In this brief solo talk, I discuss some of the things that I believe are being missed in our current soccer culture. Even they may be the most pressing and most apparent, they seem to be the most overlooked. Send in your thoughts and questions to email@example.com today.
Often the most important things are hiding in plain sight. We cannot see them because we’re so busy looking at things that we’ve been told are important or think that we value. A deeper inspection usually reveals that we’ve overlooked the most crucial things in the name of the most frivolous. It’s not particularly our fault as our brains were hardwired to concentrate on the urgent and short term because the long term was not guaranteed. Also there are some things that we look past completely because of the fact that they are so pervasive. One of my favorite questions to ask during presentations is “what is the most important thing that you’re going to do today?” I get a variety of answers depending on the crowd but the answer should be the same for everyone: breathe! The answer is so obvious and yet almost everyone misses it because it’s overlooked. My work at the moment is at a tenuous place where I am trying to balance that which I know is most important and what people actually see. So for now I am going to continue to do what I believe is right… NOT CARE!
I’ve decided to intertwine two of my greatest passions into one because in my eyes they fit so perfectly together. The most popular sport in the world (soccer) and the most important skill for doing anything in life (self-belief) are the twin targets that I’ve set my sights on. The reason being that it is important to leverage people’s behavior and soccer has motivated millions of people to shell out big money to have someone teach their child how to kick a ball more effectively. The reverse of that situation is that self-belief is extremely low in our younger generation because they have largely been robbed of the experience of self-discovery. Their activities have been planned for them since birth. Failure has been removed from their lives in order to protect them. And they have largely been taught that they are not as good as the people that they see on the screen of the super computer in their pocket. So what am I going to do about it… NOT CARE!
- I’m not going to care about how many goals you score this season but rather the number of times that you keep working in a tough session.
- I’m not going to care about the number of followers you have on Instagram but rather your ability to lead one person (you).
- I’m not going to care that you didn’t get a starting position on the team but rather the ways that you control those types of outcomes in your life through your choices.
- I’m not going to care about your desire to get recruited by the college of your choice but rather recruit the resources within you to make you an irresistible candidate.
At this point, you probably get the picture. I’m more concerned with the root than the fruit because I know that they’re so completely dependent upon one another. Focusing on the process at the most basic level may not produce the exact result that you’re looking for. It will however produce a person that is worth believing in and that’s what I care about!
This episode I got the chance to talk to Anson Smith, Head Coach of Hunterdon Central High School. We delve into a variety of topics including team culture, Development Academies, personal responsibility, and a host of other topics. You can find his company and contact him directly at http://www.soccersmith.org.
Languages are amazing to me on so many levels. Words and phrases can evoke emotions of all kinds and intensities. They can be both the weapons to hurt and the bandages to heal. Certain languages carry with them differing perspectives that color the way that we go through life. Despite this fact, we seem to be less inclined to use the magic that resides within language. The flourish of Shakespeare has been replaced by the convenience of the text message. While I don’t believe that we need to embellish the daily and mundane with flowery language, it may be helpful to say something more meaningful. Or say the things that have a meaning that will propel us toward a better future rather than maintain our status quo.
Along those lines, I’d like to suggest that no one “lose” their virginity. Depending on your particular background the phrase probably means one of a variety of things. If you’ve been raised in some religious background, there may be twinges of guilt or sin involved with this idea. If that is not an issue, the word “lose” can even create a feeling. Loss is generally seen as a negative and therefore it evokes feelings of that kind. Either because it was something that was supposed to be held onto until it was lost. Or because it was something that was undesired in the first place. In that case the losing is not the negative but rather the having has the negative connotation. With all of this convoluted word talk, it should be evident that the phrase does not actually serve the action well.
Rather than “losing their virginity”, people should be “earning their sexuality”. In the long past, the idea of losing virginity probably worked because of the pervasive religious beliefs about marriage and sin. In a modern context the phrase no longer serves. In fact it probably harms, more than it helps. So rather than an instantaneous change from virgin to not, why not embrace the idea that this is a process. Sex has been sold, contorted and embellished in so many ways that it’s perception barely resembles what it is. Perpetuating this will only lead to disaster for young people. So why not, “earn sexuality”?
