As we are moving past the time when most people have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions, I offer this subtle reminder. THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED. It is sometimes a difficult thing to swallow. Goals and resolutions are pretty and shiny when we create them. Everything will go great! You’ll be able to maintain this level of excitement until you get to the end! The problem is that we usually forget or don’t know the following.
When you set up a goal or make a resolution it is much like ordering your favorite dessert. For me that would be the classic chocolate milkshake. Unfortunately you forgot to read the fine print. Before you will be served your delicious dessert, you have an appetizer of pain coming. That will be followed by a main course of discipline with self-sacrifice sauce and side order of humility. Once you are able to choke down those mammoth size helpings of something that YOU DIDN’T ORDER, you’ll finally get that thing that you wanted.
Just remember that THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED, all of it is part of the deal. Embrace it. You’ll actually find at some point halfway through the main course that you like the taste of it. Those things that you overlooked on the menu are actually something that you want for yourself. The problem is that most people retreat too early because THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANTED! At the end of the meal you’ll have to settle up the check. If you stuffed yourself full with meal and goal, the bill is paid with PRIDE. If you left your meal unfinished, then you have a debt of REGRET that is difficult to wipe away.
It’s Valentine’s Day! One of my most memorable Valentine’s Days was in my sophomore year of high school. At the time, I was single but not completely happy about that situation. So it came as a huge but welcome surprise that I received two red carnations in homeroom. The card didn’t say who they were from. It just said, “Someone loves you!” The rest of that day, I spent trying to figure out who could have sent them. I’ll fully admit that I had a slight strut to my step throughout school. My hope was that my secret admirer would reveal herself by the end of the day. Unfortunately she did not.
So I went home and later that evening my mom asked me, “Did you get the flowers that I sent you?” I was crestfallen to say the least. I remember getting on my mom’s case about sending red carnations rather than pink or white. But in all honesty it should not have mattered. At the time I didn’t have the confidence or worldview to realize what I know now. So if you’re one of those people lamenting “Singles Recognition Day”, take some time to consider my perspective.
If you are interested in eventually being in a relationship, recognize that you have a secret admirer someplace. Perhaps you actually have someone that’s interested in you that you just don’t know about their feelings. I know that I’ve found out after the fact several times. Or there is someone out there who is looking for someone like you and they just haven’t found you yet. And the final but toughest one to face is that perhaps you’re not a good enough version of yourself yet to attract that person you want. THAT’S HARSH! But may be completely accurate.
I went to high school with my wife and we did not date until after graduating college. This was probably the best thing that could have happened. If we had dated in high school, I doubt we would have ended up together. I had to become a much better caliber of person in those years, so that I could attract someone like my wife. My hope, in high school, was that someone was secretly watching and thought I was great. In reality, I needed to work on being great so that someone great would be watching.
So if you’re not there yet and you’re lamenting your single life, write yourself a letter. Write down a description of your ideal person. Describe them in every small detail that you can. Then write down who you need to become in order to deserve a person like that. Once you’ve written them both down, put the description of your ideal person in an envelope and seal it. Write next year’s Valentine’s Day’s date on it. Take the description of who you need to become someplace where you’ll read it regularly. If you follow through with this, I’m sure that you’ll be happy with the results regardless if you’re single next year.
The election of a new USSF President is almost upon us. Although the holder of this post may not be as recognized as the President of the United States, the impact of soccer on the world is not a thing to be discounted. It has both started and ended violence. So with this decision looming in the near future, what impact will the new POTUSSF have on the sport and the country at large?
To the general public, the answer would most definitely be “none”. It is an absurd thought to give this decision anything more than a passing glance on their newsfeed. This is an organization that specializes in a sport that garners almost complete indifference from most of its populace. It’s national power would, to the average citizen, rank somewhere around that of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts of America. Mostly kids and adults running around to get medals and club patches. While that characterization might be accurate on certain levels, it completely discounts several factors that could have a tsunami type affect based on this relative flap of a butterfly’s wing.
Perception Is Reality
It’s often not pretty but the perception of truth often has greater staying power than the actual truth. At the moment, the United States has an international perception problem. Regardless of your personal feelings about Donald Trump, his policies or his impact on the United States; he is projecting many of the characteristics most disliked about Americans. His overall agenda to “Make America Great Again” seems to come with the postscript, “non-Americans watch out.” Despite being only one man, the President has the dubious responsibility of being a partial personification of what the United States is. Mr. Trump’s actions, statements and Tweets may be his own but they also belong to all Americans when viewed from afar.
The Butterfly’s Wing
Eight candidates are being considered with varying degrees of experience, personal motive and leadership potential. While I’ll keep my personal preference on candidates completely out of this, the worst thing that the voters could do in these circumstances would be to elect on celebrity rather than ability. The reason being that the perception of the USSF and its new President has very real implications in a short period of time. The selection of the host for the 2026 World Cup will be made on June 13th. While the North American Triad of the USA, Mexico and Canada may seem like a sure thing when pitted against Morocco, small nations have dealt us unlikely defeat recently (and I won’t bring up Qatar either).
