Blogpost, self-reliance

You Have NO Choices, IF…

It was one of my favorite films from the 90s. Then Russell Crowe released a movie with the same name in 2000 and almost no one remembers “Gladiator” the boxing movie. The movie is set on the rough streets of Chicago where an underground boxing kingpin rules the lives and futures of several teenagers. Most of the kids in this movie have to deal with some real life problems. (Spoiler alert) Toward the end, the main character, Tommy, is put into a no win situation where he either fights his best friend who has a possible brain injury or his girlfriend is going to be hurt by the thugs of the boss. High drama! A young Cuba Gooding Jr. delivers a strong performance where he tells his friend Tommy that he’s got “no choice” but to fight despite his injury.

The movie is obviously taken to an extreme in order to make for a good story. Everyone’s personal conflicts come together on a collision course because that’s how it was written. Our own lives tend not to be as extreme nor lacking in choices. It seems as though we are making choices all of the time because we are bombarded by variety. The truth of the matter is that if you are making a lot of choices, it means that you have very few commitments. In order to get high level results, you need to take a lot of choices off the menu.

Fitness, academia, career, marriage, athletics, and so many other commitments demand that the number of choices that you have go down. The higher level of these outcomes that you want, the more that the situation requires specific actions rather than any action. So choices reduce down to “what needs to be done.”

I hope that this does not come off as preachy because I am actually writing this post to myself more than anyone. The desire to “do what I choose” in a few particular areas has led me to dislike the results. The truth is that my desire for choice has undermined my results and put into question my commitment. Although I am not getting the results that I want, those old choice patterns has lulled me into a sense of comfort. The fear of giving up the things that I want right now is winning the battle against the desire for the things that I want in the future. At some point, it comes down to a commitment to the end product and therefore the path become extremely clear. The choices just disappear because the laser like focus allows for very little wiggle room.

Decide what’s important. Then don’t choose because it should be obvious what you need to do next!

I’m talking to me but hope it helps you too!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

The New POSH Path

The POSH path has been relatively well defined for over a decade. They recruit “young and hungry” players from the lower leagues with a sprinkling of experience for good measure. Especially under Ferguson, those young players who follow “the POSH path” end up developing into good professionals. Usually they move on to the Championship or even the Premiership. It has been consistent enough that it is not a surprise. Players know it and so do owners/managers from other clubs. The unfortunate thing about the POSH path is that the players who follow it end up moving up the leagues while the team has been consistently rooted to League 1. It could have been different but we cannot change the past, only use the present to create a brighter future.

Aaron McLean (jumping) congratulates Craig Mackail-Smith after he scored the winning goal for Peterborough during the FA Cup First Round game between AFC Hornchurch and Peterborough United at Bridge Avenue. Photo Credit Max Flego

Paths are caused by consistent foot traffic along the same track. Nothing will create a new path faster than crowd, in this particular case, a squad. The reason for the possibility of the new path is the academy players who are pressing their way forward to help blaze the trail. The young and hungry model is still in full force. However these young guns do not particularly see Peterborough as a stepping stone but rather their home. So moving to the Championship is still the goal but they’d rather bring their friends with them. Ferguson forecasted the direction of this journey before his last departure. Now all of the pieces are in place but as Morpheus said, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” POSH are in an ideal position to do what had always been the vision of owner, Darragh MacAnthony. They can get promoted to the Championship where they can keep most of their talent and stabilize at that level. That’s been the dream for over a decade. 2021 is a perfect time for the POSH and each of us to live into our dreams.

Even when the timing and ingredients are right, it can be difficult to break old patterns. After a certain amount of time, past results can seem like they are linked to the future like destiny. THE PAST IS NOT PREDICTIVE. The results of a moment ago have no bearing on the future. However our past can invade our future through our thoughts and action. Almost nothing else can hold us back from whatever heights that we want to reach. Our thoughts and actions need to be focused on the desired future rather than that unsatisfactory past. The path that will get each of us where we want to go is directly in front of us. We simply need to believe it, see it and then do it. One step at a time!

