Cheers To The Soccer Name Game!

IMG_2492It’s official!  The paperwork just came in from the state and my son’s name is officially Lionel Messi!  I fully anticipate that his goal total will skyrocket in the coming seasons.  If you’ve not screamed “You’re an idiot!” yet, you’ve at least thought it.  I felt stupid just typing it!  A name is not particularly an indicator of quality, it’s a way to differentiate one person from millions of other similar people.  This truth is so easy to realize when talking about a person’s talent.  Then why do so many people trap themselves into the soccer club name game?  Like soccer, the answer is simple but at the same time complex.  Perception helps us form our reality.

In college, I worked at a beer and wine store.  On the beer side of the store, I got very few questions.  Occasionally someone would ask about a new micro-brew but generally people knew what they were looking for.  The Coors guy would rarely change things up and would walk in grab a case, pay and walk out.  On the wine side of the store, there were much more questions and a posturing of perception.  If a wine was highlighted in the “Wine Spectator” magazine, we were likely to sell out of it especially if it was priced under $30.  Most of the people looking for the popular wine.  Even if they had never tasted it and often it wasn’t even their favorite varietal.  They had been sold on a perception not their own reality.  Being seen as a person who knew about wine was much more important than getting what they wanted in a wine.

At the moment in the soccer world, we’re going through a similar perception economy.  Names are just a part of the equation that includes trainers, sponsors, equipment, etc.  The name is just the asset with no inherent value other than perception.  It’s a longstanding joke with a coach friend of mine that we are going to start a club with all of the standard soccer club cliches of quality.  My most recent version is “Select Elite Academy Soccer International Club Kickers” or S.E.A.S.I.C.K. for short.  I’m sure that the players of SEASICK would be bursting with pride in the fact that they were playing for an “elite academy”, though they might be neither.  Since they tried out, that would make it “select”.  Although they might be confused by the “international” tag but I’m sure we’d find an English or Dutch trainer to squelch that thought.  Finally I’m sure that they would have preferred to be an FC but let’s face it, you can’t fight the draw of a good acronym!  Again I’m being ridiculous but not inaccurate.

The youth soccer world is based heavily on perception but with more real consequences than my wine example.  This is not a mistake of serving chardonnay with steak (which is actually fine if that’s what you like).  It’s a mistake of hanging children’s self-worth on a false status.  It may not be prudent to invest a child’s one non-renewable resource (time) into a pursuit of athletic “excellence” rather than personal development.  Does an “elite” soccer player translate this time and financial commitment into love from his/her parents?  Do they have the tight bonds of friendship on their elite team that they have with kids from their school?  Are the elite coaches also elite role models of how to be a good person?  If these questions were all asked and well considered before the tryout, then stay the course.  However my fear is that many people have blinders on with a very narrow view of the course that they are putting their children on.  By age 25, most people’s playing careers are over but their lives are not yet close to half done.  Will memories of warm-up jackets embroidered with half true adjectives be enough to sustain them through their adult life?  Or are the actions, relationships and mentors of the individual the true creators of great memories?

Eventually the packaging fades away and the true substance of what’s been sold shines through.  Go in with an idea of what you really want and see past the packaging.  The world is filled with people who will sell you something for their own benefit rather than yours.   Not everyone is elite but anyone can receive the gifts that the game has to offer without a price tag.

Go play!

Pete

As usual Rocky has a good take on the subject.

 

 

I See France in the Mirror

Eiffel towerI have often wondered what history lessons are like in Germany about the period between 1900-1950.  From an outside perspective it is easy to characterize Germany as the villain of that epoch.  Is it viewed as period of shame?  Or glossed over as unfortunate past events?  Often people and nations have a hard time seeing themselves as others would see them.  When looking at others, it is easier to make judgment that we believe is right.  We can see their faults, shortcomings, idiosyncrasies and failures.  Or we laud their beauty, strength, courage or “perfection”.  Self-reflection is usually skewed in either a positive or negative direction.  People, just like nations, have a history that they must reconcile in order to move forward.  Recently upon thinking of Germany’s past and looking in the mirror, I reflected on what nation I represent.

At first I though Switzerland, a neutral state that is willing to keep the currency of others in secrecy.  It had some possibility but fell short.  Then I considered my ancestral homeland of Poland.  It has been overrun by many others and despite almost disappearing at certain points, it keeps coming back with resilience.  This would be nice and comfortable for me but unfortunately it’s not true.

Unfortunately I’m France.  Man, it pisses me off to write that!  There are many things to love about me but I give off an air of aloofness that puts people off.  At times, I’ve let my enemies take parts of me without much of a fight and needed the support of close friends to make me whole again.  I can be characterized as lazy but generally I work to live, not the other way around.  My reputation for being standoffish is justifiable but also location based.  If you truly want to get to know me, don’t do it where the crowds are.  I’m much better off the beaten path and rich in areas that you didn’t know were there.

