Coach Dave Giffard has a great strategy for success that can be applied both on and off the field. He teaches his players to “Focus on the moments and be aware of the results”. You need to know what the end goal is, but you can’t over think or spend time analyzing how you are going to get there. You have to be present in the moment and play the game. Soccer doesn’t have the luxury of time outs where a coach draws out a play and the team executes it. Coaching soccer is about teaching the players to think tactically both individually and collectively so they can be problem solvers. During a game you have very little control; you stand on the sideline and let them play the game. Ideally you win the moments, and when you win more of the moments than your opposition, the results will be in your favor.
Sometimes despite focusing on the moments, the desired result doesn’t happen. When the Rams faced off against the Tarheels, on September 7, 2014 at the end of the day it was still a UNC victory of 1 – 0. It was their first top 10 match up of the season and it was a much more physical game than either the FDU or ETSU games had been. It took VCU about 20-25 minutes to match the pace of the #5 UNC. The Rams held their composure, remained patient, and didn’t rush their game. Coach Gifford attributed their ability to handle the pressure to the experience of his players on the field. “For a lot of these guys it’s not their first rodeo. They’ve been through the ups and downs in battles where the margin of error is slim.” This is a team that knows that they have to focus on the process otherwise they inhibit their ability to play at the highest level and win those moments.
VCU did some things really well. They usually control the pace and possessions, but UNC was extremely aggressive and the Rams spent a lot of their time on defense. The Rams played red-shirt junior Garrett Cypres who hasn’t spent much time as a featured player, but while focusing on his moments he had some great saves. Cypres is described as professional, a good leader, and a stable piece for the team.
There were 2 plays that stood out as “almost” moments: a shot by Brandon Eaton that deflected off his team mate Kharlton Belmar who was right in front of the goal and a shot that looked good but was collected outside of the side net. Both had the crowd at the edge of their seat…but alas no goals. It’s easy to become emotionally invested in the game, especially as a fan, but Coach Giffard said he had to learn to step back early on because he has so little control over what happens. “You have to be emotionally disconnected. You can’t be too up or too down so you can evaluate and make tactical decisions that stick.”
Soccer is a game that continues to play; the clock is very rarely stopped. Once a call is made there are no second guesses, no reviewing tapes. Giffard’s perspective is that players and coaches make mistakes and there will be calls that will happen the same way. The hope is that just as the team will continue to learn and improve so will the calls. It all circles back to focus on the moments. Once it has past you have to move on and be present in the next moment, the next play, or the next game. Maya Smart has a similar mantra. She would tell say “Win anyway“. A good coach will still review, assess, and make adjustments. You can catch things you didn’t see during play or get a more accurate view for better analysis on the game tape. Focus on the moment, be aware of the result, and be able to self assess using the following questions:
- What happened?
- Why did it happen?
- What was my role in what happened?
- What will I do differently going forward?
Then be ready to focus on the next moment.
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