This year is a brand new opportunity for each of us. Whether you are a POSH fan or not, we all have the ability to tread a new POSH path. One that can take us to new heights. The other option to stay on the path that you are on. I am not here to judge. Only here to point out what is possible for those who are looking for a bit more. Today is a new opportunity. What are you going to do with it?

Up the POSH!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

Non-League Football

Regardless of what many fans may think, the Premier League is not the only league. It is merely the pinnacle of an extremely large football pyramid. Some may pay attention to the Championship, League 1 or even League 2 but the number of fans also forms a type of inverted pyramid. Millions watch the Premiership, hundreds of thousands watch the Championship, and so on and so forth. Below the fourth level of the pyramid exists “non-league football.” Some the teams are professional. Others are not. Regardless of the level on the pyramid, the wages paid or not, the number of fans or size of the ground, it all matters.

Photo by James Richardson.

Whether Dagenham & Redbridge FC, Peterborough Sports FC, Billericay Town or Wrexham A.F.C.; there are fans out there who wear their jerseys, sing their songs and possibly even tattoo their crest on their body. Fans that the players know by name because the club is a community and not a commodity. The matches are not televised and the players don’t make millions of pounds per year but that’s actually the beauty of it. There is not much more on the line than the joy of the game for the both the players and the fans. It’s been the norm and hopefully it will continue on for a long time to come.

Most of us are playing “non-league football.” We’re not making big money or have adoring fans around the world. Our lives play out in front of small crowds that know and care about us. The God’s honest truth is that we’re probably not going to make it to the top leagues and that’s ok. Finding joy battling in the muck with friends. Giving our all to a performance that will only matter to the people who were there to witness it holds its own form of glory.

Regardless of what league you are in, what you are doing matters. So be sure to give it all that you have. No one remembers the players who shrivel from the challenge. However they will always sing the praises of the ones who gave every last bit of themselves. The fact that you are “non-league” doesn’t matter. You only need to level up on the inside and show what you’ve got.

Give it all that you have!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Do You See the Goal?

The usual dimensions are eight feet high by twenty-four feet wide. That’s one hundred ninety two square feet of target. It’s no small thing considering a team of full grown men cannot cover it when standing shoulder to shoulder (depending on the width of the men). Despite the relatively large space that the ball has to pass through, goals are elusive. Games with three or more are considered high scoring. It is not so much the target itself that creates the challenge, it is all of the obstacles that stand in the way of the ball’s path. Ten normal defenders and a goalkeeper who can use her/his hands. The most talented goal scorers are worth their weight in gold. Their value eventually gets translated to their limbs but it starts with their eyes. They see the goal!

Ivan Toney shoots for Peterborough United. Photo by Joe Dent

At this point, a part of your brain is screaming “everyone sees the goals! It’s 192 square feet!” Unfortunately that’s what makes those goal scoring maestros so valuable. Most players do not see the goal. They see the defender, the goalkeeper, the disappointed face of their coach if they miss, the last three shots that went over, and so on. The vision that they have in their mind’s eye is not a clear path to success that they need to follow. Instead it is a neural pathway that is littered with past events or projections that they believe are partially related to a predictable future. Getting the ball into the goal would be a surprise rather than an expected outcome. The ability to believe in the newness of each attempt is a skill of extreme value.

Most people in the world aren’t trying to hit a perfectly visible 192 square feet. The area of their targets is much less defined and so are the defenders. However the greatest indicator of success or failure still resides in the mind of the person going toward the goal. Some goals are forgotten about because they’ve been mastered for so long. Tying ones shoelaces used to be something but now it is nothing. No defenders, no goal keeper, an open space to be hit with almost no effort. However that final exam, talking to that special person, starting that project: those goals are defended by giants. The goalkeeper is a jungle cat with hands. While the goalmouth itself is covered with well cemented bricks laid by a master mason. Or at least that’s what is represented in their mind. The truth of the matter is there are very few goals in this world that are completely defended.

