Rules to Play By

Here are 25 strategies or pieces of advice that can help you elevate your game — or at least give you some new insights. Most these are more about life than sport; however, it’s important to see the overlap where ever possible.

  1. If you expect every person you meet to be rational, truthful, and loyal you’ll spend way too much time being annoyed and ultimately, disappointed. Most people fit the bill; you just shouldn’t hold high expectations for self-serving people.
  2. Never be governed by emotions; anger and self-loathing are negatives that other people don’t want in their lives. It’s OK to have emotions, just don’t be ruled by them.
  3. Others don’t want you to solve their problems; they just want you to hear them complain long enough to convince themselves they were ‘right’. It’s less about being right or wrong and more about learning to listen and when necessary, learning when to walk away.
  4. It’s not about the shoes. Stop spending time trying to look like a footballer and start spending time being a footballer. Fashionistas need not apply.
  5. It’s unacceptable to not be proficient with both feet. Find a wall, find a ball, get to work.
  6. Find at least one positive from the worst days. This applies to coaches, players, and parents. Dwelling on the negative is exhausting and keeps you down.
  7. The only player you need to compare yourself to is the player you were yesterday.
  8. More often than not, the right thing to say is a pat on the back.
  9. Coaches: shelf the halftime speech. Make your players tell you what they see and experience. It’s their game, help them mature by making them own some of the decisions and narrative.
  10. Disappointment is part of the game. You’ll learn much more from losses than you will victory…if you’re paying attention.
  11. Think before you speak. And when you speak, put things in perspective. See Number 2.
  12. Find a dose of real talk. Talking to friends and family is fine, but they’ll tell you what you want to hear. Seek the advice of someone whose work you admire and respect.
  13. It’s not OK to hold things against others to the detriment of the greater good. More often than not, a disagreement can be solved with a dose of humility. Own your part in the fall-out.
  14. Take a day off from the game. No social media, no television, no video games. Focus on learning to disconnect from time-to-time.
  15. Create something every day. New plans, a new drill, make up a new move, set a new goal.
  16. You are not special — you are you. Self-entitlement has led many a good player astray.
  17. There is no excuse for not playing pick-up soccer. Find a game, start one at the park, seek out informal opportunities to play.
  18. Be a fountain, not a drain. Build relationships, stop bringing others down due to stubbornness and immaturity.
  19. Embrace the challenges the game presents. One day, you’ll miss the grind.
  20. Run at least two miles a day. It’s less about the fitness, more about finding a routine that gets you up and moving.
  21. Appreciate what you have…even if it’s not ideal. There are millions who have nothing yet appreciate everything.
  22. Watch a game on mute and with your phone on airplane mode. Study what’s happening on the screen.
  23. Be careful what you say to others — most people are itching to tell your secrets to others.
  24. Politics pollute the game. Don’t play the politics game. If you find a situation untenable, it’s time to move on.
  25. A mistake made more than once is a decision (more on this later).

It’s up to you to decide what applies to your game and life. Part of the improvement process is learning to identify where the disconnect lies and working on strategies that help, not hinder. Set your sights on attainable goals and don’t live in the past (try not to live in the future either…that’s a fool’s errand).

Published by Jon Townsend

Jon is a long-serving writer for These Football Times and the Original Coach and is the author of the upcoming book "It's Just a Ball: Exploring the Complexities of a Simple Game". Jon is a supporter of Liverpool Football Club and AFC Ajax. Based in the U.S., Jon is involved in promoting grassroots football and specializes in player development writing and coaching. He is the co-founder of Year Zero Soccer, a non-profit grassroots football organization that is partnered with TFT. His work has been featured on the Guardian Sport Network, Inside Soccer, NSCAA Soccer Journal, White Lines Magazine, and Spartan Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @jon_townsend3

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