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Mentality and Attitude: Their Importance and How Far They Will Take You

Interviewing Justin Neerhof

Credentials: USSF Licensed, NSCAA Licensed, Former Region IV ODP Staff Coach, Former Region IV ODP Director of Goalkeeping, Former Division I Coach (Men & Women), Former Division II Coach (Women), Former NCAA All-American First Team, Former Two Time WCC Conference First Team, Former WCC Defender of the Year, Former Professional Soccer Player.

What is your definition of mentality? Attitude? For me, mentality and attitude are mutually exclusive, but they both work hand-in-hand. The mentality is at the forefront of everything an athlete does, says, and is. It is really the baseline of everything. It is the standard. If an athlete has a professional mentality, that will affect that athlete’s attitude. The mentality is really the driving force of what an athlete wants to be and where he/she wants to go. An athlete’s mentality (should) never change regardless of extraneous variables. When things go well or not so well, that will always affect an athlete’s attitude, because I feel that attitude is based much more on current mood/feelings. Athletes hear their coaches say all the time to have a good attitude when things don’t go well. However, I believe that in times of adversity, it is next to impossible to have a good attitude without the proper mentality.

What kind of mentality and attitude are coaches across the boards looking for? This is simply a question that can’t be answered. It can only be answered on a case-by-case basis. I believe the reason for this is because of the discrepancies of coaches’ mentalities and attitudes. I have played for some of the best coaches in the country with impeccable mentalities and an absolute desire to be the best. Unfortunately, I have also played for coaches (at high levels, nonetheless) with abhorrent mentalities who were anything but professional. In those circumstances (especially at higher levels), it is up to the athlete to decide what sort of mentality he/she will possess, and that cannot/should not waiver.

Can you describe what an athlete with great mentality looks like? An athlete with a great mentality is one who refuses to conform to negative social norms, sets his/her own personal standards of conduct, and has a clear vision of where he/she wants to go.

Describe what an athlete with great attitude looks like. The only way that an athlete can have a truly great attitude is if he/she has a good mentality. An athlete with a good attitude will respond positively to both positive and negative circumstance. I also don’t believe that having a good attitude requires someone to have to ‘fart rainbows.’ Rather, a good attitude is responsible for have athletes respond to various circumstances. A good attitude can still allow a player to exhibit negative emotions.

What does an athlete with poo