The question truly becomes “Do you see the goal?” Not the entire general space but the little undefended area where you can get through. With your desired objective can you see past all of the obstacles and find the route to victory? Or can you build up enough desire and strength to muscle through the giants and the jungle cat and blast through the wall that stands in your way? Both are possible strategies but just like those maestros, first you need to see it. Then take the first step to get there. Even the simplest goals don’t score themselves. You need to act first!

Take aim!

Pete

PS Here is a video with the goals of Ivan Toney. He’s one of those special ones.

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

The Top 5 Things to Love about the 2021 United Soccer Coaches Virtual Convention

I’m not sure that I was born an optimist but I’ve definitely become adept at finding the positive in things over the years. So although I am heartbroken that I don’t get to take my annual trip to some far off location to see friends and colleagues, I’m still able to find some good things about this situation.

5. Less walking/traveling – It varies year to year based on where my hotel is but I never need to worry about getting my steps in during the Convention. The second to last time in Baltimore, I averaged over 6 miles per day. Sometimes the traveling isn’t so bad when I carpool with my friend Anson (Not that Anson, a different Anson but we met THAT Anson last year). However I do not mind at all being able to roll out of bed or not, to catch a session.

4. Exhibit Hall Precision – This year I’m only having conversations/meetings with vendors that I really want to be talking to. It’s not particularly a bad thing to do small talk in the exhibit hall. I like to be social but I usually end up talking to a few vendors about a products that I have zero interest in. Here’s a video of my buddy, DJ Diveny, doing some skills. Since no one is coming to juggle in your living room, this will have to do.

3. Chat Feature – Although you’re not guaranteed to get your question answered, the chances are higher than they would be in a large auditorium where they pass around the foam microphone cube. This is something that they may want to consider doing for the live Convention in the future. Not exactly a chat but having a number to text in questions and the moderators can choose interesting ones. Just a thought.

2. Access to Recorded Sessions – I missed the Gregg Berhalter session last night. Luckily I don’t need to worry about it because I can watch it at some other point. At the live Convention, I usually need to choose between about 2 or 3 sessions that I want to attend. This year I can hit them all if I want.

  1. Guests that Normally Can’t Present – This is probably the best thing going for the Virtual Convention. Most of the “dream” guests that people would want to see, can’t ever attend due to coaching responsibilities. While Jose Mourinho may not be on everyone’s wish list, he is a presenter that is not usually available. Depending on how this goes, it may be another change to consider for future live events. Having notable coaches speak from a distance could be an interesting concept. We’ll see.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that none of this is ideal but under the circumstances I’ll take it. As coaches, it is our job to breakdown the opponent in order to move forward. That’s exactly what needs to be done here. This pandemic is a bunkered defense (almost literally). Pick it apart and do what you can to reach your goals!

Enjoy! And see you in KC!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Level Up Your Hero Game

We all have a hero living inside of ourselves. The question is not whether it is there. Almost always the question is the type of hero and when does they show up. A hero is defined as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. We all have that possibility within us but not everyone is willing to live the hero life. Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.

The Stillborn Hero – Just like everyone else, this person has greatness within them but either don’t know it or choose not to use it. These are the saddest people to meet because it’s plain to see that they have more inside. They just can’t or won’t access it.

The Reluctant Hero – This is the person who will only access that higher level of ability when it is forced upon them. They don’t want to do anything special because it’s too much of a hassle. When the circumstances are right, they’ll save the day but they’d rather be in their secret hideout with their sidekick relaxing.

The Self Aggrandizing Hero – Although they do some hero work, they make it sound much bigger than it is. Saving a kitten from a tree somehow gets translated into saving the world.

