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12 Rules For Preseason - Part I

A few days ago, I finished reading a great book that a friend of mine bought for me called 12 Rules For Life by Jordan Peterson. As I was going through the chapters and thinking of ways to apply the rules to my life, it occurred to me that it might be cool to apply them specifically to soccer coaches. Since we are approaching preseason, it seems like the perfect opportunity to write my own, 12 Rules For Preseason.

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life are:

  1. Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back

  2. Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping

  3. Make Friends With People Who Want the Best For You

  4. Compare Yourself With Who You Were Yesterday, Not To Who Someone Else Is Today

  5. Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them

  6. Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize the World

  7. Pursue What Is Meaningful (Not What is Expedient)

  8. Tell the Truth – Or, At Least, Don’t Lie

  9. Assume That The Person You Are Listening To Might Know Something You Don’t

  10. Be Precise In Your Speech

  11. Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding

  12. Pet A Cat When You Encounter One on the Street

Since this blog would be at least 10 pages if I addressed each one, this blog will be split into 3 parts, where I will address 4 rules at a time. I will briefly summarize what each chapter is about, and then how you can apply it to your team’s season in a few days time. I’ll also sprinkle in some of my favorite quotes from the book. Let’s begin, shall we?

Rule #1: Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back

“People, like lobsters, size each other up, partly in consequences of stance. If you present yourself as defeated, then people will react to you as if you are losing. If you start to straighten up, then people will look at and treat you differently.”

As any good psychologist will tell you, body language plays a hugely important role in building a strong team culture. Slouching over, sagging your shoulders, or not carrying yourself in a confident manner, can make it extraordinarily tough for players or other coaches to buy into your beliefs as a coach.

Regardless of what words come out of your mouth, you’ve already set yourself at a significant disadvantage by not displaying visually that you believe in yourself and your ability to lead.

For your players, encourage them to hold the same standards you do. When they’re tired and fatigued, instead of slouching over and displaying weakness, encourage them to stand tall, lungs filled with oxygen, ready for the next challenge.

There’s nothing more terrifying for an opponent than a team that looks like they never get tired and are never out of the fight. Start those good habits now.

Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead, Peterson writes. Dare to be dangerous.

Stand up straight with your shoulders back.

Rule #2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping

“Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles into traversable pathways and expanding opportunities. Strengthen the individual. Start with Yourself”

Being able to articulate how you want your players to play and how you want to teach it to them can be tougher than you think. If you can write it down and articulate it to your staff, you are halfway there. You have to know how you want to play before you can determine how you are going to teach it.

A good place to start is with the why. Why do we want to play this way? What does my game model look like? How will we train in order to teach this game model to the players? Will my players perceive me as the teacher or the authoritarian?

If you don’t want to be perceived as the authoritarian, be sure to listen to what your players have to say. Have a meeting during preseason to identify what the players’ goals are for the season and what it will take to achieve those goals. This will make it feel like the players and the coaching staff are all one team, and not just a staff who dictates to the players.

“Start with yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality. Choose your destination and articulate your being. As Freidrich Nietzsche so brilliantly noted, “He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.” “

Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping

Rule #3: Make Friends With People Who Want the Best For You

“If you surround yourself with people who support your upward aim, they will not tolerate your cynicism and destructiveness. They will instead encourage you when you do good for yourself and others and punish you carefully when you do not.”

What are the goals and motivations of your coaching staff and players? Is everyone trying to achieve the same goal, or are there personal agendas that could get in the way of success for the group? Agendas that you may or may not notice right away but you need to be wary of are:

  • Individual success ahead of the group

  • Playing time

  • Social issues

Surround yourself with coaches and players who have different strengths and weaknesses, but are all working toward the same goal. If you are a very soft-spoken coach, think about bringing in someone who can push the players at training. If you have great management skills but aren’t the best tactician, hire an assistant who has those qualities and can teach you.

When problems arise, and they will arise, it’s crucial to have different options and solutions at your disposal. If everyone has the same view on tactics, fitness, discipline, and management, you’ll be looking at every problem from the same angle, which can make it tougher to find a solution.

Know that those external factors and agendas that don’t have the interests of the team in mind can derail your season, so always be wary for them.

Make Friends With People Who Want the Best For You

Rule #4: Compare Yourself With Who You Were Yesterday, Not To Who Someone Else Is Today

“Realization is dawning. You are telling the truth, instead of manipulating the world. You are finding that the solutions to your particular problems have to be tailored to you, personally and precisely. You are less concerned with the actions of other people, because you have plenty to do yourself.”

Many times as coaches, we compare our teams to where other teams are, instead of where our team was yesterday. It’s easy to wish we could throw a couple balls and cones out and get our players to perform like Pep Guardiola or Maurizio Sarri’s teams, but that’s hardly a helpful or healthy way to reach our goals.

There’s nothing wrong with setting an ideal for the players to strive for, but in monitoring the progress as a group, it’s important that we always compare our performances to how WE were a week ago, a month ago, and on the first day of preseason.

Giving feedback to players on how far they’ve come is equally as important to the feedback on how far they have to go. Sometimes, we only express how bad something is, or how we need to fix it, and don’t explore the progress made which can encourage the group that we are on the right track.

Compare Yourself With Who You Were Yesterday, Not To Who Someone Else Is Today.

Part II Coming Soon!

About the author:

Matt Danaher is the creator and developer of SoccerPulse, an app that allows coaches to monitor how their players are feeling, find the intensity of training sessions, track attendance, and give players feedback on their performance. Click here to learn more.

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