The reason for “earn” is that it should not be viewed as a right. Also the process of earning something does not usually happen in an instant. Therefore it requires a more involved set of steps. In my opinion, the initial steps should be small, subtle and unrushed. At all times, it should be the individual and not the force of society that decides on the most comfortable pace to progress. Again the reason for the use of the word “earn” is extremely deliberate because it suggests a transaction of other actions to eventually received the privilege of the next step. Perhaps these actions will come from self-reflection or partner discussion. Regardless it puts the idea of process to the forefront rather than bravado or shame. So whether you’ve lost it already or not, perhaps consider the idea of changing the language around first sexual encounters. Maybe the shift in wording will change the way that we think and that might be enough.
Family Ties was one of my favorite sitcoms from the 1980’s. It wasn’t the funniest show in the world but I related with it. Parents who cared but were a little weird and eccentric. The kids had some problems but nothing overly earth-shattering. Despite any issues that arose, there was a general sense that the family cared for one another and wanted the best for each other. The morals to the episodes were pretty straight forward and dealt with things that I was about to go through as a kid. Although there were major differences between myself and the character, I always identified with Alex P. Keaton.
His character was focused intently on money, success and economics. Those topics never really hit my radar. However intertwined within his “young republican” ideals was a character that had struggles and found a balance for his aspirations and human relations. His desire for success got pushed to the side at times when more pressing matters were at hand. Now I recognize that the show is fake and the character does not really exist but it paints a picture. Alex P. Keaton was a “keep up with Joneses” kind of guy. Success was written into his character but so was a human element. I’ve not asked Michael J. Fox for an interpretation on the following but I feel confident in my assertion.
Most of us need to focus more on the soccer Keatons and let the soccer Joneses go! Believe me! I want the USMNT to win a World Cup. It’s a dream that I would love to see come to fruition. BUT my desire for that success cannot override my desire for a fruitful sports culture for a majority of our young players. Academies SHOULD exist. Trainers SHOULD be training young soccer players. However the idea that all players and parents should be aspiring to that level is lunacy. The soccer culture over the past few years has tilted heavily toward the professionalism of the youth game. As I said above, these things are important for the improvement the sport at a certain level. The pervasiveness of the shift is the concern. There seems to be a cultural ratchet that should exist for some but not others. The top level players need that cultural ratchet to improve the national team player pool. The general youth player does not.
- They need their parents to cheer for them embarrassingly no matter how mediocre they are.
- They need to have economic burden of youth sports taken off of their parents, thus inflated expectations taken off of them.
- They need their instruction in the sport to come from a caring adult who is invested in them as a person rather than an outsourced “expert”.
- They need to be a kid first.
Perhaps this is nothing more than a bit of nostalgia for a simpler soccer time. Or maybe we should truly be worried. Worried that a sport whose name in this country is even derived from its community roots but seems to be more focused on individualism and exceptionalism. If our hearts and minds are truly for sale, we should look to get more than a few years with the label of “Elite”. Those years are not coming back. When they are gone, will you revel in how close you were to the top level? Or how close you are with the people who matter to you in your family/community? Perhaps you can have the former without sacrificing the latter but is that a gamble that so many should be making?
What would we do (baby) without us?
I’d like to blame Google because it would be so extremely easy to do. However blame doesn’t really solve anything and this was a problem long before Google even existed.
When searching for something in the modern world though, Google is “the” place to go. After the search is done, the results come in and there are usually thousands or even millions of them. The problem is that most of us only look at the top result (after bypassing the ads made to look like results). Finding a satisfactory result is “quick and easy”. Isn’t that the way that we want all things to be? Not hardly. I don’t want my surgeon’s training to be quick and easy. Every situation is different and we should want different parameters for what we’re looking for from each. Unfortunately “quick and easy” seems to have become an almost societal norm. In my usual arena of soccer, the desire for a quick and easy result is desired by many but rarely does that garner best results.
Let’s take some of the usual situations from the soccer world and break them loose from the quick and easy solution. Possibly if we dig a little deeper, we’ll find that a slower and more difficult solution will have result that we should really want.
Game Time! Your child is not getting the amount of playing time that you believe that they deserve. If you decide to go the quick and easy route, you’ve got some options open. Move them to another team. Spend an hour crafting the perfectly worded email to the coach that will both highlight your child’s strengths and not question the coach’s past decisions. Hire a trainer to sharpen your child’s skills to the point where they will not be denied. These are all employed with regularity. So much so that they are viewed as common practice.
