I’m writing this week’s article in Toulouse airport after a fantastic week away with the U-15 Club NI team where we played nine games in seven days.
In this time we won six games, drew one and lost one on the last day. We beat the likes of the French regional squads, Celtic, Sunderland, Ipswich and the Republic of Ireland only losing out to a very strong Toulouse team on our last day.
During this team the guys developed a winning habit but this just didn’t happen overnight.
Myself and the coaching staff have been working with this squad for over a year and in this time players have come and gone, new systems of play have been introduced and the balance between school, club and county have all be tackled.
There have been more downs than up but what we have always tried to do is get the players into good habits which ultimately lead to a winning habit.
Some of the things we introduced to the players was sweep the sheds, a mantra the New Zealand All Blacks famously use, where players clean the dressing room and leave it how we found it after.
Massive importance is placed on recovery methods like foam rolling sessions and ice baths after each match, most of which is player led.
We also ask them to clear the table after each meal and make sure their rooms are tidy with regular inspections.
At night we take their mobile phones off them so they can get a good night’s quality sleep without the distraction from social media and the blue light from their phones.
We also explain to the kids why we put these habits in place rather than forcing them to do them without reason.
All of these things added together built a strong relationship with both players and staff and this bond off the pitch helps with the performance on it.
In our last team meeting I had a conversation with the players about habits when they return home.
Below are some of the things I suggested that you could use to help reach your health and fitness goals.
Find your ‘why’
I told the boys to go home and write down their goal on a piece of paper but make it specific. Just don’t write I want to be a professional footballer, instead write that I want to be a great professional football by the age of 25 playing for a top four team in England. Having a specific goal means that you are not leaving much to chance.
Improve on three things
I then ask them to write down three areas that they could improve on from sleeping, lifestyle or areas of weakness in their game. At the end of each day ask yourself did you do something to improve on this weakness and write down or ask yourself how I am going to further better it tomorrow.
After 30 days if you feel that you have made enough improvement find three more things you need to improve on.
Strength in numbers
A football team is like a support group. It is full of people who share similar goals and interests. We set up a WhatsApp group where we ask the players to share a picture of them at the gym or doing some extra work outside their team training. This is used to help drive each other on.
Ask for help
At 13/14 years old it can be hard for a child to highlight their weakness and even more so how to improve upon them.
So we advised them to call on the knowledge and experience of the coaching staff. We are also in the WhatsApp group and share ideas in the group and to individuals – the same way a PT would in a group class or a one-to- one.
Making new habits or turning bad habits into good ones will help anyone in reaching their potential and goals. Just remember it can be a long process so be patient and also think of your ‘why.’