Although the 1980’s were memorable for many reasons, the crazy hair is probably one of the most prevalent. Big hair was all the rage at the time. Many of the 80’s rock bands invested a lot of time and money on their hair. Image was almost more important than the music. I’ve even heard interviews with bands who tried to gain information on the hair products of more successful bands in order to copy their formula. It’s a silly image isn’t it? Grown men hanging their hopes of musical success on the type of hairspray that they use. There is a disconnect that should have been obvious to all involved but sometimes people are too close to the situation to see their own ridiculousness.
A similar phenomena is rampant in the soccer world and a good hard look in the mirror is more than overdue. Each and every week, millions of kids and adults practice their skills of passing, dribbling, heading and shooting. Coaches spend hours trying to help these players improve their skills and coalesce the group’s talents into tactics. Meticulous care is given to all facets of the game including set plays on both the offensive and defensive side. After hours of preparation, game day finally arrives. The first whistle blows and that training seems to take a backseat. It’s overshadowed by telling the one person not displaying any soccer skill about how badly he or she is doing. The referee takes center stage in a contest that should be focused on the soccer skills of the players. Much like the hairspray obsessed rock bands, the coaches, players and fans have taken something that should be incidental and made it THE big deal.
Having been a high school and youth coach for years, I’ve seen the lower level of refereeing on display. While frustrating at times, the arbiter of the game should not overshadow all of the preparation that has been done. Here are some suggestions that I have to put refereeing in its proper context.
Audit yourself – If more than 25% of the things that you say are directed at the referee, then you’re focused on the wrong thing. Your players need guidance, your teammates need information, your children need encouragement. The referee does not need more reminding that you have disagreed with all of his calls.
Walk a mile – Not literally but figuratively. Get certified and start refereeing some low level games. Or referee a scrimmage between two teams that you’re not associated with. Either way the experience will change how you view the job.
Try a new strategy – Rather than berating the next referee that you encounter, try something new. If you’re a player, in a calm voice during a stoppage, ask him or her to watch for something that has been happening regularly. “Sir, could you keep an eye out for #15 fouling after the play. Thanks!” If you’re a coach, ask the referee to remember a particular foul or incident for discussion later. If you’re a fan, concentrate on the play of your team. This is what your team has worked for, see their play. Otherwise it’s like going to an opera but spending all of your time focused on the conductor’s outfit. He’s supposed to be invisible.
Recognize the long term – Donuts in small quantities are not by themselves dangerous. If they are a small part of an otherwise balanced diet, the occasional treat is not harmful. However constant abuse can be destructive. The same is true for our refereeing situation. The constant abuse of referees has led to a shortage that eventually could cripple the game. That position has to be held by a human. Who would sign up for the pervasive abuse that referees receive?
So as you prepare for this weekend’s contest, make a decision to focus on the game rather than the official. After over 35 years of playing and coaching there are exactly two things that I’m sure of: 1. All referees make mistakes. 2. They don’t get better or change their calls because you tell them that they suck. For the love of the game, let’s all try to do better out there. The hair bands can look back and be amused. Let’s not all look back and be ashamed.
It’s a bit older now but still a good message from the English FA.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the old school gods and their importance in the lives of our ancestors. Although we have so many technological and societal advantages, there are some aspects to their belief structure that could be helpful if implemented. I’ve joked several times that I may start worshiping Zeus and the other Greek gods because of their idiosyncrasies. You’re less likely to beat yourself up over work snafu when your god is regularly cheating on his wife. Despite the possible comedy arising from this, I don’t know that there’s much to it. The main area that most of the ancient religions have in common is the concept of “sacrifice”. I will be focusing on the non-human variety.
With a scientifically inferior way of understanding the world, our ancestors intuitively seem to have comprehended something that has become lost recently. Despite the fact that their reasons for sacrificing crops, animals, etc. was founded in mythology, it is a practical lesson. The recognition of giving something up in the hope of influencing the greater system. I’m sure that the phrase “give up” came from the ceremonial act of giving a thing up to a deity. As our world has more, we are less willing to go without. We don’t see the point. Our parents and grandparents worked hard for the prosperity that we now enjoy. Therefore we “deserve” everything we have. Unfortunately the word DE-SERVE, could be hyphenated and it means “from service”. To keep that which we have, we must continue to serve. Or to get more we must serve more. At a certain point the words service and sacrifice tend to intertwine.
