To Win the World Cup, Teams Should Embrace the Stress

By Max Godnick

Any professional athlete faces the pressure to win, but the stakes are higher in the World Cup, where soccer players carry the added burden of an entire nation's expectations. Some crack. The winners rise.

"If you're for yourself, you're not going to play as hard or as well," said Jon Gordon, the author of "The Power of Positive and Leadership" and a team-building adviser to athletes and executives. "If you're playing for your team or your country, you're going to play a lot better."

Gordon has worked with teams (the Los Angeles Dodgers) and companies (Google) on the foundations of successful team building. He advised the 32 national soccer teams hoping to hoist the 2018 World Cup trophy in Russia next month to use the stress of playing for national pride to help them perform better.

"They have to have a shared vision and a greater purpose," he said, encouraging athletes to ask themselves, "Are we playing for ourselves or for our country?"

The same principles apply to all sports, regardless of what type of ball is being kicked, thrown, or shot. But certain disciplines do require more tailored advice. Because of the number of players and its fast-moving style, Gordon said that soccer, like basketball, requires greater trust between players.

"You have to trust that that player is going to get you the ball," he said. "You have to trust that they're going to be where they need to be on defense."

For the full interview, click here.

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