The son jumps into the pool and starts swimming toward his father who has backed up at least one step, maybe two. It is a simple story that has played out millions of times through the years. Here is a different version of the same story.
On December 28th, 2001, my friend, Gary, and I went out like we would on any other Friday night. We ran into his younger brother, another friend and the friend’s sister. The sister and I talked for a long time that night. Although I was very interested in her, I didn’t ask for her number or anything. The next day, Gary called me and I was told that she was very interested in me and she wanted to do something with the group again for New Year’s Eve. Later that evening, I called her up in order to make plans for all of us to go out again. When she answered the phone, I said, “Hi, this is Pete.”
She said, “Pete who?”
That’s when I found out that it was a lie. My friend had conjured up most of the story just to get me to call her. She was going to Philadelphia for New Year’s and had no plans to go out with us again. However she was happy to hear from me and the rest is history. She is now my wife and we’ve been married for 16 years.
Both the son on the edge of the pool and I were duped by someone we trusted. Honesty may be the best policy in most cases but from time to time, dishonesty is exactly what is needed. Although it was a lie, what Gary told me was more valuable than the truth. It took away the fear that normally would have paralyzed me into inaction. The lie made me act. It made me believe with certainty that I was going to be successful. It was a placebo of the best kind. I had taken the drug of self-confidence and it work magic on me.
There are so few things in life that are absolute. We tend to think of our thoughts as truth. Perhaps the “truths” that you’ve been telling yourself haven’t helped you very much. The divide between the truth and a lie is often based on perspective. So consider your perspective often. Rather than looking for the 100% truth, decide to believe the things that serve you. We usually need just a little push in order to get us started. Push yourself by believing the things that get you to act!
My daughter is one of the coolest people that I know for a variety of reasons. A particular instance that exemplifies this was when we moved into our last house. She was very particular about the decoration of her room. Above her bed, she wanted the wall to be brick and the skull of an animal (fake of course) painted gold hanging as decoration. Since the house did not have exposed brick in her room and we were not about to have it put in, she was happy to compromise with brick wall paper. It served her purpose quite well because it looked real enough for her and it could be easily changed.
In addition to her ever-changing sense of style, my daughter’s ability to move past obstacles is one of my favorite characteristics of hers. She generally doesn’t see them as obstacles at all. When she wants to learn how to draw better, she simply finds a way through a video, class or some other method. Upon deciding to play hockey, she was not bothered by the extreme learning curve between her and more experienced players. When she needs to buy something, she’ll make an impromptu business selling hot chocolate. It’s one of the ways that I would like to emulate her.
Most people in this world tend to see a series of brick walls between themselves and what they want. Their boss, finances, circumstances, parents, teachers, opponents, challenges, etc. are all standing in their way. While some of these walls may be solid, most of them are paper. They are as substantial as the stuff that we put up on my daughter’s wall. The problem is that we tend to imagine that they’re not. They look like brick! Or better yet, we’re afraid that they are brick, so we don’t even test them. We don’t even inspect them to see if they are anything more than paper. These walls give us the perfect excuse to do nothing. It’s just too risky to try to run through them. If we fail, we’ll feel foolish. Or worse! We might succeed and figure out that we’re more capable than we thought. Then we would have to push ourselves beyond our present expectations and that might be too hard!
This is not a finger wagging session that I’m having with strangers on the internet. As I usually do, I’m talking to myself more than anyone. There are walls in my path and I’m quite sure that they are paper or at best cardboard. They’re just in a different direction than I’m used to running. So I’m scared. Not that I’ll fail but that I’ll succeed. On the other side of these challenges, I may find another version of myself that was always available to me. Then I’ll need to reconcile why I didn’t do this sooner. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, I’ve got a wall to run through and you probably do too! So let’s get to it!