So the give up bargain is simple. Recognize that on some level, you’ll need to give up something that you have in order to get that which you want. Not in any religious context but in a more practical way. Giving up your anger will allow you to find peace. Giving up your excessive eating will allow you to find the slimmer you. The reverse is also in play. If you are not acting in the service of what you already have, it will eventually be taken from you. You are not an independent force in this world/universe. Your actions have consequences. Giving and taking are two sides of the same coin. Therefore they are linked. Keep this in mind as you give things up. The lottery mentality is a losing strategy because it applies in such a small number of cases. Practical sacrifice and service of that which matters most to you. When you decide what you want, also decide on what you’re willing to give up to get it. Usually this bargain will involve trading now for later and so many of us are in love with NOW.
To my toilet, I’m either a dick or asshole. To my shower, I’m varying degrees of dirty. To my mirror, I’m vain or self-obsessed. And you can just imagine what the toilet paper thinks of me. All of these perspectives are completely accurate but taken from a narrow view
Each day we live our lives and show particular sides of ourselves to people. None of them is 100% accurate but also they are not 100% inaccurate. We cannot control other people’s perception of us. That is in their control. What’s within our control are the actions that we take and the words that we use.
I’m completely comfortable with my toilet thinking of me as an asshole. However that’s not the message that I want to send to everyone. Being the person that you want people to see takes effort and forethought. Decide to give your best to the people who matter. That way you know they’ll be there when you’re at your worst.
Imagine it. A soldier walking through a jungle in a foreign land just as the rain stops. In the distance there is a rainbow. All of the sudden there is an attack from the enemy. The attack is repelled and the soldier marches on. The next day the rain stops, rainbow, surprise attack. This pattern continues for a week. On the eighth day, the soldier comes upon a beautiful waterfall. With the water plummeting from a height of over fifty feet, a mist above the surface of the water forms a miniature rainbow and soldier discharges his weapon several times into the falling water. There is no attack, so the soldier is sure that the enemy is dead. It is ridiculous, isn’t it? The soldier believing that the rainbow somehow caused or could help the prediction of the attacks. The truth is that we all do it at one point or another.
The combination of two things that have almost no association whatsoever is quite common. An undefeated streak and an unwashed pair of socks. Traffic and the driver in front of you. School and learning. WAIT!!!! That’s blasphemy! Especially for someone who has spent years as a teacher and vehement proponent of learning.
The problem is that in many ways the statement is true. School and learning have almost completely been divorced from one another. People recognize that at one point in history they went hand in hand. However that relationship has decayed in people’s minds. School has become a pariah that people only endure because they have to. Learning has gotten mistaken for its cousin, information. Since information is everywhere, people have no need to engage in the relationship with learning. So this once inseparable couple is now separated and only feign a relationship “because of the kids”.
This is an extreme picture of the present situation. While not completely accurate, it is not altogether inaccurate. School is in a precarious position because it only ever came into being because of learning. The point of school was to learn (especially how to think). In many instances that has been replaced with “The point of school is to get good grades.” Like the telephone game that many of us played as children, over time the message has gotten garbled and disjointed. Politicians, administrators, parents and teachers propped up a system that only partially meets its expressed purpose. Like the situation of rogue traders who bet on speculative numbers with the life savings of others, this could leave many people bankrupt.
So for now, my suggestion is double, triple or quadruple down on learning. If it happens at school, GREAT! If it happens elsewhere, GREAT! Learn about the things that are important to you and the people in your life. Dive deep into learning about yourself. How you work. How your mind works. How your emotions work. Not so you can be self-centered but you can find balance with the world. Learning is not actually the hard part as it happens all the time. The key is learning things that are useful and meaningful to your world. So if you are still in school, don’t think of learning as drudgery. Seek out those opportunities when school style learning overlaps with your life. If you’re already done with school, realize that you aren’t done with learning. Don’t try to kill the rainbow just because it was lumped in with something that you perceive to be your enemy.
