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Josie's Tryout in Potsdam

IMG_11 When Josie came to me in August 2008 asking for more soccer training I was surprised.  I saw her potential but did not know what more soccer meant to her?   I knew that if Josie wanted to improve her soccer level she needed to work toward a very significant goal.  I thought why not offer to set her up for a tryout with a professional women's soccer club in Germany.  I had a trip scheduled for May 2009 to go to Berlin for my dad's 80th birthday and this would be excellent timing for a tryout.  This will give Josie time to train and prepare for the tryout.
Josie agreed and became my "project". This will be the first time, as a professional soccer coach, that I will have the opportunity design an individual training program and work closely with such a dedicated player like Josie over several months - what a great challenge!
We had nine months in front of us.  The first thing we needed to do was to find a way to make it all work. The goal was to help Josie reach her best level without compromising the other commitments Josie had in her life.   We met with her parents to discuss the goal and the plan and they agreed support her and help set priorities along the way.
I promised Josie to give her "my life" for the next 9 months and she made the commitment to do everything she could to reach the highest level and prepare for the tryout.tryout%20in%20Potsdam%202
In the beginning I planned out exactly what she had to do but over time Josie took on the responsibility of building her own training schedule for each month.  We worked on her individual skills first, including dribbling, passing and receiving and shooting.  Early on, during the individual practices I discovered that she was very coachable, learned fast and had the ability to grow and get better in every training session.  I offered Josie the opportunity to practice with the U16 Boys "Gunners" two to three times a week.  These practices were critical to her development, challenged her to work at a faster pace and improved her understanding of the game.  By the end of the indoor season Josie moved into the top of this boys group.
The path we took together was not always smooth or straight toward our destination.  We needed to learn to communicate clearly and work through a few misunderstandings.  Josie also felt uncomfortable at times with her team environment and was not sure that all of her teammates supported her through her extra training.  Her coach Goran Buconjic, was very supportive and recognized and supported her extra commitment and schedule.
tryout%20in%20Potsdam%2012 An additional challenge for Josie was that I was teaching her to play the game that often was totally different to what the team was expected to play.   This made it very difficult for Josie to find her way on the field and in the play. 
After we analyzed a few soccer games on T.V. together, Josie started to understand what I had been trying to explain to her, and the kind of soccer she will be expected to play in Germany.
As we got closer to the tryout in Germany Josie trained harder and harder.  I could see that she had developed a new passion for the game…because after some of the hardest and most intense practices she would say, "Henry I love it!"   Josie is an amazing girl with power and excellent stamina, this is the type of player who can reach the best level. I have really enjoyed the time and opportunity to work with Josie and watch her move up the levels. 
Sometimes she closed down a bit with me and I sensed she was questioning herself.  I worried that her performance in games was falling short of her expectations.  I think she was afraid that she was not meeting my expectations.  This was also the time when Josie was fighting the hardest fight against herself.  But as an experienced coach, I was confident with time and support she would be able to work through the mental challenge.  Again and again I told her that she was good and that I believed in her.  I reminded her that I was very confident that she was prepared and that she would reach her best level in Germany!
In March I met Lorie Pulliam, a mental toughness coach.  She works with high performance athletes and helps them prepare for important events and international competitions.  From the first day we met, I had the confidence that Lorie would be a great help in developing Josie's mental toughness.  In a couple weeks she helped Josie so much that I thought now nothing can stop her.  Josie developed a totally new outlook, opened up, was more relaxed and at the same time became even more focused.  Thanks a lot Lorie for your great job!
The last days before we left for Germany Josie was overly anxious and excited so she struggled at times. I worked with her to bring her excitement level down sotryout%20in%20Potsdam%206 she would relax and enjoy the experience. I think we both know that you can only be successful if you have fun.
The first practice that Josie experienced in Germany was with the U17 team of 1.FFC Turbine Potsdam, the present World Champion of high schools.   This is a very talented and skilled group of athletes. Josie did very well and was at the level of the top players of this group.  Then Josie was invited to move up a level and train with the U23 team which plays in the 2. Bundesliga. The teams in the German league are in the final 2 weeks of their season and as you would expect are in terrific game shape.  Josie improved in every practice, could match the intensity level and took on the physical challenge.  The exercises and drills that the team did were not a surprise for her, she was prepared perfectly and could enjoy being part of a group of players which are very strong and play so aggressive but not chippy at all like we see in Canada. The difference is that they challenge the ball and not the player. 
I'm very proud of her, in particular the way she presented herself in every workout. I my opinion I would see her in the first eleven of the U23 team.  The reason that the club didn't take her right now is that they are focused on preparing the four youth national team players on the team for the Women's World Championship 2011 in Germany. This is their #1 priority!
Josie now understands that she can fit the level over there and that it is a realistic goal to reach the international level.  I believe that with her abilities and commitment, that all she needs is to be a part of a system like this.  She has to continue to work hard, develop more power and take advantage of every opportunity to get more games in a better quality.  Then she has an invitation to go back to Germany for another tryout for Potsdam's first women's team or another club of the 1. Bundesliga.  This is a new exciting goal for Josie.

Henry Haeusler
Head Coach and Technical Director
High Performance Soccer Academy