This summer, I had the opportunity to compete with my team in the Girls Academy League National Finals. After two incredibly tough, wild, and exhausting games, both of which went into OT, in hot and humid North Carolina, we were named the U15 National Champions. I do not think there is anything that can compare to that of being there with all our parents, coaches, and each other, and feeling the pride and sense of utter joy radiating from all of them. This past summer I experienced something incredible, and I am so grateful for all of it. However, coming off the high of the event has given me time to ask: “How exactly does one become a champion?”
Team chemistry is probably the most impactful and influential part of becoming a champion. Chemistry, both on and off the field, makes it much more likely for teams to succeed. On the field, chemistry helps because players are more familiar with each other’s tendencies: they are more likely to know which teammates prefer the ball at their feet, in space, etc. Chemistry on the field also means that teammates will know the on-ball and off-ball movements of each other, giving the team greater spatial awareness.
Team chemistry off the field is equally important. I’m not saying that everyone has to be the best of friends, but each player should have mutual respect for each other as people, and should look for ways to include everyone in different team activities. If a team is too cliquey or players are rude to each other, it distracts everyone while playing and has a negative impact on how the team plays.
Going into each game having the mentality of focusing on the present moment is also a very important factor to success. While everyone has the goal of winning a championship (league, state, national, international, etc.), focusing on the game at hand will help you play better because you are not distracted about the future, and it allows you to go into the game in a better state of mind.
I think every coach in the history of coaching has said this many times, but using your free time outside of practice to work on your game is one of the most beneficial things players can do. On days that you have free time, do ball work, sprints, weights, etc. Over time, this work will add up and make players stand out.
As athletes, it is always important to eat healthy, get lots of rest, and drink lots of fluids. This gets increasingly more important when playing in a tournament or playoffs. You need to take care of your body because at these events, you do not have as much rest time in between games, so you should do your best to give your body a chance to recover. Making sure to drink lots of water, eating healthy (do research into what athletes should eat), getting lots of sleep, and in your free time, doing activities that are not too strenuous will help you be more prepared to perform at your best in each game.
The road to becoming a champion is a long one. I’ve selected these tips and values because I believe that every athlete can always improve, and these areas have HUGE impacts on the way we play. I’m hoping that by incorporating these into your regime, you will have an edge in your games, and you will become more successful on the field.