**DISCLAIMER - This article is focused on athletes that want to push themselves to the highest level of play (Club, Collegiate and Professional). Our QTSD© Coaches push our athletes to achieve the goals they set for themselves; whether competing at a high level or just learning about a sport they enjoy. Please contact us if you have any questions at all!**
There are many athletes in the world that compete at a variety of game play levels. Many say they are competitors; that they hate to lose and love to compete. But what differentiates "true competitors" from everyday athletes? What happens in the lifestyle, mental development and physical training of those top athletes who push to the highest level of their soccer careers? What do they do that makes them different and how can you as a player makes those changes?
When watching the top players in the world such as Lionel Messi or Christiano Ronaldo, it can be easy to just assume they have God-given abilities and leave it at that. They were born with "soccer genetics" and don't have to work for their success. WRONG! While athletic ability is important (and can make development easier), top athletes become "true competitors" through their technical, tactical and mental dedication to improvement. So what sets those top 10% of professional stars apart from their athletic counterparts?
DRIVE TO COMPETE - Everything is a competition for these athletes. Training, matches, tournaments..... and even pick-up with teammates are constantly competitive. Can they always strive to be their best and in many times the best? If you watch on YouTube, you'll find many clips of training warm-ups where these athletes are always trying to out do each other with tricks and moves. If you aren't competing against others and yourself, you become stagnant and comfortable. "True Competitors" are not afraid of hard work and sacrifice; they welcome the challenge!
COMMITTED TO SELF AND TEAM - True competitors will do what is needed to be the best; both individually and as a teammate. They realize that the effort, dedication and sacrifices they make will directly affect their success. They are on time for practice, in shape and constantly engaged in training.
COURAGE & LEADERSHIP - These athletes are willing to take calculated risks to help their team; even if they may fail. This means being able to try new skills when the safe way means playing conservatively. Another aspect of courage means being willing to accept mistakes and failures when individually responsible. "True Competitors" will step up when teammates are losing confidence or dealing with mental weakness; building up their squad mates instead of tearing them down. They set the example in practice and games of how to compete; because they put their team's success before their own!
PASSION FOR YOUR SPORT - If you love what you are doing, you will constantly push yourself for development and enlightenment. There are always days when you may not feel well but if you love your sport, the motivation to learn and improve will push you to continue. These kinds of players never complain about drills and training; rather they embrace the opportunity to improve!
MENTAL FOCUS AND CONSISTENCY - These athletes are able to maintain a strong focus at all times. While they may make mistakes, you almost never see "mental lapses" or lack critical thinking during their training/game play. Can you as a player stay focused you next entire training session? See if you can pay attention to every word of your coach and push yourself to fight off distraction from other teammates. Can you picture in your mind what you are doing 2-3 steps ahead of the exercise?
MENTAL TOUGHNESS - One main difference is the ability to understand how to make a mistake correctly. Mistakes are critical to learning and the best in the world immediately adjust and learn from their mistakes. They do not dwell on them and allow those mistakes to affect their overall game play. Do you treat a mistake as part of the game and recover/learn or does your mental state fall apart after making a mistake?
DISCIPLINE AND COMPOSURE - True competitors are able to maintain control; especially when emotions are high! They make sure to pay attention to detail, maintain technique even when tired or frustrated, do not lash out at teammates and opponents, etc. This includes making sure your communication and body language reflects your discipline. Look at every team that has been successful; how many of them have undisciplined athletes? Lastly, discipline and composure is contagious. One athlete that loses hope and focus can affect an entire team.... true competitors realize this and continue to fight even when down possibly losing!
STAYING PREPARED - True competitors are always trying to find an edge over their opponents. That means nutritionally, physically and mentally! They maintain a clean diet, they build and protect their body through exercise and proper recovery while striving to be mentally strong. If your mind and body are always ready to play, the game of soccer becomes much easier!
You can tell true competitors apart from athletes many times by their fitness levels, consistency of mental focus and dedicated approach to learning/competing. Many people can be considered athletes by playing sports but it takes an entirely different approach & lifestyle to become a "True Competitor". Evaluate your own level of competitiveness and see how many of these traits you can consider your own. Once you have learned where you stand as a "True Competitor", what steps are you willing to take towards improving?? We challenge you to take 1-2 of these traits and immediately start to implement them into your game play; seeing what changes start to occur!