Attitude to learning.

Attitude to Learning.

Ait theory

These Cook Island youngsters show a good attitude to learning by focusing intently as I present tactical information.

“What are other qualities that I need in order to improve my chances of becoming a top player,” queried James.

Old Bob sat back and took a few seconds to contemplate James’ question.

“To begin with there are a few characteristics which you need to concentrate on to become a successful player.   Perseverance is an important attribute of any player who desires a successful career in football.   The game throws up many challenges and can be described as a ‘roller coaster ride,’ so when obstacles get in your way and hold up your progress, you must keep on persevering and stick to your task.”

James quickly scribbled in his notebook, ‘perseverance,’ before turning his attention back to the old man.

“Look for challenges which will improve your playing ability, try out new techniques, not necessarily in a game, if it puts your team at risk, but most definitely during training sessions.   Make learning new skills something that you enjoy and want to know more about.”

James nodded in agreement, as he often quizzed the older ‘pro’s’ about how they did things to improve their game.

“Be certain to put a great deal of effort into everything that you attempt to do both in training and in games.”

“Some people reckon that football ability is something you either have, or don’t have, what do you think?” asked James.

“Well, there are some things that are genetic, for example, height; some players possess natural speed, but your overall ability as a footballer is something that is changeable and can be improved,” answered Bob.

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Coach Roger Wilkinson encourages these young footballers to improve their skills.

He went on, “there is no question in my mind that all football abilities can be increased, purely through your own efforts.   By applying yourself to any task, you can improve your ability, it is mainly a case of having an open attitude to learning, and knowing that you can improve.”

“There are some things that I feel that I will never be really good at,” James replied.

“Such as?” Queried Bob.

“My heading and tackling need much improvement.” Said James.

Old Bob responded, “It’s purely an attitude of mind, if you accept that you can and want to learn to master techniques and skills in football, then it’s a case of going out and ‘doing it’.   We learn by doing,” he added.

“Should I set goals for myself in order to improve in specific areas?” questioned James.

“Even though it is good to have specific goals to help you to improve your ability, it’s probably more important to have an overall mind-set aimed at increasing your football competence.   By this I mean a ‘learning goal attitude’ built into your mind.   This ‘learning goal attitude’ doesn’t have to work towards specific goals, they will arise regardless, what I mean is to build (in your mind) an approach to the game so that everything that you do in football is aimed at learning and mastering tasks and competencies.   This ‘learning goal attitude’ is something which becomes part of your ‘self’ or personality, and ensures that you will attempt to master new skills,” Old Bob replied.

“I feel foolish when I try something difficult, something that I haven’t done before, and it turns out wrong,” muttered James.

“That’s something you need to get over, if you want to improve your game.   Often the tasks that are most challenging involve making errors, and at times this can make you feel foolish, but making errors is a place from where learning takes place” reproached Bob.

“Coaches often get angry when you make mistakes,” stated James.

“Unfortunately too many coaches working with young players place too much emphasis on a ‘must win’ approach; consequently youngsters are too afraid to try out the different techniques and skills which would make them better players over the long term.”

“Everyone wants to win,” protested James.

“Of course, football is about winning games and players should always try to win, even in training sessions, however, ‘no risk’ football can be counter-productive particularly when dealing with developing footballers.   If youngsters are not prepared to try new and different techniques and skills because they are too scared of making mistakes, then their chances of reaching their full potential as footballers is remote,” was Bob’s answer.

“I know what you mean.   I had a coach at school who wanted us to boot the ball forward at every opportunity and we never got to develop a passing game.  I was glad to move out of that team and onto a team where the Coach encouraged us to express ourselves, particularly in the ‘right’ areas of the pitch,” said James.

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These Brazilian Coaches are aware of how their environment (sandy beaches) can be used to develop footballers.

Bob continued to push his point of how an open attitude to learning will gain the maximum outcomes in terms of football learning.

