With more and more college coaches heading off to high school tournaments this winter and spring to scout and recruit prospective players, this is the perfect time to discuss your character both on and off the pitch.
More than once, I have had coaches tell me it is always easy to spot the most talented player on the field, but the giddiness of finding an athletic gem can quickly be overridden by the negative character faults they see.
There are a couple of pitfalls I constantly encounter when I am out at the pitch – be sure to ask yourself:
Are you prepared? – Are you the player who shows up to a game late, missing a mouthguard, or is still getting taped when everyone else is already running a lap? These small things point to a much larger issue and one that a college coach may not want to run the risk of. If you already have these bad habits now, will they turn into a bigger issue in college? (e.g., Will you miss the bus? Will you miss a class?)
Are you supportive of your teammates? – Are you the player who gets angry at the teammate who mishandled your pass? Or, are you someone who pats them on the back and says, “it’ll be ok, we’ll get the next one”? You don’t have to be the designated captain to be a leader on the field. Coaches are always looking for someone who will add positivity to their team–no one wants a Negative Nelly!
How do you treat the ref? – As a ref, I may be a bit biased here, but if you are a player who constantly talks back to the ref, the assistant refs, or even other parents (yes, I have seen this!), you are a huge problem waiting to happen. Also, if a coach sees you getting a yellow or red card, they quickly learn what kind of player you may be under pressure.
How do you act on the sideline? – What happens if you aren’t a starter? Do you sit on the bench and sulk, or do you actively cheer on and support your teammates, ready to go in as soon as the coach calls your number? How you act when you are NOT on the pitch is just as important as how you act when your hands are on the ball.
How do you act during the game? - This may sound simple, but if a coach is watching your match either live or on video, think about how your decisions may be perceived. Are you hustling to get back on defense? Are you the first one back on your feet after a tackle? Are you using your voice and communicating to your teammates about a turnover or getting your offense or defense lined up? What about if there is a simple 2 on 1 and you choose to keep the ball? While it may turn out you get a moment of glory and a try, against a tougher opponent, would the better option have been to pass the ball and set up your teammate for the easier try? Just things to think about.
How do you act at the end of the game? – Win or lose, do you shake your opponent’s hand sincerely? Do you stay around to help your coaches break down the field? Do you console teammates who may be upset over a loss? Even if the game is over, your behavior is a testament to your character and something that many college coaches will keep an eye on.
England and Samoa link arms after a hugely physical match.