Oh Captain! My Captain!

captainThe role of a captain can be very important on a soccer team. I say “can be” because on some teams, the captain does nothing more than the coin toss. My perspective is that the captain has a great deal of responsibility and should have certain characteristics that help her to lead.

Job Description: The captain is the liaison between the players and the coach. She is also the “coach on the field”. It is her responsibility to give players direction and keep the team focused on the task at hand. Away from the field, she should represent the team in positive ways. Other players and community members should see the captain as a representative of what all players in the program should strive to be.

Guidelines: There are many ways to lead others. Although I will make several suggestions about how to lead, one key component is that you need to be yourself. You may need to be a better version of yourself, but acting like someone else is not the answer.

  • ·        Arrow to the Action: Inherent to the word leader is the idea of going first. A captain/leader should never ask someone else to do something that they are not willing to do themselves. Captains set the example. If they lead by saying but not doing, they will be found out eventually.
  • ·        We before Me: A captain needs to put the good of the group before the good for herself. The role of captain is one of giving and not receiving. It requires a person who can control their desire for individual recognition. It does not mean that the captain receives no individual attention, but the team comes first and she knows that.
  • ·        The Diplomat: As the liaison between the team and the coach, the captain needs to understand what problems need to be brought to the coach and which need to be handled within the team. She is not a spy or an informant, but a representative that is the voice and ears of the team.

Not all coaches will view the captain in the way that I do, so it will be important to understand the role under your particular coach. It is possible that your coach only wants captains to do the coin toss. If that is the situation, recognize that you can do more. Despite your coach’s view of the role, your teammates may be looking for more from their captain.

If captain is a role that you aspire to hold at some point, look at the leaders that you respect. Take stock of the attributes and actions of those leaders and assimilate the positives into your personality when possible.  Remember something else.  You don’t need the actual title to be a leader.

The Happiness Lottery

LotterImagine there was a Happiness Lottery.  Once per week some lucky person would be awarded a lifetime supply of happiness.  Of course there would need to be some payment for the ticket.  Since the normal lottery requires a small amount of money in exchange for the chance at the big cash prize, it stands to reason that the Happiness Lottery would require a small happiness sacrifice to get into the big drawing.  How many times would you play?  How much of your daily happiness would you sacrifice on the long odds of Happiness Lottery?  My hope is that you wouldn’t hang your hope for happiness on luck but rather come up with a systematic plan to create happiness and compound that which you already have.

  • The first step would be to take stock of what assets you already have.  Be grateful for the people and situations that are already in your life that cause happiness.  Write down the happiness assets that you have in your life.  The more grateful you are for what you already have, the less likely that you are to squander it.
  • The second step would be to look for ways to create more.  Accentuate the areas where you are creating great happiness and put more time into happiness areas that may be lagging.
  • Diversify your portfolio.  Don’t expect all of your happiness to come from one area.  If you lean to heavily on one happiness source, tough times in that area will leave you living very thin.  Friends, family, hobbies, entertainment and a slew of other possibilities exist for you to have a balance to happiness.
  • Cut down on waste.  Recognize where you are putting in great efforts but getting little returns.  Perhaps an area that used to be your biggest happiness producer is now a leach but you don’t see it.
  • Watch out for thieves!  There will be thieves looking to steal your happiness if you let them.  With money we use banks, vaults and safes to protect our assets.  With happiness we need to vigilant watchers of our world and who we allow access to it.

Happily ever after is a nice idea for the end of a fairy tale but it’s not a realistic plan.  The lotteries, both monetary and happiness, are not a plan.  They are a pipe dream.  Happiness and finances both need to be cultivated through some strategic planning.  Very rarely are either the result of the luck of the draw.

Happy days are yours to create!

Pete

America Needs to SOCCER!

pulisicMost of the time soccer is a noun but today I’m going to use it as a verb.  Of course when you are creating a new word, it’s important to define it.  Here is my explanation of the term.

The action of “soccering” is not the act of playing soccer.  We already know how to say and do that.  And NO!  It doesn’t mean acting like you’re injured when no one did anything to you.  The action of soccering is the real life application of the virtues that are possessed within the game.  In soccer, players must make real time decisions about what to do, based on the stimuli that they take in from both teammates and opponents in order to achieve the outcomes of simultaneously reaching a goal while defending their own.  The soccer paradigm puts the impetus of decision onto eleven individuals acting as a collective rather than following the pre-scripted orders of an overseer.  Although positioning and style of play may be directed, principles and judgment are the main directors of decisions.

