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As a soccer player patience is more important than you might think. Not only does patience help you manage any unwanted emotions you might experience on the pitch, it also helps you stay focused as you compete.
How? Let me explain…
If you scroll down you’ll see an infograph for wingers. In it, it tells players to stay on their toes during periods without the ball.
I include this point because I know that there can be chunks of a game when players in this position don’t see much of the ball. This is especially true if the opposition are playing really well or if team tactics include playing down the opposite side of the pitch.
One player I’ve worked with regularly over the last few seasons is Everton winger Yannick Bolasie. And one of the performance techniques we talk about extensively is staying focused while he’s not seeing much of the ball.
Nowadays, when Yannick steps foot on the pitch he knows that there may be periods of play when he feels like he’s not making an impact. For an ambitious player like Yannick, this is a challenge. He knows that being without the ball for long periods of the game can force him to wander too deep or work in towards the middle of the pitch. He knows it can make him restless and anxious.
But he now also appreciates the importance of staying patient. He constantly utilises his self-talk to remind himself to remain patient and to stay on his toes ready for when the ball comes to him.
This small act of self-management can make a big difference. It did a couple of years ago whilst he was playing for Crystal Palace against Liverpool. Liverpool came to Selhurst top of the table and were just a couple of wins away from capturing the Premier League title. They were packed with talented players including Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez…and within an hour they were three-nil up. Victory seemed inevitable.
Up until the 70th minute Yannick had had little to do and hadn’t made much impact on the game – it would have been easy for him to tell himself that it wasn’t to be his game. Yet this wasn’t what his inner voice was saying. In fact, he was telling himself to be patient..he kept reminding himself to stay on his toes. He kept reminding himself that he’d get a chance sooner or later.
And then it happened…
As Liverpool sensed victory and sat back, the ball started to work its way up to Yannick. He went on a few mazy runs, testing the Liverpool defence…and as he started to carry the ball more, his confidence began to grow. In fact it was a couple of brave runs and clever assists from Yannick that pegged Liverpool back – by the final whistle Crystal Palace were level and an unthinkable comeback had taken place (a comeback that eventually killed Liverpool`s chances of winning the title).
You see, no matter whether you play on the wing or in any other position, patience in soccer is vital. It’s as important as the first touch and ball control. It’s up there with your ability to pass, shoot and tackle.
I urge you to work on your patience as you compete. You’ll never make an impact every minute of the 90 that are played, and quite frankly you don’t have to. But what is a critical essential is staying patient. It’s staying in the game, being ready to receive the ball or to cover the space to stop the opposition. There is never a time to rest…you always have to be prepared. By staying patient it might be that you save your very best soccer until the 90th minute…and win the game for your team!