Freestyle Soccer – Confused on Where to Start?

First of all, let's start with a simple question, what is freestyle soccer? Freestyle soccer is simply the style and ability to combine various soccer tricks in juggling and ground moves. It's a new trend in soccer along with other types like five a side futsal and beach soccer. In a soccer context, freestyle is perceived as less significance to the modern game. However, freestyle soccer does improve a footballer's ability to control the ball.

The ball control is what I perceived as the most important element in soccer before other attributes like fitness and tactics. There's a saying that if you can control the ball you can control the game. In fact, I stumbled one of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's, an Inter Milan player, quotes saying that as long as you have the ball, you'll have the advantage. Yet majority of footballers still ignore the importance of freestyle soccer. There are reasons behind it and one of them is that the soccer tricks are difficult to execute and only brings less to the modern game. True enough, but let's not forget the concept of ball control. Learning freestyle allows a player to enhance his touches especially the first touch. A great first touch buys you thousands of mili seconds to give you an edge over the opposition.

Those seconds could change the game in an instant especially in the modern game where it demands fast and furious soccer. As a result of those reasons, they don't even bother in the first place. On the other side, the ones who love freestyle soccer perceived it as something that they can express their creativity and improve on ball control and touches to a greater heights. But I'm more concern to those who are ignorant and may not have the slightest interest on freestyle soccer. The problem is, they may not know where to begin especially after watching a series of freestyle videos on streaming sites like YouTube. I'm assuming that they only watched the difficult tricks and instead forget the basics of freestyle soccer. I believe that freestyle soccer should begin with the basics like juggling and planting before moving on to the more advanced soccer tricks like the around the world, crossover, flip flap and others. It's important since juggling is the principle of all types of ball control along with dribbling. In this case, I shall focus on juggling since it's related to freestyle soccer.

Juggling the ball

Simply done by doing kick ups without letting the ball fall on to the ground and expanded to different parts of the body from foot, thigh, shoulder and head. The aim is to be able to link your juggling skills from one part to the other. For example, transfer your juggling from foot to your thigh. You can start with a simple transfer and improve to more advanced transfers like juggling from foot to thigh and then head. Once you've mastered juggling, you can start planting or stalling a soccer ball.

Planting the ball

The ability to balance the ball on a specific part of your body like balancing the ball on your foot. You can start by placing the ball on your foot and once you've mastered, you can plant the ball during your juggling. For example, juggle with your foot which is then transferred to your thigh and then balance it with your foot ie foot plant. Focus on these two abilities will help build confidence for you to start on learning some of the basic freestyle soccer tricks. Improving your juggling and planting skills increases your coordination abilities especially when you practice your transferring or linking skills. For this one, I'd recommend the around the world trick because it's the principle of all soccer tricks. Once you've mastered this trick, you have a great chance of doing other tough soccer tricks like the MATW, TATW, crossover etc. The trick is simply to rotate your foot around the ball after either juggling or footplant and kick it as you finish the rotation to complete the process.

These are a couple of basics that you'd need to constantly bear in mind. Similar to soccer, the techniques are very important and I highly encourage you to practice these tricks with a lot of dedication and once mastered, you'll begin to appreciate the beauty of freestyle soccer.

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How Sports Psychology Can Improve Your Sales

Learn from the Habits of Highly Successful Sportspeople

I am often asked «How can sports psychology help salespeople, surely they are totally different areas of expertise?» and my answer is simply this:

Every sport has different skills sets & disciplines and requires different areas of knowledge – yet most, if not all, now accept that mental strength and readiness is the single most important factor that separates the winners from the also-rans.

I’m sure you will accept that at the pinnacle of any sport the top athlete’s skill levels and abilities are extremely close?

My sport is golf. In any given week there are 20, 30 even 40 players who could win a tournament – if it was all down to their inherent ability to hit a golf ball. But it’s not! Every week it’s the player who thinks right and plays right that wins – not necessarily the most skilful player on show!

If you follow football; does the best team always win the match? No.

This demonstrates how you think matters!

And as someone who’s been involved in Sales and Sales Management for many years and is now actively involved in the training and development of sales forces throughout the country, I believe the same is true of our industry.

How salespeople think, matters!

Sales success is all in the mind. Yes you need selling skills. You need product knowledge. You need the ability to plan and prepare. As does the golfer; he needs to be able to drive the ball, play out of bunkers, play flop shots and putt. BUT! That all said; it’s how he thinks during the round that will determine his success and so it is in selling too. How you think during the day, during the call, ultimately determines your success.

So here is a brief glimpse into some of the areas that highly successful sportsmen and women excel at and how they would benefit us in the sales game too.

Practice, Practice, Practice… but in right way:

The top echelon of sportsmen and women make every second count when practicing. They work all areas of their game to the maximum, not just the points they’re good at. They dissect their sport into its smallest components and ensure they are world class in each and every one of them.

