What does it take to be a champion? This is the question that we explore in this issue of Amplified Soccer Athlete. We have pulled together insights from World Cup, MLS, NWSL and NCAA champion players and coaches.
“Champions tend to be a different breed. They are the uncommon living a life less ordinary,” states Dan Abrahams in his article on A Champion’s Mentality. “They suffer pain in the moment, every day, for the pleasure of a far off result. It’s not easy being a champion.”
“It takes courage to dream big and then to allow nothing to prevent you from realizing that dream,” says Tony DiCicco, Former Head Coach USA Women's National Soccer Team, who answered some questions for us on building a championship team.
“To be a champion you have to believe in yourself. You have to have the courage to put in the hard work. A champion takes responsibility for their training,” declares Amy LePeilbet of 2015 NWSL Champions, FC Kansas City, in our interview with her and teammate, Liz Bogus.
“In my mind, each one of us is capable of and set on earth for a unique and awe inspiring quest.” Michelle Akers explains in The Ethos of Champions.
“We need to empower people who live out that champion status even in life itself.”Coach Reed explores being a champion off the field in his article, Victory Beyond the Game.
What’s the experience of winning a championship like? Yael Averbuch, What Makes Up a Championship Team?, and Ross LaBauex, Being A Champion, have won both a college and professional championship during their careers and they highlight for us that experience as a player.
In preparing for this issue, we also asked three successful college coaches about being a champion and their answers are below.
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Amplified Soccer Athlete
What does it take to be a champion?
Becky Burleigh, Head Coach of Florida Gators women's soccer, 14 time SEC regular season champions and 1998 NCAA Division I National Champions: A willingness to invest more!
John Daly, Head Coach of the William & Mary women’s soccer, 10 time CAA tournament champions and 12 time CAA regular season champions: I have found this season that it has been chemistry above everything. We have been hit hard with injuries, yet the players never cease to amaze me with their resolute play
Jason O'Keefe, Assistant Coach of North Carolina men's soccer, coached or recruited 32 players that have been drafted and played professionally: Talent, Perseverance, Commitment, Toughness, Adaptability and some Luck
What do you look for when trying to build a champion team?
Becky Burleigh: People that buy into a team culture and not just what they get into it individually. Players that are willing to work outside of the normal team practice times. That doesn’t mean just work on soccer but investing in building relationships outside of practices.
John Daly: You definitely need talent, but character is just as important; find out what your recruits do when the chips are down.
Jason O'Keefe: The right people to take the journey with, ones that buy into the process and everything that goes along with it.
Once you have won one championship, what is your mindset for the next season? Do you prefer 'us against the world' mentality or 'we are the underdogs again' mentality?
Becky Burleigh: Start over. Make sure that you don’t make assumptions that what worked last time is going to work this time. It’s hard to truly act like an underdog if you’re not. Focus on yourselves and the things that you can control.
John Daly: I try to emphasize that we remember how good it felt.
Jason O'Keefe: The beauty of college soccer is you have a “new” team every year because seniors leave and freshman come in. It is about continuing to create the environment every year that players can excel in.
Do you think the mindset of a champion comes naturally, is developed or is a combination of the two?
Becky Burleigh: It’s definitely something that can be coached and developed.
John Daly: Some players have it in abundance and are the alphas of the team; it pays to have at least one!
Jason O'Keefe: I believe it is a little bit of both for sure. I think we look to recruit ambitious people with a winning mentality to life. Others need more guidance and structure. They have the intangibles but don’t necessarily have the road map so you need to help them develop and cultivate that mindset.
Does a player have traits of being a champion already inside of them like that of leaders or is it something taught over time?
Becky Burleigh: Some people have more experience in it but it’s something that can be coached.
John Daly: I believe some players have it in their DNA, but I have also seen players develop traits as they mature.
Jason O'Keefe: Ditto to the previous question. It is a little of both.