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FIFA 2010 World Cup

Maintaining Focus in Tournament Play

American flag on soccer ballWhile its fans have been celebrating its exciting 1-0 win over Algeria in South Africa, the U.S. men's soccer team has had to stay focused on its upcoming game against Ghana in the round of sixteen on Saturday.   One of the hardest parts of having multiple competitions in a single day, or within a week, is the challenge of staying mentally and physically sharp and focused. Here are five tips to help your child stay focused the next time he has multiple games or races on his schedule.

1. Keep the celebrating brief

In a multiple-competition event you and your child can be thrilled with the wins along the way, but you need to remember that the tournament or event isn't over until the final match has been played. It's important to acknowledge the success and use it as positive momentum for the next game, but don't dwell on it and become lackadaisical. In the midst of celebrating it is easy to cut a cool down short or forget to re-hydrate; these mistakes could be costly during the next competition.

2. Get healthy

If your child has a nagging injury or soreness from his previous competition he needs to address it immediately after the competition. Whether it be taping his ankle, seeing his chiropractor, getting a massage, stretching or icing down his sore muscles, he needs to address his physical condition promptly.

He won't always feel one hundred percent for his next game; he'll likely feel some fatigue from his previous competitions, but staying on top of his physical condition will help him feel as close to peak physical condition as possible.

3. Assess the next opponent

The first thing your child needs to do after a victory in a tournament is get mentally ready for what comes next. He needs to know when his next competition is and who he is competing against.

This is the time for him, his team and coach to size up the new opponent and learn its strengths and weaknesses. Not every opponent is the same and your child may need to adjust his strategy.

4. Keep a routine

Throughout your child's competitions you want to encourage him to be a little self-absorbed and focused. While he should enjoy the friends and family who are there to support him, it isn't the time for him to be accommodating everyone else's schedule.

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest; that means going to bed at a reasonable hour and taking naps if at all possible.
  • Feed your child familiar and healthy meals; during a tournament isn't the time to try spicy Thai food for the first time or to be eating a lot of greasy fast food.

  • Your child shouldn't feel obligated to play host to his family and friends. He need to be at his practices and team meetings prepared and on time.

5. Enjoy the festivities with care

Some competitions may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I encourage your child to enjoy it as long as it doesn't interfere with or sacrifice his preparation for his next competition.

At the 2000 Olympic Games I was strongly discouraged from participating in the Opening Ceremonies because I competed just two days later. I knew another athlete who had been discouraged from participating in the 1996 Opening Ceremonies. He had figured he'd just do it at his next Olympics, but he didn't make the team four years later. He never got a chance to experience Opening Ceremonies and he really regretted it. So, in 2000, despite intense pressure not to, I decided to go. I took some precautions to make sure the experience wasn't too taxing; I sat down as much as possible, even on the field during the ceremony, I ditched the official shoes high heals and wore comfy tennis shoes instead, I made sure I stayed hydrated and I went to bed immediately following the ceremonies. Opening Ceremonies was a phenomenal experience and I have no regrets in my decision, and in case your wondering, I had a personal best two days later. I was so pumped up from the Ceremonies that it helped motivate and focus me. Erin Mirabella at 200 Olympics with Iraqis

Your child is there to compete, and win, and that should be his main priority, but despite what some people say, sometimes there is a lot more to a competition than just winning!

These five tips will help your child stay focused on the ultimate goal. A great time to talk about the United States team focus and how it relates to your son's competitions is while you watch Saturday's game between the United States and Ghana; while you enjoy the game you can make it a teaching opportunity too!

If you are looking for additional ways to tie a lesson with the World Cup check out my other articles and my children’s book Shawn Sheep The Soccer Star. 

Erin Mirabella is a two-time Olympic track cyclist, mother, MomsTeam's track cycling expert, and children's book author.  Her books, Shawn Sheep The Soccer Star and Gracie Goat's Big Bike Race are available online at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com, velogear.com, and at The Olympic Training Centers and select stores.  For more information visit Erin's website.

Created June 25, 2010


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