This fall was the first year of the club’s new Psychological Skills Training Program (PST Program), given to FC Wisconsin U15 through U18/19 players to challenge and educate them not only physically, but mentally as well, and to help them all maximize their performance and potential.
Below is a summary of what the players have learned to help them improve this fall, and a preview of the winter sessions!
The first topic of discussion in the PST Program this fall was anxiety and stress. Collectively, the players shared common sources of anxiety and stress including worries about ability, self-doubt, issues with a coach or fellow teammate, travel, or even factors outside of the sport that can raise stress. While symptoms and sources of stress can be different from individual to individual, all the players were able to relate to each other and the shared feelings, all learned a deep breathing technique to help manage stress, and the U17s and U18s also learned Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) to help control anxiety.
The second topic discussed in the PST Program was motivation. In these sessions the players were asked why, during some moments in their soccer journey they are highly motivated, strive for success, and approach challenges eagerly, while during other moments they lack motivation, put forth reduced effort, and avoid challenges. The players learned the different personal and situational factors that influence their motivation – and how to control those factors that they can.
After the discussion on motivation, the players moved to discuss goal setting as a strategy essential to ongoing success and one that can directly impact motivation and overall performance. The athletes set both long and short-term goals, process and performance goals, and developed strategies to accompany their goals.
The final session of the fall season focused on group and team dynamics, where players were introduced to the different stages that occur when teams and groups come together: forming, storming, norming, and performing. The players learned that becoming a team is an evolutionary process and for teams to become effective, they must improve communication, understand rules, and develop norms all within the group.
The PST program has been very productive in helping each player take steps to maximize their mental preparation, optimize performance, and reach their overall soccer goals. There is more to look forward to this winter, with topics such as concentration, self-confidence and more ongoing!