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The Messiah Method by Michael Zigarelli


The Messiah Method by Michael Zigarelli

*The Seven Disciplines of the Winningest College Soccer Program in America*

1. Pursue a Higher Purpose Than Winning

  • “The only thing worse than running is not having something to run for”

  • Remain focused on playing for the name on the front of the jersey--- team > individual

  • “It’s not the championship trophy that I miss, but the feeling of being part of something much larger than myself”- former player

  • There are going to mess up. Our team is going to have players that may not train as hard as we’d like them to, maybe get caught doing something really stupid. But because we’re a team of grace, that girl’s teammate and relationship will never, ever change”

  • We were going to be the ‘best’ place to play college soccer. I didn’t say we’d be the best team, I said best place to play, which is controllable

  • It means you fight for game time but you don’t hold that against your teammate

  • Soccer is a about life preparation…The real test is what’s happening in their life decades later

  • “Servant Leadership”- On the men’s soccer team, seniors clean up the balls and cones and even hand out water to the guys.

  • Three part formula for success: Conditioning, Fundamentals, and Unity

  • Must be Selfless!

  • There are a lot of selfish subtleties that come out on the field id you don’t care about the guys on your team

-ie. Not supporting every pass, getting mad at the ref, fouling out of retaliation, not covering players

  • Have your team have clear “Core Values’

2. Be Intentional About Everything

  • “There’s not much we don’t orchestrate”

  • “If you don’t like what’s happening on your team, it’s your fault”- If you are on the team, it’s YOUR team. It’s shapeable. Get up and do something about it.

  • The truth is you have all the power you need

  • Frey has even gone so far as to ask soccer alumnae to write letters to the current team about what they miss most, something that invigorates the team through perspective

  • At Messiah, the recruiting visit is an “all-hands on-deck event”

  • “Forced Family Fun” helps cultivate team chemistry

  • Every minute of practice matters

  • It often requires more preparation to speak persuasively for five minutes than it does for 15 to 20 minutes

  • Our culture is continuous improvement. The never ending pursuit of perfection.

  • Nothing happens by chance

3. Recruit “Both-And” Players

  • Both: “Talent” and “Character”

  • Great players with small egos who want to be part of something bigger than themselves

  • The primary strategy all along has been to attract enough of the best-fit players to move the culture forward

  • “You don’t want to burden the right people with the wrong people. Surround them with people of similar quality, people who will sharpen them”… “Once you’ve got critical mass, it attracts. It pulls in more of the right kind of people”

  • Set the standard of quality exceedingly high and prioritize character and team first attitude

  • Make the necessary changes to your program. Be courageous. Then move on.

  • The whole team getting together with a recruit may not seem like a big deal until one examines the reality of recruiting visits elsewhere

  • They might like the school, the soccer, and campus… but what will hook them is the team

4. Cultivate Team Chemistry

  • What motivates Messiah players through tough workouts is that they aren’t alone

  • “If you are comfortable, then you are not training”

  • Everyone expends maximum effort because they want to do their very best for the team. Because of their close relationships. Because of the camaraderie.

  • We are a collection of friends first and soccer players second

  • Close relationships create a ‘sustainable competitive advantage’

  • Self-motivation and self-governance are everywhere on this team

  • Six Ways to Cultivate Chemistry: 1.) Forced Family Fun 2.) “Mean no offense, take no offense” 3.) Don’t recruit over players 4.) Accountability Partners 5.) “Standard Bearers”- take on a role and be best at it 6.) Team over Individual

  • Nothing is more important than organizational culture

5. Link All Training to the Match

  • Team Agreements- these are things that players must do a certain way…It’s not a choice. We agree together on what’s going to happen a certain way.

  • If you’re doing something in practice that doesn’t show up in the game, you’re wasting everybody’s time

  • Repetition. It’s been a keystone for Messiah soccer

  • After awhile, the constructive criticism is hear as encouragement and teaching

  • More times than not, our practices are harder than our games

  • “Mental toughness for me is your ability to focus on what you can control”- McCarty

  • You can ALWAYS push your body farther than you think you can

  • Do what you’re supposed to do regardless of what you want to do

  • “Separate how you act from how you feel”

  • Treadmill test: Set the treadmill at 11.2mph and run for as long as you can, trying to reach two miles. The rest of team cheering you on.

6. Choreograph Game Day

  • Game-day I’m anti-distraction

  • “focus time”- a half hour of sitting together near the locker room. It’ silent mental preparation

  • Three and a half hours before they eat

  • Almost never at home are they the first team on the field

  • Determination and focus > emotion because emotion comes and goes

  • Away game camaraderie. Home game routines.

7. Play to a Standard

  • Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”

  • Giving one’s best at all times is a lifestyle, a tradition, even an addiction in this program

  • Sometimes we think a guy has had a good or bad game, but the stats tell a different story

  • The men’s team charts statistics of every player for every game, then publicly posts them for the players. It’s an internal motivator, not shame.

  • Measurement matters. You cannot manage what you don’t measure.

  • Adopt a lifestyle of learning

  • Leadership is an attitude, not a title.


I am a youth and college soccer coach who is passionate about making coaching my career and helping assist players in their development. I am always trying to learn from the game and always willing to share with others the insights I have made from the game. If you have coaching tips or materials you would like to share, just contact me.

See social media links on the 'Contact' page.

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