Minnesota Thunder Academy
2015 National Champions
Elite Clubs National League
Girls U17 Soccer
January, 2016 Eden Prairie, Minnesota Ted Johnson, Director of Sports Science, Performance Athletix talks about helping an elite U17 girls soccer team move from third to last place in the league to National Champions.
TRP: As a sports scientist who trains elite athletes, how did you become involved with this U17 Girls Soccer team?
I was working with several girls on the team on a individual basis and thought that the entire team would benefit from my training program, which includes the TAP. After a difficult season, nine girls began their training program with Performance Athletix.
TRP: What was your goal?
I had been using the TAP with other players that I train and am developing a day-to-day curriculum for each of the different athlete types that the TAP identifies. My goal is to fill in the gaps if you are a Maverick, Iceman, Eagle Scout, for example, that these are the tasks you need to do based on any weaknesses you might have. I had them spend about one hour a week on this mental training. So that was about 450 hours of mental training for all nine girls.
TRP: Did you give the TAP to the entire team?
We had the girls who trained with me take the TAP, and also the girls on the rest of the team.
TRP: How did head coach Dave Alberti use the TAP?
Coach Dave Alberti would read the TAPs in the airport prior to travel and said he learned so much more about the girls than if he didn’t have the information in the TAP.
Long story short, after reading the TAP reports, he realized that he was coaching all the girls in the same way when a more effective coaching style would be to coach them based on their TAP reports. For example, he realized that he needed to talk to a particular player one-on-one, not in a team meeting. And that he needed to pay more attention and give more encouragement to the girls who were really quiet and tended to get lost in the crowd.
TRP: Was it just the change in coaching style that made the difference?
The nine girls that trained with me, and the coach’s knowledge and adjustments in style based on the TAP reports, made all the difference. The team went from third to last place to winning the national championship in one year!
The reason for that, I would say definitely was the TAP and understanding of what the different athlete types are and what these girls weaknesses were and how to mentally coach them up on those particular gaps, and give them particular tasks and behavior modification exercises to fill areas where they were lacking.
TRP: What did the girls learn? How did they react?
The interesting thing was they learned so much about themselves by having access to their TAP. It was interesting to see how the TAP changed the mindset of the girls and some of the parents because now they had access to this information. Now what do they do with it? We were able to provide some structure to that process.
TRP: What was the girl’s reaction to learning their athlete type and their mindset indicators?
One girl had an unbelievably low mental toughness score but an extremely high concentration score. She ended up with the highest soccer honor in the state. Some girls strongly agreed with the mindset indicators and others strongly disagreed. When a girl strongly disagreed, it made her more introspective – ‘Why would that be the result? Let me think about that.’ I think that enlightened them. I think the TAP does a really good job of creating awareness about gaps that you may have in the way that you learn, in the way that you think, and how those play a role in the outcome on the field. How do these different mindset indicators manifest themselves, whether you play soccer, football or hockey.
TRP: Any surprising findings?
Confidence for most of these girls is really low. When we look at why that is – and these girls are beautiful, they’re athletic, they are all division 1 athletes – we ask who are you comparing yourself to? That’s when we hear comments like about being ‘never being good enough for my Dad, I can hear him in the crowd’.
TRP: How did the TAP Reports affect decisions on the field?
Coach Alberti wouldn’t play certain players in certain positions. By having a greater understanding as to how these players think, he had more flexibility in where he could play them on the field. He could put different players together because he knew more about their strengths and weaknesses.
TRP: Any last thoughts about the turnaround?
Going from third to last to National Champions had never been done in this league, plus two girls received MSHSSCA Ms Soccer awards. I think that speaks for itself.