It was 2003, I believe. As I was driving north toward Hyannis, Massachusetts, even I was having trouble making sense of what I was doing. Everyone else had bailed out and I had the same exact option. I was supposed to be part of a 4 or 5 person group who were all going to compete in the Hyannis Sprint Triathlon. My girlfriend (now wife) and her friends had made all of the arrangements. I was tagging along for my first triathlon experience. On the day of our departure at the last minute, everyone decided not to go but for some reason I went. Due to all of the uncertainty about the others, I got a late start. After 11pm when I arrived to town, the bed and breakfast where we had reservations was shutdown for the night. So I started scouring the town for a hotel room. The first place that I went had nothing. Luckily the Days Inn had one room left, the “honeymoon suite,” complete with mirrors on the ceiling and a heart-shaped bed. It was not ideal considering I would only be sleeping for about 5 hours but I took it.
Although the race didn’t start until later in the morning, I got to the headquarters around 5:30am because I needed to pick up my race packet and drop off my bike. My first triathlon was off to a bumpy start to say the least. Luckily my registration was done ahead of time and that was the first thing to go off without a hitch. Ill prepared, on my own and completely unsure of the task in front of me; I sat and waited. The swim was by far my weakest event and it is first. Despite being a triathlon newbie, I had received one piece of good advice from a veteran weeks prior, wear a wetsuit. It helps to keep you afloat slightly. Even though I had that slight help, I still swam very slow. Out of nearly 1000 competitors, I was around 800th after the swim (from results after the race, no idea at the time).
My ability on the bike was definitely better than my swimming but my equipment was not. I had borrowed my older brother’s mountain bike for the weekend and although it was functional, it wasn’t set up for speed. Of course I really can’t use that as an excuse because a few miles in, I was passed by an older gentleman on a bike from the 1950’s (I’m guessing). He had no gears or special clipped in shoes and he passed me like I was standing still. Luckily I was also moving up in the pack. I focused on one by one passing the person in front of me. By the end of the bike, I had climbed into the 500s out of 1000.
The run was by far my best event. Having been a track athlete and soccer player, I knew how to pace myself over long distances. However my legs were heaviest during this portion of the race. After about a mile, the weight of my legs was starting to get into my head. What was I doing? No one was here to cheer me on. I was alone. Whether I ran harder or not, that fact was not going to change. Then I started thinking about my girlfriend. Even though I knew she wasn’t there, I became fixated on the thought of her and my legs felt lighter. So I picked up the pace and began catching as many people as I could. Although I knew it really wouldn’t matter one way or another to her, I was able to mask the pain of the moment by associating my performance with her. Much like the knights of the past used to go into battle to win the favor of a lady, I put that emotion into my legs. By the end of the run, I had progressed to the low 300’s.
When I crossed the finish line, I still did it alone but I had a full heart. Although I had entered the race ill prepared and unsure, I walked away from the event feeling more certain. Since I had already paid for a hotel room that I used for about 5 hours, I wolfed down as much post race food as I could. Then I had just enough time to go back to the “honeymoon suite” to take a shower before checking out and going home.
This story is about me but it applies to many more people. There are battles to be waged throughout our lives. Some are simple and fleeting like a triathlon. Others are complex and life altering like cancer. Regardless of which you are engaged in, it’s important to realize that you don’t need to be alone in that fight even when you are alone. People believe in you. They care about you and want you to win. Sometimes that can be hard for them to say. Perhaps they don’t even know that you need to hear it because they just think it’s implied. In a world where we can send and receive messages from around the globe through a device in our pocket, we can forget to send the simplest of messages to the person next to us. Perhaps we need to turn off that “connection” device and get reacquainted with the device inside of our chest. It can also send and receive.
Now more than ever we have the opportunity to connect with those that we love in order to raise each other up. There are things in this world worth fighting for and most of us have more ability than we realize. Sometimes it just takes the right person believing in us to bring it out. Don’t wait around for them to say it though. Just trust that it is out there. No matter how many people are cheering you on, you need to show up first. You’re worth fighting for!