What country are you?  Please don’t search Facebook for a quiz that tells!  Figure out that story for yourself.  If you don’t like what you’ve found (as I don’t), then make the necessary adjustment.  Despite being France, I can change my actions and therefore my story about who I am.  You can too.  Just because you were beaten, trampled, torn apart and considered unworthy in the past, does not mean that your history needs to continue on that path.  Your history cannot predict your future, unless you let it!

Have a great day!

Pete

Fatherhood Entrance Exam

FatherhoodI have a very clear recollection of the day that I passed the test that told me that I was ready to be a father.  I was on the bottom floor of my in-laws’ house on a lake in Virginia.  A strange sound came from outside that I didn’t recognize.  A few seconds later my wife screamed my name.  It was the kind of scream that I knew something was wrong.  I jumped up and sprinted out the door.  When I reached my wife on the deck outside, I quickly found out the source of the sound and why she screamed.  Our dog, Kelme, was pinned down by another dog that was attacking him.  The two dogs were about ten feet below the deck on the rocks that sloped down toward the lake.  Without a moment’s hesitation, I jumped over the deck’s railing and dropped the ten feet landing next to the two dogs.  Luckily my sudden appearance and loud shouts were enough to scare the dog off without my having to fight him.  I picked up Kelme and raced him to the vet with my wife.  His wounds were very minor and he made a full and energetic recovery.  It was after that incident that I knew for sure that I could be a father.

KelmeNot everyone gets that type of real life test that tells them something important about themselves.  Generally people have to take a leap of faith that they can handle the situation.  The phrase there is not unimportant, “leap”.  I can’t say for certain whether I would have gotten the same type of self-assurance from that situation had I run down the stairs to Kelme’s aid.  The jump was important because it separated me completely from safety and put me directly into harm’s way: both from the rocks and the dog.  The willingness to take the risk of the leap was key.  Lives don’t need to be at stake.  Broken limbs and dog attacks don’t need to be risked.

The keys to any endeavor of creation: child, book, movie, relationship, song, poem, etc. are the leap and the foregoing of self.  Neither is particularly easy to do.  Leaping requires a detachment from the stability of the known world for something much more uncertain.  Putting something else before ourselves is also an exercise in chance.  With both, fear is a major opposing force.  While fear is an emotion that is intended to protect us from pain, it is often the force that keeps us from living fully.  A full life is one that requires creation and therefore risk.  There are no diplomas, courses or tests that can prepare you to live fully.  It is something that needs to be done on the fly everyday with consistent action.  The act of leaping may never become completely comfortable but it may just become completely worth it.

Leap today!

Pete

Attack the Monsters!

monstersIt’s something that every single one of us went through at one point or another.  The hard-wiring is built deep within us based on our ancestors’ need to survive.  Fear of the dark, unknown, bumps in the night, the boogeyman and the like are so natural that I do not blame anyone for that response.  Even at the ripe age of 41, I still have that response to some situations.  Even though I know that this is to a certain extent instinctual, it is possible to train it out.  I no longer check for monsters under my bed at night.  The question on my brain tonight is, would it be possible (and advantageous) to not only train the fear out but instill a sense of dominance over the monsters?

The beginning assumption of the child is that they need to be afraid.  In the ultimate Chuck Norris reversal, couldn’t the monsters be afraid of us?  If they are such badasses, why do they need to skulk in the dark anyway?  It’s probably because the sneak attack/sucker punch tactic is their only hope.  Flipping the script on a situation like this opens up a new world where the victim becomes the victor.  Since most of our world is no longer based on an “only the strong survive” system, a large majority of the shifts that change victims to victors are of mentality and not physicality.

Since there is less to need to fear and the game is mostly mental, perhaps it is time to change the assumptions that we make about ourselves.  Each of us has jumped to conclusions about ourselves based on limited or weak data.  “I’m not smart enough.”  “They’d never take me.” “I’m just really bad at ______.”  All of these are assumptions that may not be true or can be flipped.  The difference between a weakness and a strength might be as simple as perspective or selection.  Being 4 foot 10 inches is a major liability in the NBA but for a horse jockey, it’s an asset.  The world that you live in is based largely on perspective.

