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Friday, February 26, 2010

The Winning Mentality

'While evaluating international teams for CONCACAF (FIFA's regional leadership arm) in the Gold Cup, a tournament of National Teams, I was interviewing the national coaches from Mexico, Canada and China. They told me that what distinguishes the Americans from other countries is their winning mentality. The USA players have an enormous will to succeed, and it is very respected.

This mentality is a description of the strength of your psychological dimension. It involves your capacity to reach down inside and find your inner hardness. It's what happens when you emerge triumphant from any physical duel or combative situation. The winning mentality is partly optimism, but mostly it's a combination of focus, pride, competitive anger, relentlessness, hardness, fitness and courage - all of the most descriptive words for competitive athletics. This type of mentality is not about your skills or tactics. What it comes down to is intense desire. To get this winning edge, you need to build an indomitable will. This means you must be relentless; you must never give up.

What I love about this mentality is that it's not a talent; it's not part of a genetic code you're either born with or not. It's a choice, a decision you make to develop it. It is not an easy choice, but it is what is going to elevate you from the ordinary player. The question is: can you make the choice to be indomitable? Of course, having this mentality doesn't guarantee winning, but it's a quality that gives you the incredible strength, power and hardness that is an element in every consistent winner. You are already aware of our emphasis on one v. one at UNC. We use one v. one as the best training ground for developing the winning mentality. That's because it embodies all of the qualities mentioned above.

The winning mentality is the defining aspect of the National Team and UNC players. But that doesn't mean they have this trait as soon as they get here. Our players are still a work in progress. Most young players are. I can see this in my evening talks on the winning mentality at summer camp. This mentality requires a domination in both practice and games. The girls nod their heads yes when I'm talking about this, but I know what most of them are thinking: That's not me.

We joke with our players all the time (remember the importance of a laugh?). We tell them that we know women have evolved to a higher level - they know their relationships are more important than soccer. That's absolutely true, we say, but forget that for the 90 minutes it takes you to win the game!'


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