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Lawrence Hamnett Soccer Association

Lawrence Hamnett Soccer Association

Player's Resource Page

Keeping Your Head Up While Training FAQs

Have you been told by a coach that you need to “pick your head up” more? While training, do you wonder which drills you should look up when doing, versus when it’s okay to look down at the ball? We’ve worked to clarify some of the frequently asked questions about picking your head up while training and how that can translate into the game.


Why is it important to look up while training?

When you train soccer skills, the aim is to be able to use them in a game. The goal is to get so comfortable controlling the ball, changing direction with it, and sending it where you want it to go, that you can focus on other things while playing and not have to consciously focus on those techniques. The best players are always scanning the field, both before they receive the ball, while they have it, and even while they’re seemingly not directly involved in the play. So you should make sure that when you’re training on your own, it’s in a way that will allow you to have that awareness when you get onto the field with teammates and opponents.

For which drills should I be looking up and which are okay to focus on the ball?

When you’re first learning a new skill, simply focus on doing it correctly. There’s no need to think about picking your head up until you have a basic level of control over the ball. Once you feel you have the ball under control, the first type of drills to do while picking up your head are dribbling drills. When you’re passing and receiving the ball, you can also begin to look up and see more than just the ball and your feet. You’ll almost never need to look up while juggling, because that’s purely about ball control.

How much should I be looking up and when?

There’s always a balance between glancing down at the ball and looking up at your surroundings. You shouldn’t be looking down at the ball and your feet the entire time, nor should you be looking up and completely ignore looking at the ball. If you watch top players play and train, you’ll get a feel for how and when they look up to scan the field.

For example, if you’re dribbling and turn to go in the opposite direction, it’s important to glance up to see where the space is into which to explode. If you’re receiving the ball to turn or take a directional touch, you’ll want to look to verify there’s space in the direction you plan to move.

If you’re about to pass, you’ll want to look up at your target. And for an effective soccer shot on goal, you should look up at the goal to notice the position of the goalkeeper (even if there isn’t one there while you’re training), and where you’ll aim.

When I look up, where should I focus?

The key is not just to raise your eyes for no reason, but to practice truly seeing what’s around you when you look. That doesn’t mean you have to see the entire distance of the field or focus for a long time on a specific spot. Sometimes, a quick glance in your periphery is enough to assess if there’s space. Other times, you’ll need to pick your head up all the way as if you’re looking to see a teammate across the field in order to switch the ball to that player. Or, you’ll need to make eye contact with a teammate before passing. 

Other times, all you need to see is the grass 5  to 10 yards around you. After all, if you see opponents’ feet, it can be enough information just to know that they’re there. No need to see their entire body. 

Just as with the ball skills you train, have an understanding and an intention when it comes to looking up. What would you realistically be trying to see or assess if you were in a game? This will help you instinctively determine when, where, and how much you should be looking up.

3 Reasons To Practice Difficult Things

How often do you work on skills that are very difficult or challenging? We recommend spending roughly 20% of your training time on things you cannot yet do or do well. This might include juggling (with a soccer ball or tennis ball), a certain trick or freestyle move, or working on your weaker foot.

Why devote time to these types of skills?

  • Practicing new skills opens up neural pathways in the brain and is important to your continued learning and development.
  • Stretching yourself to try more difficult moves or skills will make the ones you already can do feel easier.
  • Training outside your comfort zone can help you develop focus and patience.

Give this week's session a try, and take note of which drills push you to improve in the above areas!

How To Approach Mental Training

As soccer players, we train so hard physically -- on becoming a fast soccer player, building strength, agility, and improving technique. But are we neglecting to train our minds? The mind has the same power to be the margin of victory as the body does. Even for young players, it's important to train the mind to handle pressure, adversity, distraction, and failure so that nothing gets in the way of performance, execution, and development. 

What does that mean?

Training your mind means building up your ability to focus; it means strengthening your confidence so that you can get back into the game quickly after mistakes or big wins; and it means training yourself to perform under pressure.  

Have you ever noticed that you can do a skill perfectly until you ask someone to watch? That’s because that little bit of added pressure impacts your ability to perform! Training your mind will help you learn how to perform in all circumstances--whether it’s showing off for a parent or friend or taking the winning penalty against your rival team.

Here are some examples for each position on how the strength of the mind impacts your game:

  • Attacker: As an attacking player, scoring a goal or having an assist is considered success. Because that happens so infrequently, you'll have many more game actions that do not result in success. It's important to be resilient and not to get discouraged, frustrated, or down on yourself.

  • Midfielder: Being a midfielder takes bravery. You need to make yourself available and receive the ball under tight pressure very often. Your confidence is key to continue to do this, even after a mistake.

  • Defender: Defending well takes extraordinary focus. As a defender, you don't have the luxury to shut off mentally which can lead to mistakes. Your ability to stay focused and confident is key.

  • Goalkeeper: A goalkeeper may not be involved in much of the action and then be called upon in an extremely important moment. This is possibly the toughest position, mentally.

Tips for getting started with mental training

In the Techne app, players have access to a section on Mental Training. There are various audio recordings, some from top level pro players, all giving insight on the mental part of the game. 

  1. Try it! Many players are just not familiar with what it means to train the mind. That's why we have some introductory material in the Techne App for you to try.