DON’T ASSUME YOU’RE WEAK, JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T FOUND YOUR STRENGTH YET!  The world offers so many opportunities to each and every one of us.  The problem is that many of us make assumptions about what those opportunities are supposed to look like.  People want opportunity to look like a lottery ticket rather than an unpaid internship.  The latter will probably make a stronger and smarter person but the former is sexier, so we ignore.  We ignore our strengths or opportunities to become stronger all the time because it’s easier to complain about being weak.  Flip the script and attack those monsters under your bed and inside your head.  You’ll find that that they’re no match for you when you believe and you act.

Have a great day people!

Pete

Chinese Restaurant Starter Kit

chinese foodMost Chinese restaurants seem to have the same basic decoration.  The chairs only seem to vary in the pattern of the vinyl upholstery.  The pictures of the food look almost identical up on the menu board.  It’s almost as if they are all part of a chain like McDonald’s.  Despite the similarities of the furniture, the food is what separates the good from the bad.  In the past I know that I’ve gone out of my way to go to the “good” Chinese restaurant.  That distinction was never about the decoration or the koi fish swimming in the fake pond with a waterfall.  The good restaurant distinguished itself by making better food once it got the furniture in.

In so many areas people are losing sight of the fact that being better is necessary.  As a coach and a teacher, the overwhelming sense that I get is that most people only put for the effort to be “good enough”.  Good enough to make varsity.  Good enough to pass.  Good enough to graduate.  This would be fine if their desires matched their effort.  Unfortunately too many people expect great results from their mediocre effort.  They expect adulation for just showing up.  Success should be as easy to get as ‘likes’ on Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook.  Showing up is the starter kit, performing consistently high level enough for people to notice is the key.

So don’t rely on the starter kit.  You already have a bunch of them.  Life is the restaurant space.  Your limbs and senses are the chairs and tables.  Some people are performing even without those advantages that you have.  All of the window dressing in the world is not going to move your business forward if you don’t make better food.  In your life, that could be any action that you take: studying, interacting with people, selling, playing or anything else.  You need to put forth the effort to at least be better than you used to be.  Otherwise you’ll end up as another forgotten place in a strip mall.

 

Story Stacking (A Star Wars ripoff story)

StarWarsThe trilogy is not truly the king of cinema but rather stack-able stories.  There’s no magical power to the number three.  The key component to the greatest movie series is the way that the stories fit together and one movie can be catapulted based on the strengths of its predecessor.  While I’m a huge movie fan and have been since my childhood, there is something that’s missing from the great movies that are being released today.  Kids aren’t stacking them into their own lives.

Han Solo was my guy from about 4 until 10 years old.  In the VHS culture of the day, my brothers and I would watch Star Wars and then play Star Wars for hours afterward.  I was Han Solo for hours on end and it gave me a chance to wear his overconfident skin for a while.  His character was stacked onto my personality for a bit and I’m sure that some of it stuck.  After Han, there was Rocky Balboa.  I never climbed in a ring or drank a cup of raw eggs but I got up at 6 am religiously and ran.  Training for events or just life became part of my stroy.

While I think that the present day movie technology puts the 70s and 80s to shame, the greater shame is that since Iron Man’s mask is so readily available in the store, kids don’t need to wear his skin.  Everything is prepackaged and fabricated to perfection so much that a young person is always separated from their heroes by a layer of plastic that none of the residue rubs off.

The human race has reached its place in the world through the stories that we tell ourselves.  Thousands of years ago it started with a group of cavemen believing that they could collectively beat a saber tooth.  Then a man told himself that steam could move machines.  Now children are being told the most elaborate stories of all time but they are not stacking them like they used to.  The story is a ceiling rather than a staircase.  So if you are young or have contact with young people, stack those stories and attach them to your soul or the soul of someone else.  It’s not just entertainment.  It’s ENTERtrainMENT.  A new world you can enter to train your mental image of yourself.  So if you go out to the movies, be sure to go out afterwards and wear something new.

Enjoy!

pete

Change the Wedding Vows

weddingThe traditional wedding vows read something like this  “I, ___, take you, ___, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do we part.” While I have no problem with anyone making this vow (I made it), perhaps some people might want to change it up in order to better represent the signs of the times.  Something like the following might be appropriate for some people today.

“Today on the day of the big party which is all I really wanted or prepared for.   I, ___, take you, ___, for my lawful wife/husband, to live with and to care about until I find something better or I figure out that loving you is inconvenient, for better but not worse, for richer and money will always be a sticking point, in sickness but nothing too serious and health, until death or a costly divorce do we part.”

It’s definitely not romantic but it paints an accurate picture of a large portion of marriages today.  So why not change it up so that everyone goes into this thing with a clear picture of what they’re promising.  The vow may be setting up for a pretty tall order but it is worth continuing because the bar for entry should not be lowered.