It’s everywhere right now and it’s a real problem! I’m speaking from personal experience because I’ve been using this product for years. Dollar Store Self-Esteem! One of the biggest issues with Dollar Store Self-Esteem is that it’s not just sold in Dollar Stores. It’s sold everywhere! You can get it at Gucci, Walmart or even Tiffany’s. You don’t even have to get it at a store. It’s basically everywhere you look. Sometimes you have to pay more but the product is basically the same. It’s a cheap (or expensive) knock-off that tries to act like the real thing but it’s nothing of the sort. If we just look at the label then we can see that we’ve been sold crap but usually we just stick with it because it’s easier. The people who sell it are everywhere too. The ad campaigns are hitting us in the face all the time. It’s gotten to the point where I’m not 100% positive if most people can tell the difference anymore. Now is the time to figure it out!
If you break it down, self-esteem should be a pretty simple concept. It’s confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. Unfortunately many of us (including me) have mangled this definition. Notice that the definition of self-esteem has nothing to do with other people, things or ideas. It is all about the confidence that the individual has in themselves. At the moment, it is so much easier to extract the “self” from the equation. Rather than accomplish something or move toward a personal goal, the order of the day seems to be finding the fault in everyone and everything else in the world. That’s Dollar Store Self-Esteem! It’s nothing more than a sugar coated air bubble. It may feel good for a moment but it’s empty and unsatisfying. No matter how many you eat, it will not sustain you.
So if you notice yourself about to buy another dose of Dollar Store Self-Esteem, STOP! Take a moment and do something that might actually make you feel better about yourself. Rather than attacking that stranger whose opinion is different to yours on Facebook, send a message to someone you love. When you see the latest picture of Karen, Tom, Dick or Harry; acting in a way that you think is abhorrent. Don’t comment, go do something that you’ve been putting off for a long time. It’s not as easy I know and that comment, Tweet or like was probably going to change something (tongue in cheek).
The world is in a pretty messed up place at the moment. If you want to, there are plenty of people and situations that you can blame. More blame isn’t the way out of this situation. More action is. Each and every one of us has the ability to impact the world that we touch everyday. As we are seeing with the present Pandemic, we are all connected. So doing good things in your own little world is not futile. It will do two things! 1) It will make you feel good about you. 2) It will ripple outward. Spiral out, keep going!
A foreign language can be exactly that to many people “foreign”. Despite that fact, there are lessons to be learned and applied from the study of language that reach into the sports world extremely easily. At the highest level, the margin for error is so slim that all possible advantages must be explored.
Language is an agreement – This is crucial. Right now you (the reader) and I are working under the English agreement. We must agree in order for messages to travel freely and easily. This is simple when we’re talking about identifying a table or a ball. However this idea goes much deeper. It involves vocabulary, tone, context and audience. As a coach, when you address the team, it leaves your lips as one message but gets received eleven or more different ways. This recognition by itself can be powerful but knowing your receivers can allow you to improve your messages. Your business is results. Anyone can bark orders. Not everyone can craft a message. So learn to give the message in a way that will be received.
You’re doing it to yourself – It doesn’t exist in every language but in several, there is a construction called a reflexive verb. This is when the person doing the action is also receiving the action. Think of washing your hair, brushing your teeth or shaving. In Spanish there is a verb “ponerse”. It means “to put on”. Although it can be used for clothing, it also gets used for emotions. You put anger onto yourself or sadness or excitement. Even though your language may not represent it that way, it is exactly what happens. You and your players are making yourselves feel a certain way. Feelings don’t infect us. We create them. Do your players put excitement on by themselves at training or matches? Or do they need your help? As the person who will eventually be held accountable for the results of the team, it is important to consider what emotions are continually being put onto everyone involved. Can you direct that more effectively?