Take a long jumper. The UK Olympic qualifying distance is 8.20mts. If an athlete is coming up short of this target – let’s say 7.90mts, he doesn’t just keep practicing by running and jumping over and over hoping to get longer – he practices in the right way. He and/or his coach analyses every area of his performance and works on it in order to improve.

Technique: Take-off and landing – is his method right?

Physical: Does he have enough power in his legs for an explosive run up? If not – into the gym!

Diet: Is he eating properly, is he carrying a few pounds too many?

Mental: Does he have the belief in himself and his ability?

Technical: Is he using the whole run-up area – jumping too soon before the board?

You get the point? They don’t just keep doing the same thing over and over hoping it will get better.

The first thing to do in order to get better at selling is to think about the way you practice and rehearse your selling, your pitch, your selling style (if you even do it!) and create a solid routine.

First Impressions: Approach to the customer, Appearance? Do you adapt to what you see?

Presentation: Do you establish customer objectives? Translate selling points into benefits? Do you tell rather than ask?

Profitability: Do you always look to up-sell? Provide add-ons?

Closing: Do you make saying «yes» easy? Ask for referrals?

I’ve worked with many golfers and salespeople of all abilities and the thing that correlates most to improved performance is the way you practice. To keep motivated, create a Personal Progress Log – break your sales role into all of its different facets and mark whether your own performance in each area is Not Good Enough, Good Enough or Excellent and then work away on each area no more than a few at a time – to get them all up to Excellent.

Study, learn and rehearse – in sales this is your practice – the equivalent of going to the driving range for golfers. And like I tell all golfers, if you want to improve don’t make practice routine, make practice hard and challenge yourself. What can your team do to become dedicated to continual improvement?

Stay Focussed and in the Moment:

Staying in the present means that you give whatever you are doing your complete and undivided attention. In sport, this means you’re not thinking about your score, why you think you just mishit that shot or 3 putted the last hole. All your energy is on the task at hand. This is also true when selling. No point reflecting on missing out on that last sale, being caught out by an objection or forgetting to up-sell your add-ons and accessories – while you drive to your next appointment or await your next customer coming into the store. The last sale is over!

Yes you will and should have time to reflect later on, when the selling day is done but DON’T do it on the way to the next call or while you wait. Don’t bring yourself down. Focus on the positives in your abilities and think how the next sale will happen successfully.

It’s counter-productive not to be in the present!

If you play golf for example, just think back to the last time you started playing well and subsequently thought about shooting your best score, «if only I can keep it going for the last few holes» – only for your game to unravel!

Staying in the present is easier said than done, I appreciate that; and like everything else it takes practice but it can and should be done.

Create a highly repeatable routine – follow your Sales Process:

In golf, the top players in the world all go through the exact same routine before every shot, even down to the number of practice swings. Watch them and you’ll notice that the number of seconds it takes to go through their pre-shot routine is the same every time. This helps them stay focussed on the process of shot-making and not get too caught up on outcome thoughts such as; «This putt for the Open» or in football when they think «This penalty to get through to the World Cup Final» (Many football supporters will be all too familiar with what happens when a player focus on the outcome of the penalty!)

What’s your routine when selling? Pre-sale or during a sale? Post sale? Don’t have one? Do you factor in your Sales Process and plan and prepare accordingly?

Well unless you are perfect – take leaf from the Pro’s and get a routine that makes you feel comfortable and confident so you perform at your best when selling.

Know how to calm yourself down when the pressure is on.

How do you cope with the pressure of hitting demanding targets? Or dealing with a tough customer who’s giving you a hard time? In sales, nerves can and do kick in when the pressure is on and once again we have an area where selling can learn directly from the sports arena.

I’ve worked with enough golfers to know that the good ones know powerful techniques to calm themselves down to prevent nerves turning into panic and negatively affecting their performance. They use nerves to their advantage. Because if you are nervous it’s really a good sign – it shows that what you are doing matters! You care!

There are many ways to control nerves such as breathing techniques or using your peripheral vision or having special thoughts/places to go in your head. I recently read that Jesper Parnevik would try to solve math problems in his head when it all got too much when playing. So there are countless ways to do it! You just need to find a technique that helps you.

Remember, nerves cannot be eliminated totally IF what you are doing matters to you. If it’s not important or way below your level of ability and skill – you probably won’t be nervous. But when it matters – then you need the awareness to appreciate that feeling nervous is «normal» in fact it’s desirable – and then have a way that suits you in dealing with it and let the nerves help your performance, rather than hinder it.

The power of acceptance and moving on:

No one is successful 100% of the time. Mistakes happen. Sales are lost. But beating yourself up about it won’t improve your next performance!