America needs to soccer!  It needs to take back the very impetus that this country was founded upon.  Regular people doing things as a collective that move us all forward and protect us against failing.   We need regular citizens who want to be self-determining within the existing system and help to influence that system.  At the moment we seem to be overwhelmingly passive and extremely willing to look for someone else to be accountable rather than looking to be responsible ourselves.

We can soccer by trying to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.  We can soccer by changing our perspective from a “they” to “we” mentality.  We can soccer by doing the right thing even if we know that no one else will notice but us.  We can soccer by deciding to take a chance on something that might not work, rather than doing it “the way we’ve always done it.”  There are so many ways to soccer but the thing about soccering is that it has to start with you.  You can’t tell someone else to soccer.  You can only show them how by doing it first and being an example.

Below is a long description of the historical paradigms where this thought came from.  If you are inspired to do something right now, then don’t read the bottom, act now, read later.

Why do I believe that America needs to soccer?  The historical successes of the United States have in large part been attributed to a football paradigm.  Land acquisition and forward progress are the hallmarks of the All-American sport.  In the past, both politically and economically, we have pushed forward in the name of progress and it has served us well.  Manifest Destiny is the perfect example. Presidents and other decision-makers laid out a playbook for the American people to score a touchdown on the Pacific coast.  Americans led the charge across the continent through wars and promised economic success, the way football players might listen to a play called from the sidelines.  The Space Race, the Arms Race, the Cold War and Industrial Revolution were all perfectly suited to the football paradigm.  So why change?

The reason for change is that the football paradigm is fundamentally flawed in a few different areas.  The idea of neverending progress is unrealistic.  At some point stock prices level off, profits decline and progress slows and stops.  In a paradigm that preaches forward motion as the truest indicator of success, it is not surprising that we have: insider trading, big CEO bonuses for bailed out companies and strategic layoffs to protect profits.  Individuals, companies and the government have all pushed toward their given marker of success whether it be money, land, power or prestige.  These success markers are not inherently evil or negative but their acquisition without thought to the human equation has created an imbalance in our perspective on success.

There are also the separations in the football paradigm.  The coach is the one who calls the plays.  The offense scores the points and the defense stops the other team.  Although all are members of the same team, it is easy to point the finger at another individual or group when things go wrong.  In the Industrial Revolution this system was completely acceptable.  Henry Ford brought forth the assembly line.  He took men who were making fifty cents per day and paid them five dollars per day because of his efficiency.  People were more than willing to be a cog in that machine because it was a better life than what they expected.  They were linemen but were happy to be that.  Now with modern technology and globalization that deal doesn’t work anymore.  That deal is being shipped overseas and no one wants to be a lineman anymore.  Everyone thinks they’re a quarterback and expects to be paid like one.

America needs to soccer because you’re part of the problem and part of the solution.  You’re on the field.  The decisions that you make on a daily basis matter.  The President, the senator, the governor, your boss, your wife, your children, your friends, your teachers are part of it all but so are you.  So before you point the finger, point the thumb.  What can you do today to SOCCER?

Thanks!

Pete

Lost Too Many To Prioritize Winning

tombstoneI don’t feel comfortable sharing their names as I have not asked for parental permission. Nor would I ask because these people have definitely suffered enough.  In my almost twenty years of coaching, I’ve lost no less than five former players to suicide, drugs/alcohol and avoidable accidents.  This may not be statistically significant to some but it is something that I carry with me always.  In the eyes of many, the job of a coach is to direct an individual or group in technique and tactics in order to win a particular contest.

While this may encapsulate what coaching is for some, I can define coaching in one word: PROGRESS!  When broken down to the molecular level, this is what coaches should be striving for.  The progress of an individual or a group in not only their sport of choice but also as people.  At some levels, progress is measured by winning and it should be.  Professional athletes and coaches are in the business of competition/entertainment.  Their business model is dependent upon the sale of tickets, jerseys, food, etc. and winning is a key ingredient in that equation.  The problem is that the base blocks of the pyramid are not supposed to look like to the top block or “pyramidion”.  Basically 99% of all soccer played in the world is either true recreation or competitive recreation.  The previous statement will probably stick in the craw of many people but this fact should be embraced rather than lamented.

Recreation is the main reason that athletics came to be.  The battlefield was given up for the athletic field, where defeat did not mean death.  Therefore the “vanquished” could improve and RECREATE themselves into a better version.  Progress as an athlete meant facing your shortcomings.  That self-analysis is a skill that overflows into everyday life.  Recognizing one’s own weaknesses is not weakness.  It is actually strength because it allows the individual the possibility of progress.  Pain + Reflection = Progress is a formula coined by Ray Dalio (Bridgewater Associates).  In it lies the secret that so many of us continually overlook.  Failure is a key component to progress.  Those who are unwilling or unable to see their own faults cannot hope to move past them.  Since coaching is about progress and failure is a necessary ingredient to progress, then winning can’t be the point.