Talent is coveted, scouted, poached and revered in this country. It often comes with an extremely high price tag. That price is monetary in the professional ranks. However at the lower levels, the price of talent is far too often the possibility of teamwork. At times this comes from jealousy of teammates. Unfortunately it is more frequently a result of trading team ethos for star power. It may get results but are they the right ones and for how long?
I’ve often told my teams that “I’d bench Pele if his play didn’t make us a better team.” Now I’ve never had the pleasure of coaching the Brazilian star (nor would he need me) but that statement has usually followed the benching of a talented player for putting him/herself above the team. The unfortunate thought that is going through several people’s heads at the moment is that “a great player always makes a team better.” How I wish that were true but I know that it is not.
Talent does not exist in a vacuum. It comes attached to a person who has a narrative inside of his/her head about what their talent means. For some it makes them a large gear in the machine of the team. While others tell themselves a story that the team is “nothing” without them. In my preferred sport of soccer, I’ve never seen this to be true but I know it has been thought.
The key to a coach extinguishing this narrative is to swallow the hard pills at the right times. Recognizing when a talented player has forgotten they are part of a whole and have them sit to consider that point. Knowing when a player has “outgrown” a team and let their talent go. These are the types of decisions that are good for the long term of the team and the player but difficult in the moment.
The stories that we tell ourselves are important. They frame the world into a model that makes sense out of our personal experience of the world. There are billions of stories going on around the world. My personal belief is that the accuracy of the story is not as important as the helpfulness of the story. I started off by saying that I’d bench Pele… I’m never going to be put in that position but it frames a belief system in a way that leaves no doubt to my conviction. So as you go into your day, what’s your story? Is the world out to get you? Are your best days behind you? Are you the world’s best student? Is this your breakout year? It’s only a story and you can keep it if you want to but put it to my test, does it help?
Many sports teams are in the middle of their preseason sessions at the moment. I’m sure that many players are working hard. It is almost a prerequisite for any level of success in the sports world. The reason that I hedge is that there is a higher level of effort that is more in line with the actual effort. That level of effort is called labor.
Work is a scientific or mathematical equation: force x distance = work. It also has particular connotations in our culture. Common words that are associated with work are: hard, job, difficult, employment and pain. While these may be common, I don’t know that I would describe them as positive. Although we recognize the value of hard work. Many people would look to avoid it.
The reason that I would change to labor is not because work and labor are synonyms. It is actually in labor’s secondary meaning that all of the magic happens. Although many people may make work and labor the same inside of their heads. Labor is the process of giving birth. In particular the final part before delivery. Taken as a whole, the process leading up to and including labor is no picnic. Talk to almost any mother and there will be stories of morning sickness, discomfort and pain leading to a crescendo of “ultimate pain”. At this point, work is sounding pretty good! The difference between the two is that at the end of labor, there’s a miracle to behold. Almost any mother will tell you that it is the worst pain but all is forgotten in the end.
So as you start any endeavor, go in with the idea that you are going to labor toward your goal. The pain and discomfort are part of the process toward the eventual miracle that you are looking for. In the end, the pain will be forgotten and you’ll be able to rejoice in the two things that you’ve created: your goal and the new version of you!
If you’re here, that means one or more of a few things:
you have a problem with people telling you what not to do
you have a selective reading issue where you miss certain words
you clicked on it by mistake
you sensed that there was more to this than the title
I’m going to assume the final one because it will get us farther faster!
The ability to see past the obvious and simple solution is not one that everyone possesses. Judging books by their covers or even first chapters is not always the best strategy. Not everything in the world is completely formulaic. Even some chemical formulas require a catalyst to increase the rate of their reaction. Despite these facts, there is a solid majority of people that believe the obvious answer is the only possible answer. One of the main reasons is that it is comfortable. Comfort is probably the ethos of our age. So the reason that I asked you not to read this blog is that I want you act on it.