Permanent/Consistent or Temporary – Much like the last concept, language frames the way that we look at the world. In Spanish, there are two words for the word “to be”: Ser and Estar. Ser is used for things that are permanent or consistent. Estar is used for things that are temporary. In English it is possible for someone to say “I am depressed.” Since there is only one word for “to be”, this could be a temporary thing or a long term. The signal to other people and the mind can be difficult to decipher. This overlaps with the concept above about agreement. “John is horrible” and “John is having a horrible day” have very different meanings to both the sender and receiver. In your team’s culture, what ideas or concepts do you want to be permanent/consistent? What is meant to be temporary? Listen to your players’ language patterns when they talk about themselves and others. Are there patterns that are undermining success? Are you the one who put them there or did you allow them to stay?
Slow Process vs. Fast Process – Languages are broken into four different modalities: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Reading and writing are slow processes that allow the person to take their time as they are doing it. Listening and speaking are done in real time. Therefore each can be more valuable at different times or may be used in tandem. Consider the importance of the message that you want to send. Is saying it enough? Remember, you already know the message that you want them to receive. So be sure to give them the opportunity to get it with the amount of depth that you intend for it. Should you write it down for them to see it? Should they write it down in their own words? In their own language? Your players are going to be performing in a high stress environment. Make sure that the messages that matter stick.
Question Words Require Extra – Who? What? ¿Dónde? Quand? Jak? And WHY? Although there may be times when all you want is the simple yes or no, your players are complex creatures who have lives beyond the game. Probing beyond the surface level may be the key to unlocking a level of focus and commitment that you never knew existed from an individual. Yes men are easy to find and easy to replace. Although all question words elicit extra information, they are not all created equal. WHY is the eventual question that you want to find an answer for. If you know a player’s WHY and are able to link it to the team’s goals, you’ll have a brother in arms rather than a mercenary. One of my favorite illustrations of the concept of WHY comes from the movie Cinderella Man (2:00 minutes in). He says what he’s fighting for but it puts his WHY on full display.
In the world of professional soccer, everyone’s job is to prepare to the best of their ability in order to achieve a result on game day. Coaches are using words as their main tool to get the most from their players. Despite that fact, language patterns and word choice rarely get considered. The best version of you as a coach requires that you and your players understand one another. Be sure that your message is not being lost in translation.
When music stores still existed on a large scale, I was mainly listening to punk rock. As I would shuffle through the CDs in the punk section looking for something by Millencolin, I would invariably see Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. It was a strange enough name to catch the eye but I never really looked into them because Youtube and other sampling tools weren’t available. In preparation for this article, I decided to look more closely at their history and catalogue. I just liked the name to hammer home an idea but it turned out to be more perfect than I thought. Me First… is made up of members from different rock bands and they perform punk cover versions of popular songs like “Mandy” by Barry Manilow or “Hello” by Lionel Richie. They take other people’s winners and dress them up a little differently. There’s nothing really wrong with what the Gimme Gimmes are doing because the original songwriters get a portion of the revenue produced. Now that you’re up to speed on Me First… let’s see what was can do about youth soccer.
The system of youth soccer in America is in need of an overhaul. The dissolution of the DA may end up being a positive in the long run but from top to bottom there’s a lot more wrong. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are not pretending to be anything more than what they are a cover band. However their name seems to be a perfect way to describe the overall ethos of youth soccer at the moment. Leagues, clubs, trainers, tournaments, etc. are all part of a system that seems to be less about soccer and more about money. This is a game that could be almost free for kids to play but here it is big business. Why? Because the system is so disjointed that it allows people to take advantage and there is no real incentive to act in the interest of the greater good. So my hope is that the hiatus that we are on will shed some light on those issues. Allow me to explain.
In most countries there is a soccer pyramid that makes some form of sense. Teams that are higher up the pyramid get there by a type of meritocracy. The same is true about players. A player must climb the pyramid as well. Perhaps they are fortunate to get discovered early in their career. In the professional ranks, teams can either develop their own talent through their academy system or buy talent from elsewhere. If a player is bought, then their youth club gets some form of financial compensation called development payment. This money allows the smaller clubs to continue to develop players. Sometimes the financial gain is worth letting go of a good player. It helps the club’s finances and the player usually moves on to a higher level.
