Coaches in the Positive Coaching Alliance have two important goals. First, they teach players how to win in soccer. Second, and equally important, coaches teach life lessons. One tool for teaching these life lessons is the ELM Tree of Mastery. ELM stands for effort, learning and mistakes. Players who focus on climbing the ELM Tree improve their game faster and prepare themselves for life.
It is important to teach players to give their best effort every time they take the field. This gives them the best chance to win. It also accelerates improvement. Once players learn how effort helps them on the field, they will apply it to life. For example, giving your best effort in school will result in better grades. Working hard at a job will lead to career advancement. I once heard a player say, "Why should I try? It's just a scrimmage." That lack of effort wasted an opportunity to improve. And that is the wrong attitude to have in life.
Learning is an important aspect of youth soccer. Soccer is a game of extensive skills and techniques. Players need to maximize their learning in every game and practice. Learning leads to improvement. Life, like soccer, presents endless opportunities for learning. School is an obvious example. But a player can also learn a new hobby, how to make friends or how to drive a car.
How players respond to mistakes is an important aspect of improvement. Mistakes are really the best teaching opportunities. When players see how a bad trap leads to loss of possession, they will see a need to improve their first touch. This is much more effective than simply telling a player to trap the ball better. Experience is the best teacher. This is why I encourage players to come out of their comfort zones and try new skills in games. I tell them that mistakes are fine because that is the path to learning. Mistakes in life are similar. Everyone makes mistakes. It's how we respond to those mistakes that define us.
The ELM Tree is a tool for improvement in soccer. Positive soccer coaches teach players to give their best effort, learn as much as possible and respond to mistakes. And as you can see, this applies to life as well.
More from this contributor: