Sport in a Pandemic: CRISIS OR OPPORTUNITY? Chapter 3

Chapter 3 Ashley Clark, Regular Season Begins

Introduction

With COVID turning the soccer world on its head these past few months, Ashley and I decided to write a series detailing how we would help her turn this sport crisis into an opportunity for her improvement as an elite athlete.  This season requires a change in thinking to maximize her continued growth as a player.  Clearly the old ways of getting ready for the season weren’t going to be the ideal choice, so we decided to embark on a path where we worked to tie structured mental training into the physical, technical, and little tactical training opportunities she would have with her team.  This is Chapter 3 in the series. 

This is Ashley’s fourth season with Le Havre, 1 of 12 teams in top women’s pro league in France.  See Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 for more info on Ashley and how she began this mental training journey.

One of the main areas Ashley and I have been working through as pre-season came to a close has been how to navigate the challenge of playing multiple positions.  Relatively easy as a youth player, possible as a college player, pretty daunting to do this well in the highest level of women’s professional soccer.  Her team has been hammered by injuries coming out of pre-season, so her versatility to help her team has been very necessary.  While her main position is playing out wide on the front line, so far this season her team has needed her to play on the wing (both as a #7 and #11), as an attacking central mid, and at times as defensive central mid.  Coming up with effective mental rehearsal strategies for zonal specific scenarios, setting beneficial motivation tones, putting together purposeful pre-practice focusing routines, creating positionally specific self-talk cues, and formulating mistake response resets for three positions has certainly demanded we roll up our sleeves as player and mental performance coach!

Ashley

Hi again, it’s me Ashley!  Preseason finally finished and two weeks ago the fun started! We had our first ever D1 match as a club and for me personally, it was such an amazing experience!  It’s been my dream since I was four years old to be a professional soccer player at the highest level of soccer and on September 5th that dream was realized.  Stepping onto the field at Parc des Sports before the game I got chills.  I played mostly as a holding mid this game using my self-talk cues to guide my actions mostly during transition moments.  We ended up winning the game 4-0 and I got on the score sheet by putting away a PK for our team. It was awesome to win our first game and just the right bolt of energy we needed to start off our first season in D1 Arkema.  

The second match on September 12th didn’t go as well for our team.  It was our home opener and we ended up losing 3-1.  Overall it wasn’t a good team game for us but I felt personally I did a ton for our team and helped us get on the board with an assist. In this game I played centrally and wide so had to really keep my outlook flexible.  Looking back now after our first two games of the season so far it has been crazy. I’m proud though at the way I’ve handled myself and the growth I’m making as a player. To name a few of the challenges our team and myself have had to deal with would firstly be Covid-19.  Every Wednesday we have to all get tested and we find out the results Thursday night. That alone could make or break our team for the weekend depending on if anyone tests positive.  To add onto that our team has not been so lucky with injuries so far, losing someone almost in every game. This past game we only had 10 professional players available with a 17-year-old starting for us as right back. For me personally I’ve been dealing with a big toe sprain that for the past four weeks has not allowed me to be my full self on the field. I’ve also played multiple positions in both matches even switching during the middle of the match. With all of the challenges thrown at me and so many unknowns I really have to continue to be mentally flexible and make real-time goals based on the day!

There have been many things and variables I’ve dealt with in just two games but I’ve become an even stronger player by having a good attitude, being motivated every day to be my best for my team and being able to set goals for myself even in the middle of the game!  With all that being said, I challenge you to take all of life‘s craziness with a positive attitude, and motivation to not just get through whatever the challenge might be, but thrive through it and to set goals that scare you.  You don’t know what you’re really made of until you’ve been challenged!  We had an off week this past weekend, so I’ve been taking this time to re-energize and be ready to go against Paris FC on September 26th! 

Follow me on social media to follow my journey!  Thanks for checking this out and keep going! Stay safe and enjoy life! 

~Ashley

Mental Training Tips from Derrek and Ash:

1).  Play to your strengths no matter where your coach places you in the formation.  Yes, each position has certain demands, but to be successful you must make your strengths show during your play.

2).  Continue to develop and evolve your cue words and phrases to guide your actions during transition moments in the game.  Things like ‘check shoulders’, ‘find a gap’, ‘farthest forward pass’ are examples for offensive transitions.

3).  Be pro-active in your goal-setting.  Consider what the coach has planned for training, listen to her/him detail training, then set a goal or two you will work toward for that session based on the practice plan.

4).  Make sure you are always team first!  We play a team game and the needs of the team supersede any one player’s own wishes.  Be the special player you are for your team.

~Derrek Falor, M.Ed., CMPC

www.thrivesp.com

&

~Ashley Clark

Instagram: ajclark9

Facebook: ajclark09futbolhttp://www.hac-foot.com/news/la-section-feminine-du-hac.html

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