In the American system, there is no incentive for clubs to let go of their players. Development payments are not recognized yet by the USSF. Therefore clubs are less likely to help talented players move on. A quality player or team of players raise the perceived clout of the club and can bring in more money. Since the US does not embrace development payments, all of the money is brought in from the families of the players. So every player is also a customer and losing customers is not a good strategy for staying in business. Although this is a major problem, it is not the only one. Due to the lack of overarching structure the United States soccer “pyramid” has many organizational flaws. The lack of a concrete system allows perception to dominate common practice. NCAA, NAIA, ECNL, NPL, AYSO, US Club, ODP, and so many other acronyms are part of a landscape of muddied waters. Each acronym with their own vested interest that may or may not serve the betterment of their players or soccer in general.
Although the system is dysfunctional and needs an overhaul, a pandemic might be the perfect cure for what ails soccer in the US. More than anything, it is giving people time to reflect.
Path to the Pros – USSF has already taken this opportunity to dissolve the DA. Although it may take some time for MLS to get its replacement right, in the end, any club in the “Development Academy” league should have some direct path to the professional game. This change can separate the cream of the crop from the pretenders who pay a lot for the prestige of being in the DA.
Going Solo – The pandemic has forced all training sessions to be shut down. So since players can’t see their high priced trainers, they’re practicing on their own. It probably shouldn’t be this big of a revelation but American kids and parents are recognizing that skills practice in isolation can help. The flip side of this coin could also be a revelation. A kid who is not practicing during this huge opportunity to get ahead of competition, probably doesn’t love the sport enough to justify a huge financial investment.
Dollars and Sense – With the economic impact of the pandemic on the average family’s income, most people are going to have to consider their expenditures heavily. So high priced soccer clubs are going to have to take a backseat to things like food, health care, electricity, etc. With the loss of DA status and the financial crunch that so many will be feeling, clubs will either prove their value or struggle to survive. If you’ve ever read my work before, I’m a huge proponent of the local club for the vast majority of players.
Come Together – We can’t right now but eventually when we can, the game is going to need fans. Support your local MLS, USL or NPSL team. The common refrain that I get when I talk to people about supporting professional soccer in America is “I can’t watch MLS, it sucks!” This stance only helps the ego of the person who is willing to believe it. MLS is NOT the Premier League or La Liga or the Bundesliga or the Serie A. Roger that! However, do you really desire to have the best leagues in the world be an ocean away? Or would you rather have the best soccer in the world being played right in your backyard? If the answer is that you love the long distance relationship, then great. If you want the best to be within your reach, then you have to pay attention NOW! Investors are going to put money into soccer, only if they see that the product is selling. So Euro snobbery is only going to perpetuate the status quo.
So now I circle back to the beginning, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. I’ve seen a lot of things throughout this pandemic and the attacks of 9/11 and other tragedies to know that people in this country are not all about themselves. Not everyone has got their hands out looking to take from others. However when things are “normal”, we’re so damn busy and distracted that we don’t think much about the collective. How we all fit into the bigger picture. Soccer is a we sport! My hope is that this pandemic will teach us the lesson that WE are all in the together: soccer, life, the world.
I didn’t realize before I started writing this that it was a drinking game. For me it’s actually just a concept that I’ve been thinking about recently. Under normal circumstances, the game of Jenga (even the drinking kind) is played with some form of wood blocks arranged in a tower type construction. A player must remove a block and put it on top of the stack without causing the entire thing to collapse. It takes some concentrations and manual dexterity.
