The Women's U.S. National Soccer team is credited with re-energizing womens soccer and raising interest in the game.
And much of the credit for the success of the team goes to PLU's Colleen Hacker, who has served as the teams sport psychology consultant since 1996. Hacker, assistant dean of the School of Physical Education, professor, the winningest womens soccer coach in NAIA history and an internationally recognized authority of peak performance and team building, helped motivate and build confidence among teammates. She offers tips for others in a new book, "Catch Them Being Good," written with head coach Tony DiCicco and the assistance of writer Charles Salzberg.
Though the book is aimed at learning to successfully coach girls, Hacker who coached the Lutes to five consecutive national championships and three titles and is now one of the assistant coaches of the national team said its accessible and useful for anyone.
"These are really principles for success in life," she said. "They transcend sport, they transcend gender. They are techniques that can be used in coaching, in your family life, your personal relationships and in the workplace."
The book includes real-life stories of working with soccer greats including Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers, and Hacker offers several team-building exercises and peak performance principles she uses with the team and as a consultant to corporations.
Here is just one of them:
COLLEENS TEAM-BUILDING EXERCISES
I advise players about a three-part reframing process they can use after failing or making errors, which is termed the three Fs: Fudge, Fix and Focus.
1. Fudge: When there is an error, the player first reacts with, "Oh, thats a bummer!" Or maybe she says the word "fudge." It never feels good to make an error, so the first thing the player needs to do is to acknowledge it emotionally.
2. Fix: Often, the first emotionally based reaction is an automatic response, usually anger, frustration, disappointment or fear. But a player cant let herself get stuck in that emotional phase. The next step, which requires thought, practice and effort, is to progress forward to task-oriented thinking. The athlete learns to ask herself: What was the error? What should I have done? What can I do now? This is rational analysis.
3. Focus: There are only three points in time for an athlete: past, present and future. Wherever you focus, thats where your energy goes. Does it do any good to focus in the past or in the future? No. The focus must be in the here and now. So the final step is the combination of a focus or cue word to bring the person back to the immediate performance. The focus should be on this play, this moment. Its right-now thinking and awareness. Thats where maximum control is for athletes: Right now!
Heres a concrete illustration you can use to show your group how this process works in reality. Perhaps a player missed a shot on what clearly should have been a goal-scoring opportunity. Of course thats disappointing. Of course the player made an upsetting mistake and so her first reaction is to acknowledge it and take responsibility for it. So the fudge portion becomes, "Doggone it, I blew it." But very quickly the player has to analyze the reason for the error and attempt to fix it. In this case, she may say, "I have to keep my head down and knee over the ball longer. That will help keep my shot low and on the goal frame." Then, the final step is to focus on the present. Focus on this play, this moment and this particular game responsibility. Players cant perform when their attention is focused on the past or the future. So the player now focuses on hustling back to the proper defensive position to try to win the goal kick being sent by the keeper.
Wrong-way Wiffle ball is an exercise that will have your team dealing with and learning from failure while also having a lot of fun.
Number of Players