The lowering of the standard for the marriage vow would only quicken the downward spiral of poor marriages.  Perhaps the prerequisites for marriage need to be raised such as living and working in a foreign country together for one year.  Something sort of trial that proves a real commitment and understanding of one another.  The main thing that people need to try to do is communicate their position and their expectations, in any relationship.  Perhaps that simple communication would cause fewer people to get married and thus fewer divorces.

Change is never easy.  Especially when most individuals believe that the world should change first.

 

 

I Was TeamSnap

Youth SoccerIt was around 1988 when I started making the phone calls.  On Friday nights, it was my job to call all of the players/parents from my soccer team. The information that I had to tell them was where the game was and what time the “caravan” was leaving A&P’s parking lot.  It wasn’t a fun job but it was a necessary one to make sure that everyone got to the game.  Today we have TeamSnap and other services to take care of this job.  While I’m sure that my fourteen year old self would have jumped at the chance to have this service available.  I’m glad that I suffered through that weekly chore.

There are so many little inconveniences that have been taken off of our plates.  At a quick glance, it may seem that we’ve gained in time by their removal.  The question that I’m asking at the moment is what was lost at the same time?  If you take that job away from my young self, he loses a sense of responsibility, ownership in the team concept, ability to talk to adults on the phone, a knowledge of our surrounding area and other things that are worth a half hour per week.

I’m definitely not anti-technology.  The thing that I’m trying to maintain in my own life is a sense of being human while utilizing technology.  We can become more human by using technology as a tool to enhance our lives.  Connect with people that are far away.  Learn and grow at times that are more convenient.  Save time in order to spend it with friends and family.  Some of the best things in life are inconvenient.  I would never replace my brother with an app just because it is more reliable and remembers my birthday.

Trauma or Possibility

LHVMarathonI had blood all over me.  I didn’t know where I was.  It was the coldest that I’d ever been in my life.  I couldn’t see a thing.  All that I could do was scream.  Luckily help was nearby and I was able to calm down.  It had been a difficult trial but I was alive and in the hospital.  Just when things seemed as if they would be OK, a complete stranger came along and chopped off a quarter of my penis.  All of that trauma happened in the first twenty four hours of my life.  Despite that very rough beginning, I’ve done quite well for myself.

This story is at least partially true for almost all of us.  We were all thrust into this world naked, afraid and unable to speak, read or write.  It is not something that we give much thought to because it happens to everyone.  However birth (or creation) is a messy and traumatic business by all accounts.  Not just the human producing ones but also the birth of companies, relationships, art or anything else.   There is always that starting point of conception that is magical and exhilarating.  Eventually that moment is replaced by some form of hard labor in order to get the creation out into the world.  Just because it’s painful, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it.  The narrative of the present day is about safety and comfort.  Our world has had most of its sharp edges taken off.  While I’m all for vaccinating against the next Bubonic Plague, there are some struggles that are important for people to go through.  Not all pain is trauma.

As you conceive the next dream of where you’re going or what you’re doing, do a little pre-trauma planning.  Like a person that is preparing for a marathon, it is important to understand your “quit points”.  Quitting is not shameful if it is done for the right reasons.  A broken leg is a justifiable quit inducing occurrence.  Cramps are a nuisance to be fought through.  The difference between trauma and possibility is perspective and the next few steps that are taken.  Expectation that everything will be easy is a sure fire way to turn every problem into trauma.  Traumatizing yourself with things that should be expected is recipe for disaster.  Imagine freaking out because your newborn child couldn’t walk.  It’s a process not a fully completed miracle.  Take the possibility and run with it.

Prevent and Vent

recycleBob was a guy that I worked with at the garbage company during my summer vacation from college.  He was a driver on one of the recycling trucks.  Funny as hell!  His stories were legendary and wit was razor sharp.  After working for the company for at least 15 years, he could tell you everything that was wrong with it.  He knew why the routes didn’t work, how the company had been stupid to buy this new brand of truck and every other problem that the company had.  He loved to vent.  The problem was that Bob couldn’t prevent.  He couldn’t let the bosses know about the challenges before they came up.  His ability was after the fact and didn’t carry much value.  I’m not sure if Bob retired yet or if he’s still there but wherever he is, I’m sure he’s still venting about something.

The ability to put PRE in front of something is an invaluable skill.  Before is an investment that usually pays off.  If you have things that you tend to vent about, why not put a little extra time in to prevent them from happening.  Or are you addicted to the vent?  A venting session from time to time is normal, justified and probably even recommended.  It’s just not going to move you forward.

One last note on Bob, he would collect soda cans and other items that had contests on them.  Because of his job, he was able to get a ridiculous amount of “points” for each competition.  Regardless of how many prizes he won, he was always pissed that he didn’t get something better.