By all means, at the appropriate time analyse what went wrong and take steps to ensure it won’t be repeated again if it’s within your power to do so but being able to accept a setback and not let it cripple you mentally is imperative to peak performance.

In golf, being able to accept the outcome of every shot is a trait that all the top players possess. Although almost impossible to achieve, the optimal state for golf would be if you could become emotionally indifferent to good and bad shots and remain on the same level throughout – but show me any sportsperson who’s not emotionally charged and pumped up for winning and I’ll show you a loser!

It’s a balancing act. Remaining in emotional control when it matters most can be done but once again it takes practice, discipline and the finding of techniques that work for you. Then you need the ability to let it all go – when it goes wrong!

Padraig Harrington tells himself as part of his pre-shot routine that although he has a positive intention for the shot, if it doesn’t go where he wants it to, it’s better to accept it and move on, than get upset. He wants his mind to be clear, ready for the next shot – wherever it may be from – not harking back to the previous swing that put him in trouble.

Try giving yourself that same pep talk before your next sales call. Don’t let setbacks drag you down!

Conclusion

Ensure your sales people make every second of selling time count! That’s when they are performing their trade, their skill, their chosen career.

Encourage them to put the above ideas into practice and you will see continuous improvement in their sales ability and performance.

The sports industry has spent millions of dollars and decades of research fine tuning these techniques. Use them. They work!

Should you wish to discuss how Sports Psychology can help you and/or your Team improve Sales Performance please feel free to drop me an email or give me a call.

Here’s to successful Selling!

The Inner Coach

You can find more information on ways Sport Psychology can help your Sales right here:

Develop Your Inner Coach Series

Chicago "Blackhawks" – Another "Miracle" on the Ice

This team is based in Chicago, Illinois. It is one of the oldest teams of NHL. It was founded in the year 1926, while National Hockey League was founded in 1917. It belonged to the Western Conference, Central Division. Definitely, a team from such a huge city has millions of fans in the USA and in the rest of the world. All of them have great hopes for such team. Neverheless, the previous story of "Blackhawks" does not have too many Stanley Cup wins. The team won the main title 3 times. The last was dated in the season 1960-1961. Afterwards, Chicago did not know the pleasure of such victory.

Neverheless, everything has changed since the year 2008, when Joel Quenneville was appointed as a new head coach of the team. He in collaboration with general manager Stan Bowmen and other coaches led the Blackhawks to an amazing record for the modern hockey. The team won 3 more Cups in the course of some 6 years!

Such achievement was not a surprise in far past. Nonetheless, in comparison to previous times now we have many teams that are quite equal. Therefore, even one title in 10 years may be referred to a real success.

When talking about Chicago before the era of Bowmen and Quenneville, the results were awful. The last time the team reached the stage of play-offs was in the season 2001-2002. However, after changes in coaching stuff, the team lived through a real rebirth.

The coach factor did a great deal. The innovations of Quenneville brought splendid results. Thanks to excellent selective work of Bowmen, the team obtained young and perspective players, as well as experienced ones. The rookies Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews turned into real world-class leaders, who lead their national teams. Neverheless, they became real stars in Chicago.

In strong collaboration of coaching stuff and players, the team from Illinois set a novice record of the modern hockey and it can be called a real "miracle on the ice". It can be compared with that amazing US Olympic hockey team that won golden medals in the year 1980. That was a real miracle, because a team of teenagers from different universities and colleges conquered the experienced monsters of world hockey.

Something similar was done by the Blackhawks. The first success of their "hat-trick" came in the season 2009-2010. Quenneville needed only 3 seasons to reach his first trophy. Afterwards, the team from the United Center (the main arena of the team) was taken seriously by the opponents. Notwithstanding, the opponents were not able to stop Hawks in seasons 2012-2013 and 2014-2015.

In respect of modern tendencies of North American hockey, such success is almost impossible. However, the guys from Chicago made it quite possible. How could it happen? Some would say that this is a long and hard labor of each member of the team. The others would say that this is pure luck. However, the case of "luck" would hardly work for three times in six years. Probably, both thoughts should be united.

It is fair enough that the Blackhawks reached such success. Many players of the team have already won multiple personal awards for the regular seasons and play-offs games. Stan Bowmen is probably the best general manager of the last decade. The genius of Joel Quenneville speaks for himself. Chicago regularly reaches the stage of play-offs, has already won 3 Stanley Cups and shows impressive hockey each season. It is not surprising that the he was included to the coach team for the upcoming Cup of Canada, which is the most prestigious hockey tournament of all times.

During the last season, the Blackhawks could not win the Cup. However, on the average, they win this trophy once per two years. Consequently, the new 2016-2017 season is probably another successful year for them. So, we may talk about new record of 4 wins in 8 years.