The Mercenary Hero – I’m not completely sure if this is where they belong on the scale. However these heroes have great abilities that people recognize and laud them for. Unfortunately they come with the understanding that they’ll get compensated for their hero work. They’re not a sucker. The skills that they have are not for free.

The Small Time Hero – This may be my favorite type of hero. Their contributions to the world are nothing spectacular but they consistently show up to do that which is required of them. They save the world one person at a time but do it in stride. They don’t think of themselves as heroes but they definitely are.

The Super Hero – This is the one that we tend to make movies about. While there are no supernatural abilities being thrown around, these are the people that we remember forever. They give something of themselves at such a level that they inspire other people to be a better version of themselves. They might get compensated for what they did but that’s not why they did it. They acted out of selflessness, patriotism, or any other noble cause.

All of these levels of hero have their flaws. Even the super hero in the real world has an addiction to chocolate or some other vice but they act as a hero enough for us to notice.

Each of us is on this spectrum someplace (or maybe I missed some in the middle). Regardless of where you stand at the moment, do your best to level up! There is nothing wrong with staying where you are but if you didn’t notice, the world is hurting at the moment. The world could use a few more heroes. It doesn’t need to be every moment of every day. You can do your hero work in fits and starts. Do it at times where no one expects it. So as you go through your day today, look for opportunities to HERO UP! They’re all around you. Don’t wait for a spotlight in the sky because that’s impractical. Keep your eyes open for the people who need your special skill because they are out there. Villains can take care of themselves, the heroes need to step up for one another.

HERO UP!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

100 Choices (Base Hit Mentality)

Most of us are not dealing with nuclear physics on a daily basis. Our decisions are not all that difficult. For the most part, we know what to do. Given the choice between drinking a Coke and a glass of water, we know which is the right one for our health and wellness. However we often make the wrong choices in many situations because we are overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment. Despite knowing the right answer, we make a choice that does not support our best interest.

Although the number is most likely incorrect, let’s say that you make 100 choices in a day. Most of those choices are not unique. They are the same choices you had to make yesterday, last week, and last month. It is more than likely that you’ve chosen the same way consistently. That consistency is great if you’ve selected the right thing over and over again. It’s digging you a hole if you’ve made the wrong decisions, perhaps literally.

More often than not, change is difficult because the emotion of the moment is too much for us to counterbalance with our will. So we stay the same. I’ve estimated a number of 100 choices in a day. Again, it’s probably not accurate and it would be a HORRIBLE idea for you to try to adjust even a quarter of those at once. So I am not going to suggest that at all. The plan that I am going to suggest is start with identifying.

Take some time today to identify as many choices as you possibly can. From what you have for lunch, how you treat members of your family, when you wake up, what you watch on TV, what you do when you have free time. Here is a starter list for you to build from. After you have this list, write down the choices that you are getting right. Then pat yourself on the back or whatever congratulations you feel appropriate giving yourself. Remember that you’re not perfect and whatever you’re getting right now is a foundation.

Once you’ve identified your foundation, look at the remainder of the list and start writing down the ideal choices that you should make. Don’t worry about changing any of them just yet. Only write down the option that would be best for you, your life and your goals. Once that is complete. Choose three that you are going to focus on for the week. Set yourself up to win. If it is a change in your lunch choices, then program a reminder into your phone for 15 minutes before lunch. If you’re trying to use social media less, put those apps in a folder on the third page of your home screen. Set up rules around when it’s ok to go there. You know you. So you know which ones need changing quickly. Don’t be afraid to go there because it is in the service of you. You deserve the best version of your life possible. Now you get to decide what is important to you in your choices.

Hopefully by doing this exercise, you get some clarity on the fact that you can control the moment. Making decisions before they come up in the day is key. If you wait to decide about eating the doughnut when it is in front of you, the odds against the right decision are high. So think of this as your grocery list. If you have a list when you go to the market and stick to it, then you can be efficient about your purchases and get it done. If you have no list, then you wander around the aisles and pick up things that you really don’t need. Choose what you want before the possibilities jump out in front of you.