Having lost so many former players, I know all too well that the results of today’s game matter little compared to the results of a lifetime.  The point is not to win the game but rather to have a dynasty of days that have been won by moving forward.  So take the long term view with yourself and those that you care about.  Decide that short term wins that lead to long term loss are not in your game plan.  Recreate yourself regularly and recognize that the only person that you’re competing with is you.

Have great day!

Pete

Subtly The Best

MostBestAt one point in history, I’m sure that superlatives meant something.  I surely felt like they did during my childhood.  Michael Jordan was definitely the best player in the NBA.  You didn’t need to shout it louder to make your point.  It could be said softly with a calm assurance that it was accurate.  As the internet has given a voice to every two thumbed animal with a high speed connection, superlative seems to be a game for people who want to yell the loudest.

Since everyone can be heard, the time to say nothing may be here.  Perhaps in the era of communication overload, it is the individual who does and says nothing that will truly stand out.  Rather than doubling down on superlatives and expletives, it might be time to be more subtle.

Today when you go out into the world, do the simple and subtle.  Smile a little more.  Be a little more patient.  Be forgiving to yourself.  Home-runs can win games but so can singles.  If we’re always swinging hard for the fences, we may strikeout on underhand pitches because we’re too jacked up.

The Power of a Poor Start

RockyMy soccer career started on a team called the Orange Crushers. I didn’t know what “irony” was at seven years old but our name epitomized it. We crushed nothing and it seemed as though our purpose in the league was for us to be crushed by others. My memories of that season are a complete blur except for one game. In one of our final games of the season, we won and I scored. I was so glad when it happened. The other team from town, Blue Bombers, was filled with friends and classmates and they were undefeated. So that lone victory was important for me because I’d received some ribbing at school.  Perhaps that lone victory kept me hanging on despite the poor start to my soccer career.

As the years went on, there was a slow dance that went on between winning and I. One year my team would be a success. The next we were knocked back down a peg. By the time I reached my senior year in high school, I had figured out who I was as a player. I was one of the kids who wouldn’t quit. That was my first year as a complete “success”. Conference and County Championships were the first two real trophies that any of my teams had ever won. As I thought back to that team, I realized that not one player from the Blue Bombers remained. They had all stopped playing soccer or switched to other sports.

Knowing how to lose and not quit or to persevere through tough times are skills that you acquire from a poor start. These skills are invaluable because no one maintains success forever. Using memories of our failures as stepping-stones is the way we make a staircase toward our success. The examples of poor starts are woven throughout the history of the United States. Lincoln, Ford and Carnegie are three that instantly pop to mind but one of my favorites from the present day is Stallone.

When Sylvester Stallone sold the script of Rocky, the studio wanted to make the film but with someone else playing Rocky. At the time he was completely broke and refused a series of offers from the studio for hundreds of thousands of dollars. He stuck to his guns. He knew how to survive and live with failure but he saw this film as his one ticket to ultimate success. So with very long odds, he bet on himself and won. I used to watch the Rocky films regularly when I was in high school. Later I learned just how much the movies mirror Stallone’s life. In Rocky Balboa, Rocky tells his son that life is about “how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” My guess is Stallone learned this early and never forgot.

A poor start is not something to be embarrassed about. It is something to be embraced. The power of a poor start comes in the fact that you know where you began is not where you’re going to end. The power of a poor start comes from realizing that failure did not put poison inside you, it put fire inside you. The only negative to a poor start is if you quit and make your start, your end.

It’s ok to start poorly, if you finish strong.

Pete

Fantasy Football

IMG_20170805_0001Fantasy sports are a popular pass time for many people.  It is no longer a young male adult game but something that any sports fan can attempt.  For me, the only one that has ever held my attention was fantasy football.  The scoring is easy to follow and the games are only once per week.   The concept behind fantasy sports is a simple one, try to compile the best team that you can in order to earn the most points each week.  There are many different perspectives on drafting players but the overwhelming concept is filling your team with as many “superstars/point getters” as you possibly can.

I have friends and colleagues who spend hours or even days planning out their draft selections.  These choices are important.  Getting the right players off the bench each week and into the game is the key to survival.  It is natural for players to be dropped to the bench or even released from the team when more desirable players are available.

It’s easy to see when talking about sports and fantasy that compiling the best team in order to win is important.  That you would drop players that are holding you back and look to add players that will bring you forward.  Why don’t we do the same thing with our friends and acquaintances?

