to show that you understand the system that your team is trying to implement will make the transition into the match day squad and then starting 11 significantly smoother. College coaches expect you to have a prerequisite knowledge of different formations and styles of play prior to college. They are likely to demand that you play multiple positions in various systems throughout your four-year career so now is the time to prepare to avoid being left behind in preseason. Whether you have a strong grasp of these concepts or feel that this part of your game needs work here are a few suggestions for improvement.

Watch soccer...A LOT! Watching the English Premier League, MLS or other professional soccer matches should be your first protocol when you look to improve your tactical awareness. Professional soccer players are at the pinnacle of their sport and you can learn a lot from watching these players in action. But how do you know what to be looking for?

Below is a list of questions that you should think about as you watch soccer to improve your tactical awareness. First, pick a team. Then work through these questions:

What system is the team playing?

  • High pressure?
  • Counter attack?
  • Control possession?
  • Direct to the striker?
  • Wing play?
  • Even…”parking the bus”?!?!

Why have they chosen to play this system?

  • To nullify an opponent?
  • To play to their strengths?
  • Understand the different reasons for different systems and how they change week to week and even during a game

What formation are they playing?

  • 4-5-1?
  • 4-3-3
  • 4-4-2
  • 4-2-3-1

How do the formations change when teams defend and attack? Often formations are fluid depending on the area of the pitch the team is playing in.

Once you have looked at tactics from a team perspective, focus your analysis on individual players.

Pick a player who plays in your position

  • What is their role?
  • How do they fit into the system and formation?
  • Where do they position themselves when attacking? When defending?
  • What are their movements on the field?
  • Try to see what they do off the ball.  For example, how did the striker get into the correct position to score the goal?

Try to learn, or even idolize, what that player does. Modeling your play off a professional is a great way to improve as an individual.

Then talk about this stuff with friends, family and coaches. But develop an appreciation for different styles as you never know what style you’ll be asked to play. A college coach hates nothing worse than you telling him/her that this is what your other coach told you to do. 

Ultimately, you have a responsibility as a collegiate soccer player to understand the tactical side of soccer, not just the technical side. Improving both sides of the game is imperative to your personal development and your ability to cement a starting position.