- The first year is the worst. Whether on a club team, middle school team, high school or college team, the first year is the toughest because you are trying to be a starter and trying to show that you belong on the team. Mentally you must push yourself to show the coaching staff that you have what it takes to handle a long, challenging season.
- Mind over matter. Physically you are typically as ready as most players who are already on the team. The mental part is overcoming the pain and pushing through the tough days of training, hot weather, and multiple practices. When you are able to prove to yourself that you can push through the pain you can get over the hump mentally. Everybody is uptight in the pre-season, but if you emphasize your strengths and work on your weaknesses, improvements will be made. During the next season, or as you progress into your career, you can begin to focus more on the off-season program that gets you ready for an upcoming, new pre-season.
- Watch the older teammates and veterans very closely. Watch how the older players take care of business on and off the field; whether at practice, in public, or in a game situation. You can learn from the people that have been there before you; as you see them do it right, you can learn from their experience. Hopefully you can do the same thing to help the young, talented players coming through as they come up in the ranks: set a good example.
- Get comfortable with your teammates, both new and old. When pre-season arrives you have to adjust to your old teammates again and learn to coexist with the new teammates who might be trying to take your spot. With new teammates, it takes time and patience to become comfortable working with them, getting along with them, and learning from them. Do not force yourself to become best friends with new and old teammates. These relationships must grow from organic, genuine experiences and interactions, both good and bad.
- Stay sharp on and off the field. The old saying is, “it is not what you do on the field that matters, it's what you do off the field.” When in public there are cameras and social networks always out there watching and listening. Do not take for granted that you just have a position on the team. It is really critical to stay on top of your work and your image off the field for both yourself and your team as a whole.
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