I’m asking you to be uncomfortable, see past the past and act in spite of any past failures that you might have. We’ve all got something: talking to that special someone, losing weight, making the team, starting a business, writing a book or whatever. At this point it has been written off. You’ve either failed sever times or not tried because you believe that you can’t. Either way make me (or anything else that you choose) your excuse. You need to give that thing another go. Not because you’re guaranteed success this time but because it’s still inside of you somewhere. I don’t really care if you give up on a goal. I just don’t want you to ever give up on yourself.
Every moment is a new opportunity. Pile up the dead carcasses of your past selves and make a staircase to take you to the place where you know that you can get. If you believe that you’re who you’ve always been, that’s exactly who you’ll continue to be. But if you believe, even for a second, that you can be different. You can be stronger, more determine, resourceful, patient, caring, aggressive or anything else that you’ve failed to be in the past. That’s not who you are! That’s who you were! Today, right now before you finish reading. Take a step! No! Take a leap and move yourself forward. The you from six months in the future is BEGGING for you to do it! Because he/she doesn’t want to be where you are now. They want to be five miles down the road or ten thousand dollars richer or in a relationship. So now I’m BEGGING! Don’t read this blogpost! Live it! Step up and out into the world that you deserve and not the one that you’ve grown accustomed to. DON’T READ! DO!
It is one of my favorite exchanges from the classic movie, Tombstone.
“Doc, you should be in bed. What the hell are you doing this for anyway?” -Creek Johnson
“Wyatt Earp is my friend.” -Doc Holliday
“Hell I’ve got lots of friends.” – Creek Johnson
“I don’t.” – Doc Holliday
Our technology filled world has changed the way that we use certain words and their meaning. If you do a Google search for the word “cloud”, the only reference to the white things in the sky is the dictionary definition. Otherwise it’s advertisements and references to gigabytes of storage space that is elsewhere. This is not the first time that this has happened in the history of language. It actually happens all the time. The technological cloud doesn’t make the sky cloud any less of a cloud. Both have meaning in their own right. I do fear for the word “friend” though.
My fear is not that the word will only mean “people that you relate with mainly online” but rather that the word is becoming devalued. It is common for people to have hundreds of “friends” online and this is great. Keeping relations with people from great distance and from other life periods is an amazing advancement. The concern is that all of these tiny and relatively “easy” relationships will make true, closer and more “difficult” relationships seem like too much work. It’s easy to become intoxicated in the numbers game of friends. Having more of something, does not particularly make life richer. Perhaps even, the collection of a maximum number of “friends” might just mean that the collector doesn’t truly have any. The word starts to lose all meaning when it is applied to basically everyone.
For me, I’d rather go the route of Doc Holliday. Going all in on the people who truly matter. Having those few but special people in life that you’re willing to go into war with (figuratively or literally). Those types of bonds make us stronger people and better humans. So have a social network by all means! But never lose sight of the difference between your FRIENDS and your “friends”. No matter how far the internet has the ability to reach, it is a worthless tool if it’s use means that no one ever touches your soul. If the connection that you feel to the important people in your life is as weak as the Wifi at the local coffee shop, it might be time to double down.
Have you ever woken up from a night of intense dreaming and not been able to remember much of anything about the dream? Well that’s not what I’m talking about at all! I’m talking about your dreams forgetting you! Those things that you want to have in your life: a goal, a person, an item or anything else you can imagine. It started as an image in your head. Then you took some form of action to make it a reality. You might have even got close. But then it was gone. Sorry to say, your dreams have amnesia!
Your dreams don’t know who you are and don’t care about you in the beginning. Like the most popular girl in high school, your dreams could not pick you out of a line up. What’s worse is that your dreams have a form of amnesia. You can walk up and introduce yourself but the next day you’ll be forgotten. Just like Adam Sandler in the movie “50 First Dates”. You need to recognize this condition and not take it personally. DO THE WORK! The only way for your dreams to remember you and begin to accept you is through constant contact. Don’t let a day go by that you’re not courting, coaxing and down right harassing your dreams (the last one doesn’t work well with people). It won’t happen overnight!
I can’t even tell you how long it will take but if you’re consistent daily, hourly and minutely (is that a word?). You’ll find yourself getting closer to your dreams. Maybe one day they’ll welcome you with open arms. Unfortunately that’s going to take a lot of work first.