Perhaps the uncommon practice would actually have a better result. Use the hours that you would have used to email, search for a new team or working a second job to pay the trainer and do something different. Go with your child to an open space and kick the ball with them. You don’t need to do it well. You don’t even need to do it right. Actually it is probably better if you don’t know what you’re doing! It will give your child the opportunity to be an “expert” on something that you aren’t. Regardless of whether this activity results in any additional playing time on the weekend doesn’t matter. The game that you are playing when you are a parent, isn’t the quick and easy variety. It is the long and fulfilling type. Recognizing the game that you actually want to win rather than the game that is being noticed by most.
Red card! Every referee that you encounter is horrible. The quick and easy path has several options attached to it. Berate the referee at every perceived wrong call. If there is an evaluation process available to you, employ it with fervor. Or when you are really upset, confront them personally. These are also common place and therefore accepted.
The uncommon practice is going to be far more difficult. Saving your breath from the derisive comments and use it to power a whistle. Take the courses and raise the level of refereeing because obviously with your extensive sideline knowledge, you’d be very good at that job. This type of action could save the game because unless a change like this happens, who will be the referees of the future? The constant abuse that referees receive will continue to result in an exodus from the profession. In the end this is not the only area where people are willing to complain from the sidelines but less likely to step into the fray. Our world has an almost infinite supply of spectators. People willing to act are in much shorter supply.
As you live your daily life, you’re going to be confronted with all kinds of decisions. Sometimes the quick and easy or common paths are just fine. It may be time to decide if “just fine” is good enough or looking for better results is in our best interest. There are many levels beyond just fine that we can reach. The key is that we must be willing to search. They are rarely going to be the decisions that everyone else is making. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. You can do something else INSTEAD!
Make it a better day!
It was many years ago but I’ve still not encountered a better example. I was the field marshal at a youth tournament in Pennsylvania. The players were under twelve years old and engaged in a very back and forth game. One team was extremely adept at the offside trap. Late in the game, there was a corner kick. The cross was cleared out of the penalty box and the defense pushed up. The ball fell to the foot of a offensive player about 30 yards from goal. He shot. The ball rocketed toward the goal and hit the post. The rebound fell to a forward who was slow getting back onside and he scored. The referee instantly called offside and awarded a free kick to the defense. The coach of the team that had the goal disallowed went ballistic. He screamed about how “ridiculous” the call was and asked about the referees sight, etc. As the field marshal I felt that it was my job to diffuse the situation in order to avoid it interfering with the game. I said, “Coach, if you’d like, I can explain to you why that was the right call.” He responded, “I know it was the right call! I’m just blowing off some steam.”
In most cases, soccer is not a life or death situation. It’s a passion, diversion, recreation, fun or even a teacher. The game has the possibility to do so many things because it garners the emotions of the people around it. There is nothing inherently wrong with emotion. We need them to live and color our lives. However emotion without any sense of reason is problematic. The word was chosen very deliberately. REASON! The reason why we’re there in the first place gets lost when we cannot control our emotions. Referees become demons. Opponents become enemies and sense of our self-interest overrides the judgment that we use elsewhere. This is not so much of a problem when it is a single person. However it seems to have become a societal norm.
The steam that so many people are letting off is clouding our vision. The ability to see what is right in front of our faces. Children. Children who are looking at us for how to act. Not just on a soccer field on Saturdays or Sundays but in their daily lives. When something doesn’t go their way, they’re supposed to have an emotion freak out session because that’s what you do. You don’t take a breath and refocus on the task at hand. You don’t see the bigger picture. You don’t recognize that human error is part of life and needs to be coped with. Those things aren’t done because they’re hard. They require effort, judgement and self-control. These skills are difficult to develop, especially when you’re a child, watching the adults act like children.
So don’t breathe in the steam, just breathe! Recognize that the children on the field have spent hours this week trying to improve their skills in order to perform for you. Put your focus on that. Double, triple or quadruple your focus on the fact that these are kids, trying to do something that is difficult. AND DIFFICULT THINGS ARE THE ONLY ONES WORTH PURSUING! So don’t produce steam, produce esteem for what everyone on that field is trying to do.
See you on the field!