The idea behind all of this is not that you’re going to hit home runs every day. You are aiming to hit base hits repeatedly. Although people may want the outcomes to be instantaneous and exciting, most of the things that we want for ourselves depend upon consistency. So you don’t need to swing for the fences, just aim for consistent base hits. That’s your winning strategy!

Have a great day or not. The choice is yours!

Pete

Blogpost

POSH: Numbers Alone Don’t Change Behavior

While a draw to the league leaders may be an acceptable result for the day, the continued issues with defensive set pieces are anything but acceptable. The POSH statistics on defending set pieces are anything but impressive. It is an issue that is well known to the players and coaching staff. Regardless of the statistical analysis, numbers alone don’t change behavior.

The video of Lincoln’s goal from the corner kick is difficult to watch but indicative of the grander issue at hand. The cross deflects off our flatfooted captain and goes to a player at the back post who has been left by his marker. While it would be easy to point the finger at those two players, it could have easily been anyone else. Most of the POSH players look flatfooted on the play. Although some might say that a change needs to be made in the defensive set up on set pieces, my viewpoint would be that there needs to be a change in the story the team tells itself about defending set pieces.

Image: Andrew Vaughan/CameraSport

Behavior does not change on its own, in an individual or a group. There are many ways to change behavior and one is through fear. The number of goals given up on set pieces creates a sense of fear when they happen. While fear can change behavior, it brings with it a lot of baggage. The fight, flight or freeze response can be triggered by fear and “flatfootedness” might be representative of this issue. At the moment, the players have a story running in their head about “not getting scored on.” That focus does not tap into the positive emotions that get better results. So what should be done? Flip the script.

POSH is perennially a goal scoring juggernaut. It’s part of the manager’s, team’s, club’s owners’ ethos to be forward thinking. From the type of players that we buy/produce to the school initiative, POSH is always looking to be on the front foot. So the posture of flatfooted and defensive does not suit our mindset. My suggestion is this. Whenever there is a set piece against us, the players need to get EXCITED! That’s right I said excited.

While a set piece in our end may seem like an opportunity for the other team, it creates opportunity for us as well. The field is about as wide open as it will ever be in a game. Center backs are brought forward leaving a skeleton defense at the midfield with one of our forwards. So rather than focusing on how to keep the ball out of our goal. Focus on what we’re going to do with it when we win it back. Create breakout plays from defensive set pieces to put us on the front foot. Then each player’s mindset is not, “I need to keep my mark from scoring.” It becomes “where am I putting the ball when I win it? Because we could score from this.” It’s obvious based on the pressing strategy in the final third that Ferguson has at least subconsciously sold the idea that “defense scores goals.” He’s absolutely right and the final third is not the only place that this is true. It’s true all over the field because in order to score we need the ball. Telling a different story about the situation changes the players’ internal dialogues and focus at these times of high stress.

The POSH go forward. That’s who they are as a team. This subtle tweak just puts them back on the front foot rather than being fearful and flat. Get excited because a goal at the other end is 20 seconds or less away! We have the speed and the players to do it. Now all they need to do is believe!

Up the POSH!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

Be Grateful for the Center Circle

As I often do, I take soccer concepts and relate them to life. This may be the most important metaphor that I use. The center circle is a part of the field that can be easy to overlook. If you draw a soccer field with all of the other lines but leave it off, someone might not even notice. Despite the fact that it may not be the shape that defines a soccer field, it is guaranteed to be used at least twice in a standard game. The other important characteristic of this piece of soccer geography is that the opponent is not allowed inside the circle when your team is kicking off. These are the important aspects of the center circle. It is crucial but under-appreciated.