3D Printing Success: What’s The Reason Behind It?

3D printing has made a strong stand in the printing industry and has given a tough competition to traditional manufacturing. It has successfully left its impact in every nook and corner of this world. Advancement in 3D printing has affected the production of prototypes, jewelry, architecture, portraits, aerospace and medical field. Food Science has also witnessed a major change with the coming up of 3D printing. You can now print out your favorite chocolates the way you want to eat it. That made you skip a beat, didn’t it? This is the magic of 3D printing and it has led to a major 3D printing success; renovating the wildest impossible ideas and presenting it to the real world in the most artistic way possible.

What has led to the 3D printing success?

This printing industry has been successful in gaining popularity and firming its position in this ever-advancing business. Quality of phenomenally managing time, helping its customers to get their products to develop fast, reducing the cost of the final product has led to consumer satisfaction on a bigger scale. It involves a technology of printing by interpreting the digitally supplied coordinates with the help of a 3D printer.

Now, you might think how does this make it better?

Well, describing the product is sometimes a very difficult thing to do because it leaves construction up to the imagination. A picture always acts up as a savior since it is worth a thousand words. There is no ambiguity when you hold the exact replica or at least a very close representation of your artifact. 3D printing industry allows self-designing of a product by its customers which contributes to the creativity of the industry. All this has led to the 3D printing success.

3D printing has witnessed a huge transition if we compare its present development to when it started back in 1986 by Chuck Hull. Though it is not possible to completely eradicate the traditional manufacturing, it is strongly believed that 3D printing would give a tough competition to it in future.

3D Printing Success Stories

1. Pictures are meant for everyone

‘Touchable memories’ by pirate3D, turns photographs into 3D-printed objects for people without vision. This was a social experiment to create an awareness of the unlimited possibilities of using technology to improve lives. The task was performed using an affordable home printer called Buccaneer. It led the visually impaired to re-experience images by feeling the artifact and fabricating a tangible scene of it.

2. Nike does it again

Nike launched the rebento duffel, the first 3D printed performance sports bag for Brazil’s 2014 FIFA World Cup. The carry-piece takes styling cues from the sports company’s fly knit pattern of the magista and mercurial. A laser-sintered nylon creates an intertwined weave seamlessly fitting into the 3D printed base without the use of glue or adhesive. The premium leather upper and strap construction also gives the body a lightweight, yet durable structure that allows for flex.

3. Don’t judge it on its size

LIX, A London based company has successfully created the World’s smallest 3D printing pen. The device enables users to create in the air. Sounds Impossible? But, as always 3D printing has made it possible. Made out of aluminum and measuring 164mm x 14mm, this device allows users to make objects in just a few seconds, including calligraphy, accessories, and one-off prototypes. It functions similar to a 3D printer the only difference is that it is a USB port charging pen which quickly melts and cools colored plastic enabling the pen to create rigid and freestanding structures.

Why Football Fans Need Their Own Social Network

In recent years social media has evolved from a communication tool between people to a dominant driving force on the World Wide Web. Nowadays social media has a huge impact not only on the digital realm, but also on business, politics, trends and almost all aspects of our world.

A common assumption is that social networks are totally driven by people, but that is partly incorrect, in reality social networks are driven by dominant forces and media giants. In reality people are not shaping social media, but social media is shaped for them and they just follow, which is a sad reality by itself because social networks were supposed to be driven by the people not the other way around.

How this is related to football. Football is the most popular sport on earth, more than 3.4 Billion people watched world cup 2010, almost half of the planet! And it was estimated that about 1 billion people watched world Cup 2014 final between Germany and Argentina. Traditionally football has always been covered by TV, newspapers and news websites. But in recent years social networks started taking an important portion of this coverage. With the shift from traditional news to social media news, and from computer devices to mobile devices, people are now more comfortable in consuming football news in their favorite social network, and at the comfort of their mobile devices. You can get all football news from all sources at your news feeds depending on the pages that you follow, compare this with search engines or bookmarking several websites, the first option became the more popular method of following sports events.

Although football has good presence in top social networks but for football enthusiasts that presence is missing or not enough, for instance you still do not get updated with all football events, and as a football fan you will need to do exhausting search to follow all the pages you are interested in. Other problem is that football news are buried inside swarm of posts from all other subjects, where you can not easily filter out posts that are not related to football.

Football fans deserve their own social network where they can talk exclusively about football and share related news and stories. They need social channels that are dedicated for football fans, where they can meet, interact and share football passion. They need a place where they can follow the latest news and matches results without the need to leave to search for the information.

In a new world governed by social media, people are becoming addicted to the ease of access to information that social media provides. And because people are obsessed with ease of access to what they are interested in, the future of social media will be shifting towards niche social networks that are specialized in specific interests and affinities.