Winning the bid to host the 2026 World Cup is one of the crucial components to a successful Presidency for any of these candidates. Failure to secure this bid is not just bad for soccer, it is bad for this country.
In the mind of the general citizen of the United State in 2018, the World Cup is nothing more than a soccer tournament. It’s a fun diversion at best and non-factor for most. However in an even more interconnected world of 2026, it is a spotlight shining directly onto the United States. This event gives us the opportunity to be gracious hosts to the world. While seemingly trivial from the inside, this role could be crucial to change an international perception of a nation that exports entertainment and soldiers under a leader of singular self-interest. As news becomes more dependent on the “man on the street”, it is conceivable (if not) probable that brand America’s reputation in the remote corners of the world will depend on the personal experiences of a group of soccer fans supporting their team in egocentric America.
Stirring the Melting Pot
In addition to the World Cup bid, the new President will at the very least have an influence over the involvement of Hispanic communities in US soccer. The recent loss of Jonathan Gonzalez to the Mexican National Team system is not so much a loss of talent but a loss of contact. The roots of many Hispanic Americans in this country run deep. US history is so inextricably intertwined with that of Hispanic heritage that a number of our states and cities have Spanish names (regardless of how we pronounce them). The involvement of Hispanic players, coaches and fans (or lack thereof) in US soccer will be another key to US soccer counteracting the more pervasive American perceived ethos.
While soccer does not possess the ability to cure all that ails this country, it can be a catalyst for positive change. The leadership that is selected must realize the importance of this game, not only as a sport but a form of quasi religion that can galvanize the people under its spell. With this power comes great responsibility, here’s to hoping that the lesser of the two presidents is able to learn from the missteps of the commander in chief. “Let’s Make American Soccer Great!”
Thanks for reading!
PS – Historically speaking, host nations seem to have a greater likelihood of winning the World Cup. With young players like Pulisic and Adams being in their mid twenties in 2026, there’s a fighter’s chance.
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 are disappointed in 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.
Enjoy the Convention if you’re already going. If you’re not, get a one day pass and check it out. Philadelphia is one of my favorite venues for the Convention. The Market next door, the “Rocky Steps” and the city in general make it a fun time.
In this extremely fast paced world, it’s easy to get distracted from that which is important in favor of that which seems important. It is the reason why we make shopping lists and set reminders for ourselves. Getting caught up in the moment is not only normal, it seems to be a way of life. Despite all of the technological and societal distractions, it would seem as though we might have accidentally thrown out all of our babies in order to make room for more bathwater. Perhaps it is time to decide what is truly important and focus on it.
There are plenty of people who will get married this year. They will painstaking search for a great venue, a photographer, delicious food, the right guest-list and register for the perfect gifts. But before they did all of that hard work, they forgot to find someone worth spending their life with.
We have access to amazing communication devices in our pockets and at our fingertips. There is the capability to reach the other side of the world, translate to almost any language and do it instantaneously. But we rarely say things that mean much of anything. There is so much coming at us that it all becomes devalued. We tend to only listen in order to respond, not to understand or empathize.
Students and teachers are no longer bound by the bricks in the walls of their buildings. All facts are available at a moment’s notice and the greatest minds are within reach. Yet our young people are worried about grades that will soon not matter and facts that have little value. The word educate comes from the root educe which means to bring out or develop. The cramming information in might not be the best way to draw out our young people’s genius.
These are just three examples where we seem to be so caught up in the process that we have forgotten why the process was invented. When broken down to the core, the world is a relatively simple place. We are here to survive first. Once that is taken care of we look to progress and we do both more effectively together. So get back to the core of what you do and why it is done at all. If you are in school, then learn, regardless of the grades. If you’re in a relationship, then relate, give of yourself and be willing to be changed. The superficialities of life can only sustain us for so long. Our true progress depends on depth of experience and it needs to be found again. Right now are you focused on ANYTHING BUT THE THINGS THAT MATTER?
Kids pretend all the time. They turn sticks into swords, a backyard into a jungle and anything has the potential to be magical. Then as we grow, it seems to be trained out of us. We tend to see ourselves in finite terms. Our limits are not those of our imagination but rather of our circumstances. We don’t consider the impossible or even the improbable because it has been trained out of us. Pretending is child’s play and most of us consider ourselves too mature to do that. The truth is that we’re all pretenders, we’ve just bought into a more sophisticated game.