Much like the center circle is a practice that I adopted years ago. At least twice per day, I take the time to shut out all other distractions and give thanks. It is quite possibly the most important thing that I do each day. Every morning when I wake up and right before I go to sleep, I say thank you for all of the things that I have in my life and list several specifically. It only takes about a minute on each occasion. Despite the small amount of time that it takes, it has been an absolute game-changer. The reason that it is so extremely important is that it is a protected space where I focus on the good that I already have.

So many people are spending their lives chasing the things that they don’t have. There is nothing wrong with pursuit. I am a huge fan of going for the things that you want from life. My company’s tag line is “Persistently Chasing Excellence.” The problem is not the desire for things that you don’t have. It is not being grateful for the things that you do. There are two sides to this sword that can cut you.

The first cut comes by not taking stock of all that you have in this moment. No matter who you are, there are great things going on in your life that you may be ignoring. By practicing gratitude, it brings these things into focus. Our brains need to delete so much of what happens throughout the day. Therefore if we do not consciously focus on that which we are grateful for, it will be taken for granted.

The second cut is connected to the first. If you do not practice gratitude on a regular basis, when you finally get the thing that you’re chasing, the joy will be short-lived. You’ll celebrate for a little while but eventually the novelty will wear off. That new thing will become just another thing. A new unique desire will catch your eye and you’ll pursue it. All the while you’ll feel empty because you’re not content with what you have. The source of your happiness is located someplace outside of yourself. Therefore you are the dog chasing its own tail. You already possess what you pursue but exhaust yourself with the futile exercise.

So take the time. The minutes are insignificant but the impact of the exercise is huge! By doing this every day, you’ll get in the habit of noticing all that you have. It will energize you to go after the things that you want. That pursuit is one that you can feel confident won’t be in vane. No matter whether you get the new or not. You’ll be grateful for what you have and appreciate the new if you get it.

Draw the center circle and don’t let the opponents in. Remember though that you can bring people from your own team in to help you kick things off. My guess is that they’ll be happy to help you when they know how grateful you are for them.

Game on!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

The Offside Trap

Blunt honest, I’ve never been a fan. Although using the offside line to a team’s advantage is an extremely important tactic. Most teams that employ the trap tend to rely on it far too heavily. It is their defensive savior UNTIL it is their demise. From my perspective, defense is all about solving problems and neutralizing threats. The trap turns the multivariable problem of defending into a true or false question. Either the trap worked or it didn’t. When it fails, the team is engaged in the worst game of all, catchup. The success or failure tends to depend on doing one thing well or it all falls apart. The world that we live in is filled all kinds of multivariable problems that continue to get more numerous and complex.

Despite the fact that the challenges are more complicated than ever, we still seem to want the solutions to be simple. A drug exists to fix everything from short eyelashes to testosterone. The internet is full of people ready to tell you how to get rich quick. If anything is going wrong in your world, you can blame the politicians on the other side of the aisle. Despite the fact that these responses to the problems that we face may be convenient, they are not effective in the long term or come with dangerous consequences.

The trap is in thinking that the solutions are supposed to be quick and easy. Applying one size fits all responses to problems is bound to bite us in the end. This is all pretty obvious to say and probably to read as well but I know that I’m guilty of it. We want the world to simple but it’s not. And we want to always get things right but we don’t. The key to avoiding the trap is to stay proactive. Problems aren’t going anywhere and they’re not getting any simpler. Each day we can get ahead of our future challenges: communicate, learn something, don’t assume you’re right, take in differing perspectives, and don’t expect others to solve your problems for you.

The trap in soccer hopes for opponents who can’t break it and referees who will be in position to call it. That’s throwing away a large portion of the available influence on the situation. In life your opponents are going to be numerous and skilled, you need to be prepared for that. The officials in place are rarely going to be adequate. So you need to police yourself. The world is complex but I know you can handle it. Just remember, it’s always a trap!

It’s a trap!

Pete