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Non-Cognitive Skill Development for Students and Athletes

Future 500 ID Camps has partnered with Tony Carnahan, President of Coastal College Counseling. He combines his vast knowledge of the college landscape and nearly 20 years of experience, with a personal and systematic process to help families choose the right college for their sons and daughters. Tony is recognized as a trusted resource by both families and top soccer organizations throughout the United States.

I am a huge fan of non-cognitive skill development. Non-cognitive skills include memory, thinking, planning, attention, and language skills. They are the skills not born out of the acquisition of knowledge and/or understanding but rather they are the patterns created out of thought, feelings, and behaviors. They are often not objectively measureable but many argue that they are the true predictors of success in school and professionally. I’ll suggest they can translate to success on the pitch as well.

We’ll focus on three of the primary skills; adaptability, perseverance and, communication. While there are many more, these should serve as a starting point for our understanding. Adaptability is the ability to adjust to new conditions. Adaptable skills with regard to education might include the ability to thrive in different subjects, teaching styles, or on varying types of assessments. This is transferable on the soccer field where a s a player you must be able to adapt to different types of defensive pressure, varying styles of play, or having the ability to play different positions.

To persevere is to continue on even when facing difficulty. As a student this includes everything from the unrelenting pursuit of understanding the structure of sonnet to the binomial theorem. In practice it also means continuing to work at this understanding even when it’s late after a long practice but your assignment is due the following day. Perseverance is also important on the field; this is true for a lefty tying to learn to bend the ball with their right foot or a defender working to understand his responsibility in a zonal back four.

Finally; and perhaps most importantly is the development of effective communication. We will focus on just two skills included within this heading, listening and non-verbal communication. Listening is one of the most important skills one can develop and it entails not just hearing the words being spoken but understanding the message. In class teachers often focus on those subjects where they are most passionate and a strong listener understands the importance of the material. This can also be found during halftime of a game when coaches focus on the key areas the team must work on in the second half.   A strong listener will not only hear the message but will be able to put it into practice when back on the pitch. Non-verbal communication includes just about everything not spoken; how you sit in class, react to an assignment, or your eye contact when speaking to a teacher. This can also guide you on the field with how you react to not receiving a pass when you feel like your wide open in front of the goal to how you position yourself when not in the game.

Understanding what non-cognitive skills are and how they relate to you as a student and athlete will add tremendously to your success both in the classroom and on the field. The beauty of these skills is they can be learned so be ready to adapt, persevere, and communicate!

Tony Carnahan
President, Coastal College Counseling

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