If you have a dollar in your pocket, take it out and look at it, try to come up with another use for it other than to purchase something. Possibly a book mark or it could be folded to straighten a wobbly table. Thousands of years ago, someone came up with the idea of money and got enough people to believe in it, that now it largely runs the world. At home I have some Ecuadorian Sucre coins and bills. They’re worthless to just about everyone in the world because Ecuador stopped using the Sucre years ago. New pieces are used in the game that they’re playing.
There are systems that have been put into place for decades, centuries or millennia. Learning to negotiate within those systems is extremely important. However you must always remember that we’re all pretending on some level. I’m pretending to be a writer. If I do a good enough job, more people will buy into that role that I’ve imagined for myself. If I do a poor job, I won’t get to play that game anymore.
So since we’re all pretending on some level, why not go out into the world with all of your guns blazing? Pretend so hard on the things that matter to you that no one will doubt that you are exactly who you’re pretending to be. The other option is to take the role that you’ve been dealt by your circumstances because your not willing to pretend anymore. Acceptance of the boundaries of your life seems a lot like a cage. The origin of the word pretend is Latin. It means “before the stretch”. It is the precursor to growth. So keep pretending until you stretch to your actual limits, not the ones that were thrust upon you.
It has come to that time of year where many American football* fans are without a team to root for until the Super Bowl when they hope for good commercials. If you are a soccer fan and have a football fan in your life who is interested in learning about soccer, then I have some tips below. (NOTE: Do not try to convert the unwilling football fan. Save your energy for the father-in-law who has grand-kids that play. Trying to convert the uninterested usually backfires.)
The most incomprehensible thing about soccer to most football fans that I’ve spoken to is the offside rule. Luckily there is a pretty easy way to convey the concept using football terms. The key is to take the rule that they already understand and tweak it to help them understand the soccer equivalent. If you’re not a football person, you might first need to brush up your understanding of the carrying game first.
Offside in football is a foul in which a player is on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. This foul occurs simultaneously with the snap. Unlike offensive players, defensive players are not compelled to come to a set position before the snap.
In soccer there is no line of scrimmage nor a “snap” of the ball. Since the ball is almost continuously in play, the rule is a bit harder to police but understanding is all that we’re aiming for now. First of all, only offensive players can be called offside and only in their offensive half of the field (nearest the goal they intend to score on). The line for offside is not a fixed yard line but rather it moves with the last defender** equivalent to the defensive position of safety. (See Below)
So since the ball is almost always in play, offensive players are moving around and can even cross the offside line. A call of offside is made when an offensive player is in an offside position and the ball is played toward him or her. In football terms, the wide receiver cannot run past the invisible yard line of the safety until the ball is thrown by the quarterback. So the timing of streak (go), post and corner routes need to be timed very well. If the ball is not passed before the intended receiver gets by the “safety”, he’ll be offside. Curl and comeback routes can be effective in keeping a player onside. But if he is offside at the time of the pass, receiving the ball in an offside position doesn’t matter (like a defensive lineman who tries to jump back as the ball is snapped).
The player possessing the ball cannot be offside. So a player can dribble through the offside line. Therefore if the quarterback or running back carry the ball forward, they are not offside.
That pretty much sums it up. If I’ve missed anything, please leave it in the comments below and I’ll adjust it. Pass this information along to a football fan that cares to learn.
* I don’t like using the term American football but I do it to avoid confusion. I also dislike using one sport to explain another but have done this
**This statement is partially false. The last defender needs to have the goalkeeper behind them. This is something that soccer fans and even referees get wrong from time to time. Two defenders (one usually being the goalkeeper) need to be between the offender and the goal line. If the goalkeeper goes out of the goal a far distance, one defender is not enough to keep an offensive player onside.
There are plenty of commercials from my childhood that stick out. Growing up at the beginning of the Super Bowl Commercial craze gave us plenty of memorable advertisements. “Where’s the beef?” from Wendy’s. Bird vs Jordan shooting contest. This is your brain on drugs. These all caught my attention because they were either clever or memorable for positive reasons.
One commercial that stood out for another reason was for GOYA beans. The catch phrase “GOYA, oh boya!” was so inane that it stuck. Inevitably when I am food shopping for my family, the big letters G O Y A stick out and remind me of the stupid tag line. So I have decided to associate something new to that can and the beans that sit inside. GOYA is now an acronym. It stands for “Get Off Your ASS!”
It is a call to action and action is all that matters after all. The commercials that are running in our minds should be moving us forward. I’m sure that if you’re anything like me, there are commercials running for sleep, junk-food, relaxation, sex and beer… sweet beer. The commercials for these things are not hard to run because they represent our surface level desires. At a much deeper level, we want to have health, wealth and good relationships. These things require a much greater effort than the shallow desires of the moment. So it is up to us to stick deliberately put in those commercials for beans, ACTION BEANS. Those less than sexy items that we need in order to get where we really want to go. You’re running the show and when you stop for a word from the sponsors, make sure they’re the ones taking you in the right direction!