I’ve been extremely fortunate through the years to have won some medals and trophies, either individually or as part of a collective. Most of them are in a box in my basement or in a display case that I don’t have direct access to. Medals and trophies are all pretty similar. They usually have a name of an individual or group, a year and the indication of some accomplishment. As I was thinking about the trophies that teams and individuals are going to reach for this season, I realized that trophies are the tombstones of our past accomplishments.
They do not actually say anything about who we are in this very moment. Instead they are a reminder of our former self. Usually that persona is embellished by a form of nostalgia or selective memory. This is actually not the worst thing in the world if it is employed correctly. The idea is not to intoxicate ourselves with the image of our past self. Deluding ourselves into believing that we are better than the flesh and blood that presently exists. It needs to be used as a stepping stone toward something else. If we worship our past achievements, they become ghosts. If we use them as an indicator of our capabilities, then they become fuel for a fire within and path to possibility.
So don’t let your past self die without leaving an inheritance. Make sure that your trophies are not tombstones but rather mile markers on a path that takes you to higher and higher heights. You are always the product! And there is no quicker way to the grave than to believe that all of your best days are behind you.
We live in a modern world but humans are prehistoric creatures. Obviously we have acquired skills and knowledge that our ancestors did not have. So I am not suggesting that we are on their level in that respect but I do want to point out that we are using the same hardware. The same brain structure that caused us to run from saber-toothed tigers is now tasked with managing a world that moves faster than we were intended to go. We’re overwhelmed and stressed because we created an environment that stresses and overwhelms our prehistoric brains. This is not a blog to suggest that we go back to living in caves. Rather it is intended to point out the fact that there are limits on our bandwidth, therefore we must manage ourselves so the prehistoric brain does not go into overload.
The odd irony to our situation is actually that in a modern world, very few things are trying to kill you. This is an important thing to realize. Our prehistoric brain’s major functions were centered around keeping the self and the species alive. So things like fear and sex were major priorities, while general happiness was farther down the list. The world that we live in requires very little self/species preservation. Despite this fact, the “wiring” for the old world is still intact. So a modern “threat” feels very much like a situation of life or death without any of the true peril. The signals will continue to be sent in this fashion, until we are willing to “re-wire” ourselves.
This process is not like the re-wiring of house. It doesn’t require a professional or a lot of money but it does require time. Humans generally don’t change without time and/or major incentives. A methodical approach to managing your mind can go a long way to creating a better life for you. Regular practice at calming your prehistoric brain will go a long way. Taking the time to recognize that your response to situations is not based on what will help but rather things that are pre-programmed will help you to re-program those responses. Remember that you don’t have to act like a caveman even if you have the same operating system as one.
Go make history by reprogramming your prehistoric systems!
George Costanza would not accept it! Upon being dumped by a significant other, she tried to employ the most common of breakup cushioning. “It’s not you! It’s me!” This is an age old ploy to deflect a super direct hit to the ego of the person being dumped. Rather than telling the person the real reasons that they no longer want to be with you, the softener is used. While it may cushion the short term blow, it does nothing for the long term development of the person as a viable mate. Costanza, as usual, is an outlier in his stance on “It’s not you! It’s me!” He doesn’t want to hear it. He wants to know that it is his fault that the relationship is falling apart. While a little aggressive in his approach, maybe it’s time to learn from George.
The finger of blame is wielded around like an oscillating sprinkler head. It blankets the surrounding area effectively enough but the source never becomes a target. It creates a two-fold problem that compounds over time. People, who are unable to hear the truth of their shortcomings, never get beyond them. Despite being adept at avoiding the mirror’s reflection, they usually become better at noticing the faults of others. From a perch of perfection, the mere mortals that surround you seem almost foolish in their daily mistakes. So the cycle of delusion and dispersion continues. Until there is that extremely uncomfortable face to face meeting with the reality of imperfection.
The way to combat this is to cut it off at the beginning. Assume that it’s you! At least partially, if not wholly. You’re to blame. You didn’t do enough or did too much. Put it onto yourself first because at least then you’re in control of it. You can change something: an action, a habit, a relationship or even just your outlook. When you take total responsibility for yourself and the things you can control, you’ll find yourself on much more stable ground to influence the people around you to do the same. You’re not a victim! You’re a contributor! If all you have to contribute is blame and excuses, then you’re going to end up alone on your perch of perfection. Waiting for it to fall!