Soccer is all about relationships. Relationships between a player and their teammates, between a player and the fans, between a player and the opposition and of course between a player and a coach. This last working relationship between a player and a coach is heavily complex and can even make or break your career. Throughout my time playing soccer, I have learned that a lot that goes on between you and your coach is out of your control. Your coach needs to focus on the entire team, on winning, and maybe even on their life outside of football. All of these factors may contribute to an environment that is less controllable than you would like. Maybe you are not getting the playing time that you desire, maybe you are not getting to play your best position, maybe you are not accustomed to the playing style. All of these situations can be very frustrating. Trust me, I have experienced all of them! What helped me not only survive these trialing situations, but actually thrive in them was my ability to be coached. Coachability is the number one controllable in a team environment.
To me, being coachable means you are able to humbly receive instruction, understand what is being asked and execute in a short time span. It is a lot easier said than done. My journey to becoming coachable began during my NEFC days. I was asked to play in the midfield and help control the game, to almost act as the quarterback of the team. I immediately struggled, I could not get on the ball enough and I was hardly impacting the game. My coach pulled me aside and told me that I am “hiding”. He explained that I needed to be louder and demand the ball with my voice and my body language. Panic set in. I lacked confidence and therefore REALLY did not want to speak louder on the field. This was a moment when I could have done away with the coach’s instruction and continued in my comfort zone, but I decided to take the coachable route. That very next practice, I was the loudest one on the pitch and I was getting on the ball as much as I could. It was uncomfortable, but my ability to take instruction and apply it to my game allowed me to separate myself from the pack. While not all coaches will have the best advice, it is certainly advantageous to develop the skill of coachability. It can truly make you a better player.
As I progressed onto college soccer, I developed a strong passion for the tactical side of the game. I would spend hours watching the best teams and I would study their movements. I naively thought this meant I had all of the answers when it came to formations. When you believe you know everything, you shut off the opportunity to learn. At Brown University, we were asked to play against UCSB in a formation that I had never played before. Because I shut off my coachable receptors, I was the only one on the team who couldn’t quite understand how the new formation worked. My inability to execute on the coach’s desires really hurt my team in that match. The next match, we were to play the same formation. Again, I had a choice to make- do I remain stubborn in my ways, or do I employ coachability? Choosing the latter, I unlocked another unmatchable skill in soccer and life- you always have the capacity to learn something from someone. Being coachable requires you to have an open mind about learning. Go into each practice, each match open to learning something new. I am positive your coach and mentors will be very appreciative as well.
Coachability has followed me from youth football to professional football and has given me the ability to be flexible. No, I do not mean I can touch my toes (because I certainly cannot). I mean that I now have the ability to think flexibly in ever changing situations. I have played under five different coaches in Europe, each with their own coaching philosophy. I have been asked to play in very different positions than I am used to and at first it was very challenging. I was trying to play the 6 like I was a 10. I again opened myself up to the coach, understood the instructions and executed. My life on the pitch certainly became a lot easier.
Being coachable at each club trained me to become more flexible on the pitch as well as off of it. Being coachable can be tough, especially when you wholeheartedly disagree with the coach, but the skills you develop from coachability- being a better player, being a constant learner, and being a flexible human, are worth the endeavor.