In many ways our friends are part of our team.  They not only support us but they also shape us.  There are acceptable norms within relationships.  Depending on your friend group, it may be unacceptable for you to smoke cigarettes.  Or if you are part of a different group, it may be expected that you smoke.  These acceptable norms are not limited to simple things like smoking.  They extend out to your expectations of life.

When you add a player like Tom Brady to your fantasy team, you do it because he is going to get you closer to what you want because he’s an all-star.  Take a look at your friends.  Are they all-stars?  Are they helping you get to where you want to go?  Do they hold you back?

Like it or not, your friends are influencing who you are.  Did you pick them consciously and for the right reasons?  Are you going in the same direction?  Can you get where you want to go with them around?

Perhaps some of your friends need to be put on the bench or cut from the team.  This should not be a decision that is made quickly.  People can serve all kinds of purposes, so do your homework on why your friends are your friends.

Also in a very real sense the internet has made fantasy football possible when it comes to the people who influence you.  In the past, you might have been limited to your town or school.  Now you can listen to leaders of almost any kind, speak about almost any topic.  Who are you listening to today?

Choose wisely!

Pete

Mediocrity Man

lhvmarathon-e1497924664977.jpgHollywood is regularly churning out super hero movies and their sequels. At the moment they seem to be almost a sure thing at the box office. Iron Man, Spider Man, Batman and Captain America all seem to capture the imagination of the people as they pay big movie theater prices to see these super humans. It is obvious that “super” is what the people want to see.

What if there was a hero named Mediocrity Man? He had super powers that were inside of him but he was afraid of them. Any time that he saw himself do something out of the ordinary, he would instantly recoil and deny his abilities. Rather than keeping his secret identity from everyone else, he would hide or deny his powers to himself. What if Clark Kent never changed into Superman? Would you watch that movie? Of course not.

If this hero existed, why would he hide his powers? The reasons would be the same that you or I don’t do the things that would produce greatness.

  • It’s too hard.
  • It will take too long.
  • I might not succeed.
  • Or worse, I might succeed and the people would expect more out of me.
  • I don’t want people to make fun of me.
  • No one in my family, town, state or country has ever done it before, who am I to be first?

Imagine the Earth being filled with superheroes. What if people were getting most out of themselves every single day? What would that look like? I’ve been Mediocrity Man. I’ve traded in my cape for a t-shirt on a regular basis. Feeling comfortable in the cape is difficult because I know all of my faults, all of my weaknesses and every way that I have ever screwed up. The hero in the movie never falls for long. He gets his super powers and continues on until the world is safe again. For us regular heroes, it’s not a magic movie moment involving a radioactive spider or the destruction of Krypton that begins our ascent. It’s a consistent decision to be the best form of ourselves.

The Art of Self-Rejection

NOThe beauty of the art of Self-Rejection is that it is so easy.  You only need yourself and the dream of something inside of your head. They are your paint and your canvas. Like an infant sitting in a highchair eating spaghetti, it is possible to create a beautifully horrible landscape of all of the things that could go wrong. You will be laughed at, shunned, ignored, or defeated. And there it is inside of your head, a masterpiece of nothing. Nothing real at least.

On the other hand, in the real world you can chance real rejection. Perhaps you do get laughed at, shunned, ignored or defeated but maybe you succeed.

The road of self-rejection always leads to regret. The road of taking the chance could lead anywhere but you have to travel it to find out.

Stop Believing!

StopI inadvertently ruined Santa Claus for my son this morning.  Late last night I typed up a letter to a former professor and friend.  This morning my son asked to use my laptop to look up something for school.  I had completely forgotten to close out the document where I had talked about our holiday season and our kids still believing in Santa.  Ultimately it could have been a lot worse because he is old enough to move on from that belief.

Our beliefs are extremely important tools that we use to form who we are and who we can be.  Although the title of this blog may seem negative, it is intended to have a positive outcome.  It is intended to add some inner dialogue that will help you to achieve a goal, create something, improve something, change a habit or any other endeavor that is difficult.

Stop believing that it will be easy!

Stop believing that anyone will do it for you!

Stop believing that it’s too big for you to pull off!

Stop believing that “You Suck” voice inside your head!

Stop believing that you need to wait for the time to be right!

Stop believing that you’re too tired!

Stop believing that people will laugh at you!

Stop believing that anyone is going to help you more than you help yourself!

Stop believing that there are too many obstacles!

Stop believing that your past failures matter enough to stop you from trying again!

Stop believing that there’s nothing you can do!

Start believing in you, in possibility, in the future!

Stepping on the gas pedal of life may get you there fast but without the steering wheel, you don’t get to decide where that is.