“It is wise to focus on the idea that all players, with effort and guidance, can increase their footballing abilities.  Think of your abilities as purposeful and flexible, they can be developed and advanced by spending your time working on them,” he declared.

“I must admit that I’d tended to think that there was a limit on what I could do, and had not thought in terms of continually increasing my abilities” disclosed James.

“Players who believe that even the most advanced skills and techniques can be learned by effort and practice will challenge themselves to master them.   They will put reversals behind them and carry on in the knowledge that they are flexible enough to succeed in the long run,” said the old man.

“The coaches are always telling us to put in a lot of effort, but they don’t really enlarge on what they mean.   It’s as if they are just thinking of something to say.” retorted the youngster.

Bob explained what he meant by effort, “When you put effort into something it usually means that you care about it and that it means a lot to you, therefore, you must be prepared to expand a lot of energy to bring about its realization.   He went on, “you care a lot about your football career, therefore, you must be prepared to expand much energy in reaching your football goals.”

Old Bob continued his dialogue on the same theme; “in order reach your potential as a player, or person for that matter, you should develop a willingness to confront challenges and risk the chance of failure in order to learn from the experience.”

“Often I don’t want to try something new in case I make a mistake and people will think that I am not as good a player as they first thought,” revealed James

“Unfortunately, that sort of scenario happens to a lot of early high achievers in football.   They get too much praise early on in their careers and finish up not wanting to try new things in case they fail and people will think that they are not as good as they first thought,” Bob expressed.

“I thought that it was a good thing to be praised a lot, it can give you confidence and high self- esteem,” was James’ reply.

“This is partly true but it is more important to develop an attitude of mind which believes that you can continue to improve as long as you are prepared to suffer setbacks, this may lead to the risk of appearing foolish when you make mistakes from time to time; so what?” Bob declared.

“So you are recommending that I should attempt skills which are beyond me?” questioned James.

“Certainly; just as long as those skills are attainable; consequently, over a long term period your game will continue to expand, rather than remaining in the comfort zone.   It is important to concentrate on effort, and the appropriate strategies which will improve your game; if you make mistakes, use them as a learning tool,” was Old Bob’s reply.


NZ International Winston Reid has confronted challenges in order to create a career in the EPL.

“Let me impress on you the importance of accepting the idea that you can always improve your abilities,” he reinforced, “It is vital for your progress to realize as early as possible in your career that you’re playing abilities are changeable and can be increased, unfortunately too many young players think that their football ability is somehow determined and permanent and cannot be altered too much.”

“I am definitely going to alter my attitude by developing a belief that I can continue to improve in every aspect of my game,” he pronounced, “I will be prepared to take risks and be challenged in order to improve.”

“If you maintain an attitude that you have high expectations of yourself and are prepared to persist and expend effort in order to improve then you will unquestionably make progress,” Bob responded, before continuing, “with this sort of attitude you are in control of your own destiny, if things go wrong  you can put it down to things which are under your own control such as, “I should have practiced harder,” or “my approach to that game was wrong,” rather than blaming you ‘re lack of ability or bad luck.”

“I must admit that on some occasions I have blamed bad luck after a poor performance, when deep down I knew that I hadn’t prepared for the game as well as I could have,” James replied guiltily.

Old Bob concluded the session by making the following points for James to scribble down in his diary.

  1. Footballers need to approach their game by crediting their successes (and failures) to matters under their own control, and not pre-determined or fixed events.
  2. Alongside applying effort to your tasks or goals; persistence is another key attribute when working toward these tasks and goals.   Keep persisting particularly when things may seem to be working against you, and realize that making mistakes is a valuable part of the learning process.
  3. Expect to succeed but recognize that failure is an opportunity to learn and progress.
  4. Have an open attitude to learning and look to be challenged.
  5. We learn by ‘doing,’ therefore, attempt difficult tasks with a learning mind-set.
  6. Focussing your attention and avoiding distractions is vital in the process of learning.