  2. Consider where you feel strong mentally and what areas you'd like to improve upon. Some possibilities to think about: Focus, Attention, Positivity, Confidence, Staying Relaxed, Handling Nerves, Pre-Play Preparation, Post-Play Reflection.

  3. Make it part of your weekly training plan. Like other types of training, consistency is key when it comes to Mental Training, too. 

We offer one week free for new players. Have you already used your free trial for Techne? Contact us and request an extension. 

Try THIS mental exercise!

Try it out: 

Find a quiet area and imagine yourself in a game. Pick a certain scenario and see yourself receiving the ball, executing a move, and flawlessly moving the ball forward. Are you an attacker? Imagine beating a defender and placing a shot into the corner of the goal. Use your imagination to make it as detailed as possible, and of course, successful. If you can do this, great work! This is how the top goal-scoring athletes visualize success in their games. You can recreate this type of visualization for any position or role on the field.

Trust and enjoy the process

"My mentality has gotten a lot stronger. The difference between players is so slim the higher you go that you need the 1% to separate yourself." -

— Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City) 

"Just as we train in the gym or on the pitch to improve our technique and our tactical abilities, I believe the mind is something you also have to train."

-- Alvaro Morata (Juventus FC)

4 Ways To Improve Your Confidence

One of the best pieces of feedback a player can receive  on how to build confidence.  Below are the important elements of confidence-building that you should be attending to?

  • Working on skills is the best way you can build your confidence. The more you feel yourself improving, and the self-knowledge that you're doing the work to succeed, are very important mental building blocks for all players.
  • Comfort on the ball is a major benefit of spending regular time on your technical skills. Comfort on the ball directly translates to confidence on the field and your ability to contribute more to your team's success.
  • Regular, consistent training is key to improvement and confidence-building. Sticking with your plan and creating great training habits are just as important mentally as they are physically.
  • Mental training and other types of training offered in the Techne app help you to become a well-rounded person and player. You can learn  about what it takes to have a positive mindset and be a more confident player and person.

Owning the College Recruiting Process

The college recruiting process for student athletes is just that – a process. It does not happen overnight, and it is not an easy path. There are bumps, roadblocks, forks in the road, and other obstacles you will encounter. But just like after making a mistake in the game, how you react is important. And in the end, you can earn an opportunity to play the beautiful game at the next level. Stay committed to the process, be proactive, and be relentless. It is your journey – own it!

Love the game

First and foremost, you have to love the game. College soccer is a major commitment and not just a hobby or pastime. If you do not love the game, it will be difficult for you to survive when you get to a college program. So, before we can talk about college recruiting, make sure you have a passion for the game.

“College Soccer is a full-time commitment. If you do not love the game, it is going to be a long road for the player if they want to play in college.” – Division 1 Assistant Coach

Performance on the field

Ok, now that we have determined your love for the game, the next thing to consider is your performance on the field. I have not encountered a college coach who will offer you a position on their team without seeing you play, either in person or on video. There are many ways to be seen by college coaches, including practice, games, tournaments/showcases, video, camps, and clinics. 

When playing, showcase what you do well, but still remember to play the game. If you are a good passer of the ball, showcase your range with both feet. If you are a “lockdown” defender, dominate your 1v1 moments. If you are a threat in the box, be lethal with your finishing.

However, do not be unnatural in your decisions in the game “just to showcase.” Play what the game gives you, and then look to make the right decision for that moment in time. And if something does not go well in the match, do not worry about it. Move on to the next play. Very few coaches write a player off because of a couple of mistakes.

“When out recruiting, not only do we pay attention to their successful actions on the field, we also watch closely how players react to mistakes and adversity. This gives us a picture of how they handle themselves when things are not going well.” – Division 1 Head Coach

What are you doing outside of training and games?

All student-athletes practice and play games. But what are you willing to do outside of practice to improve your game? Remember, you are competing against thousands of players who want to play in college. You must be willing to do more than them.

Player development resources, such as Techne Futbol, are a great way to improve your game outside of formal training and matches.

“We love when players share video with us showing them trying new skills, doing work at home, and finding ways to improve their game. It shows us they love the game and have a growth mindset.” – Division III Head Coach

In addition, college coaches want to see what you do outside of soccer. Are you a multi-sport athlete? Let them know. Do you work a job? Share what you do. Are you active in your community with service projects? Tell them how you are impacting where you live.

Communication and organization

Many student-athletes struggle with the college recruiting process because they are disorganized and do not communicate effectively. Not being professional with your communication, not sharing the right information, and not having a plan are all reasons why student-athletes struggle in their process. Remember, quality communication and strong organizational skills are key to your success.

“Do not be generic with your communication to us. Be different, be creative, and find a way for your communication to stand out among the rest.” – NAIA Head Coach

Get those grades up

Remember, you are a student-athlete. The word student comes first. If you do not make the grades, you will not play in college. FACT. Coaches will not take a chance on a player if their grades are questionable and they risk becoming ineligible. Focus on your grades! Your academics can give you a “leg up” on other student-athletes. Hit the books!

“When it comes down to it, if all things are equal on the field, we are going to go with the player who does better in the classroom.” – Division I Assistant Coach

These are just some of the ways student athletes can own their college recruiting process. Feel free to ask questions and share feedback to [email protected]. Have blog topic suggestions? Please let us know.


Lawrence Hamnett Soccer Assocciation
P.O. Box 6844 
Lawrence Township, New Jersey 08648

Email: [email protected]