As I have been thinking about people and their problems recently, I imagine that many people would love for life to work something like Jenga. Identify the problem, remove it and put it someplace/discard it. The mental image works to a certain extent but our lives, problems, fears, and anxieties are not firm and solid things. They are much more fluid and unstable like jello. So imagine the tower of jello rectangles, wobbling and shaking, as you try to remove one of the blocks. Although it may be possible to get it out, it’s not going to be a neat and tidy operation. It will probably take several attempts. Half of the block may remain stuck in the space and require a different angle of approach. In addition to the extraction, there is the eventual sagging into the open space. It may have been one block that was removed but it affected all of the blocks around it in some way. The ripple effect may be felt throughout the entire structure.
My point here is not to create a very messy new game for people to try. Quite the opposite, it’s a game that you’re already playing. My entire point is to give a framework for dealing with some of the issues that people have. Quitting smoking, overcoming anxiety, dealing with depression and so many other extractions are going to be messy but they are possible. Humans were never intended to work like the machines that surround our world at the moment. We are fluid, ever-changing and imperfect structures that require a high level of care.
So as you go out into your life today. Survey your situation and see if any wobbly and sticky situations need to be removed. Using this idea as a framework, start to dislodge them. Just remember, that it’s not always going to be simple or pretty but you can figure it out even if it requires a spoon.
It’s almost comically predictable at this point! The responses that I’m bound to hear when I say, “Ok, let’s do the same skill with your non-dominant (usually left) foot.” Most players will reply with “My left sucks!” or “I can’t do this with my left.” Other grumbles will be heard but I don’t let them linger for too long. I know that it is not so much their left foot that needs work, it’s their mindset.
After over twenty years of coaching and teaching, I am not surprised anymore. The same patterns of problems keep coming up over and over again. It’s not because people lazy, stupid or indifferent. One of the main reasons that people don’t do the things that they need to do is that they are trying to protect themselves. Their weaknesses are safety blankets that protect them from an effort toward something that might not work out. It’s not truly the effort that they are scared to put in. The uncertainty of the outcome combined with the effect that “failure” (real or perceived) would have on their self-image are the true obstacles.
So in my practice, it is my job to create a place where we redefine failure. Failure is not trying! Success is 1% improvement. If you missed the goal by 10 yards on the first attempt, then missing by 9.5 on the second is a success. This redefinition of success and failure gives an open invitation to effort and protects their self-image.
Most of us are not working with a coach on a daily basis. No one is redefining success and failure for us, so we stick with that safety blanket approach. We protect our self-image because it is important for us to feel good about ourselves or at least comfortable with who we are. The exercise regiment, new eating habits, relationship tweaks, etc. are not safe because if we tried and it didn’t work out, what would that say about us? It would mean we’re a success.
That’s right! It was easy enough to see the efficacy with little kids kicking a ball but as soon as it is our weakness, it seems much more complicated but it’s not. Trying is your new measure of success. (Yeah, Yeah! There is no try. F$#% Yoda for the moment) Once you’ve tried, then any small smidge of improvement is something to be celebrated. You jog 100 yards on Monday. Then on Tuesday you do 101, that’s success. Perfection is not attainable and movie style miracles are not coming your way any time soon. So get up off your a$$ and put your left foot forward!
At one point in history, the caboose was a standard part of a train. It served many functions. It was used as lookout point for identifying issues with the cars being towed by the engine. The caboose was also where the crew of the train tended to live. As train technology improved, the caboose was deemed unnecessary and discarded. Although technology made the actual caboose irrelevant, it is possible that it makes our life caboose much more relevant. Allow me to explain.
If you picture your life as a train heading down a track, there are splits in the track everywhere. From moment to moment, you are presented with choices of which direction to go. Some choices you labor over as you see them approach. Others you’ve made so often, you don’t even view them as choices anymore. You just staying on that track. All of those decision are made at the front end based on what you, the engineer, see coming up. In a modern context, things come up fast because the world is moving at an alarming pace. So it is no wonder that as we are moving forward we forget that we live in the caboose.
We forget the fact that when things slow down and the place where we live catches up, those momentary choices may have us in a really bad spot. The choices, that only took an instant, deteriorate as soon as the engine passes by and leave the caboose living in a desert of poor consequences. It’s easy to beat yourself up when the caboose comes along but you need to get the message up to the engine “Remember we’re back here!” I say ‘we’ because there are so many parts of your life living in the caboose: health, relationships, finances, self esteem, etc. So what do you do?
Make a plan – decide where it is that you want your caboose to end up and spend most of its days, WRITE IT DOWN!
Follow the routes – someone else has done this thing before, follow their procedure
Keep that plan in mind – keep the plan somewhere that you will see it often, build habits into your life that perpetuate the plan
Stay on track – (pun intended) you know you better than anyone, build processes into your life or take things out that make it more likely that you’ll reach your destination
It’s easy to look at the world and say “there are no tracks”. So you feel like you’re at the mercy of the world. You’re absolutely right! There are no tracks if you don’t lay any but as I said at the beginning, there are some decisions in your life that ceased to be decisions a long time ago. In the future, you want those new habits to be the things that you don’t consider anymore.
This entire post sprung out of a thought that I had while listening to an Impact Theory interview with Trevor Moawad. The interview is amazing and I loved so many parts of it that I’ve listened to it at least ten times already. However I disagreed with his statement about choice being an illusion. I believe that we have the ability to choose but those choices get followed up by a full train that endure the consequences.
It’s that time of year again where I make my trip to whatever city is hosting the United Soccer Coaches (former NSCAA) Convention. It is great to spend 4-5 days talking, thinking and learning about soccer. If this is your first time or you’ve never gone, here are some ideas on how to get the most out of the Convention.
Decide – There’s more than enough going on at the Convention for just about any soccer coach/fan. Deciding what it is that you want to get out of the Convention will get you much closer to achieving that goal. It’s fine to spend some time wandering around the exhibit hall but it shouldn’t be your only activity. Decide on some presenter that you want to see, Bill Beswick is one of my favorites. Decide on the concepts that would really help your team, club or players.
Don’t be afraid to be a paratrooper – This is my term for showing up to a session and deciding quickly that that topic, presenter or material is not what you were looking for. Don’t be afraid to move on to another session. There’s more than enough going on that you can have two or even three worthy sessions in each time slot. So plan ahead.
Engage – There are thousands of people here with the same passion as you. The possibility for common ground is immense. Although it may be more comfortable to only talk to the people that you came with, you’ll probably find that engaging with new people creates new possibilities. This does not mean stalk Thierry Henry to pick his brain about how to fix your U9 girls team’s finishing problem. There are more than enough people here who would be eager to talk to you about it though. So step out of your shell.
Get out of your lane – There are so many facets to this sport on display over the next few days. Sticking to your own area is a great way to leave with the exact knowledge that you had upon your arrival. Make a concerted effort to learn about something outside of your personal “wheel house”. I once attended a panel discussion on club finances. It gave me an insight into the work that my club’s treasurer was doing and helped us to prepare for some future financial concerns.
Show up – Over the years, I’ve convinced several friends and colleagues to go to their first Convention. Almost all of them are now yearly attendees. There are many people in the soccer community that were disappointed by the qualification failure of the USMNT. That problem will not be solved at this Convention. However the solutions to American soccer problems will come from many of the people and ideas that are here. As I hope that we’re beginning to see in many areas of life, a better tomorrow is not dependent upon the chosen few at the top. It is incumbent on all of us who care to show up early and often to help get things right.
Baltimore is one of my favorite cities! The Convention Center is in the Inner Harbor area which has a lot of great restaurants. If you feel like getting out of the area where all of the soccer people are, you can head over to Fell’s Point or Canton. Those areas have slightly more local feel. Looney’s is my personal favorite. I go there for the crab melt! Enjoy the Convention!