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Soccer as Religion

IMG_4372 (1)It has been said many times that soccer is a “religion”.  While this may be taken as an exaggeration or possibly a slight against religion, there is reason to take the claim with a certain amount of seriousness.  Although the sport does not call for the fealty to a superhuman controlling power, it could be considered a form of faith and worship.  Routinely throughout the year, people flock by the thousands to sport cathedrals to have their faith tested by the team of their choosing.  Much like a religion, an individual must decide to keep believing in the face of conflict.  Although the teams, managers and players are the facilitators, it is actually the mass’s belief in the sport itself that makes it most like a religion.

The belief structure of soccer is not something that is written in a holy book but there are some universals that are worth mentioning as they relate heavily to life.

You’re never fully in control.  Although the ball can be “possessed” by anyone on the field, that possession is tenuous at best.  Even the goalkeeper has a time limit on their ability to hold the ball.

Progress and protection must be balanced.  Even the most forward thinking teams recognize the need for a form of balance.  Those who do not recognize the need for balance pay the price eventually.

No one can stand alone.  Even the best players in history needed a supporting cast in order to be successful.  Much like life, the individual is part of a larger whole and therefore is dependent on others.

There are many ways to meet your aims.  Style of play, formations, personnel and other components are merely ingredients to an eventual product.  The path does not always follow the plan or the map but actually doing is the key.

The tools may be finite but the possibilities are infinite.  Each player has a finite number of tools to use but their ability to respond to the situation with those tools is what brings people back repeatedly.

These are not commandments or any form of religious doctrine but rather a few ideas that are inherent to the game.  It is because of these ideas and many more that the game of soccer is so universally beloved.  It mirrors life in so many ways that the people who love it may not even realize the overlaps.  The game encapsulates in ninety minutes (or thereabouts) the struggle of what it means to be alive.  Collectively and individually we are all caught in a struggle and the game is an available guidepost to help us along the road.

Play both games well!

Pete

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Make UNTIL a Power Word

Until is usually a middle of the sentence kind of word. Something to be overlooked. However when used properly, it has real power. It takes self control though.

Until puts something that you want to do up against something you need to do. When until is used this way, it can be life altering. But you don’t get to reap the rewards UNTIL you use it!

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The Soccer Caravan (How We Get There Matters)

Image-1Things were different before the internet.  There’s just no denying it.  I told a group of young people recently about how we used to caravan to soccer games.  Most of the group of parents would meet at a predetermined spot and follow each other to the location of the game.  It may seem ridiculous by the modern day standard.  Ten cars following each other down the highway to reach a youth soccer game.  That was just how things were done.  The positive side was that we combined cars a lot.  People would ride together.  One of my best friends from that time came from the fact that his mother didn’t like to drive on highways.  So he and his mother would ride with us.  So even though it’s not how we do it now, it had its virtues.

The convenience of the GPS has made for less people getting lost but we’ve lost our sense of people.  The chance to become part of a clan that travels together has dwindled.  We are a species that has historically worked together in order to reach our greatest heights.  Will we find the convenience to be a consolation for traveling alone on the road?  It’s not particularly how fast we get there.  It is a question of whether or not we got there well.  Bringing people together is a key to our survival.  Let’s find ourselves by coming together.

Enjoy your travels!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

White Soccer Cleats (The Messages We’re Sending)

IMG_20190525_0002Growing up playing soccer in the 1980’s was kind of like the Wild West.  Not everyone fully understood the rules.  Cultural norms were not fully established or recognized.  Those players/teams who had a parent or relative who understood the game were an anomaly and an advantage.  The first unwritten rule that I learned was “if you wore white cleats, you’d better be the best player on your team or even the field”.  I learned this by accident because I wore white cleats for a season when I was young.  They weren’t my choice.  My mother bought what was cheap and these were definitely cheap!  Either Patrick or Wilson, I don’t even recall.  If anyone can tell by looking at the photo please put it in the comments below.  Regardless of the brand, my attire sent off conflicting messages to people who understood.  The color of my cleats sent the message, “I’m the best”.  The fact that they were cheap said, “I don’t have the best tools (either through poverty or ignorance)”.  My play sent the message “I don’t realize that I’m sending any messages!”

Ignorance and youth go hand in hand.  Lack of experience is part of life.  We pick up little pieces of information along the way that help us, mold us and allow us to move into a bigger world.  It was plain to see that I was not sending a message with my cleats.  They were simply a means to an end.  I’ve never worn white (or colorful) cleats again.  My skills don’t support them.  Even though that cultural norm has changed, I still subscribe to it.

So what messages are you sending to the world on a regular basis?  The cultural markers are different for all walks of life.  Whether it is the clothes that you wear, your hair style, your walk, or your smile; you are sending messages for sure.  But are they deliberate or clear?  This is not a post about conformity.  By all means, buck the cultural norms of the majority.  Rather it is about the subtle clues that you are giving to people about who you are.  Perhaps the message you want to send is “I don’t care what you think about me.”  And it is expressed with your clothes, hair, shoes, facial expressions and language patterns.  That’s completely fine!  However if you’re sending that message but want to be accepted by everyone then you’ve set yourself up for a losing battle.  The key is alignment.

You need to align the message that you are sending with the one that you want people to receive.  The first thing that you must do is DECIDE.  Decide on the message that you want people to get about you.  Keep it simple though.  No matter how deliberate you are about the signals that you send, no one is going to fully understand the complexities of you at first glance.  So lead with something.  Once you know what signal you want to send.  See if people are getting it.  Go to the people that you trust to tell you the truth and ask.  If you’re off the mark, it is up to you to adjust or accept that you’re not sending the right message.  The world is not obligated to understand you.

At this point, you will need to do a lot of observation.  Are you getting the results that you’re looking for?  Do people seem to be getting the signal that you’re sending?  This will probably be easier to read from people that you do not know well.  Those who know you well will take time to adjust to a new version of you.  If you’ve been a downer in the past, smiling more will tell those people that you see every day “she’s happy today” not “she’s a happy person”.  Changing long held perceptions will take time, effort and consistency.

So as you go out into your day.  Recognize that you’re sending signals.  You can keep sending the ones that you always have or change it up.  That’s completely up to you.  It just helps to have people receive the message that you want to send.  Those white cleats might be holding you back from opportunities that you don’t even realize!

Have a great day being you today!

Pete

 

Blogpost

The Vision We’ll Need

Salto MortaleIt’s actually quite amazing when you think about it.  The fact that pessimism can even exist in a world where we have achieved so much.  The internet, space travel, self-driving cars and a myriad of other examples should really give us hope that anything is possible.  In a short span of time, we’ve gone from living a relatively meager existence to bending the world to a place of our own design.  I recognize fully that not all of the progress come without cost.  However even the problems that we have created are well within our scope to solve.  The problem is one of vision.

In many ways we hang onto the ways of our ancestors.  Some of those traditions and habits have value that justifies their persistence.  However there are many that are anchors to our progress: both personally and societally.  The one in particular that I am thinking of at the moment is our vision.

The phrase “I’ll believe it when I see it” seems to encapsulate the way that many people, with whom I deal daily, view the world.  Their belief, effort, support, etc. are completely dependent on proof positive before they will take the leap.  Unfortunately that level of conservatism will only ever produce the same results to which we are accustomed.  The realm of possibility encompasses far more than we can imagine.  So in order to get where we truly want to go, “I’ll see it when I believe it” is the mantra of the day.  This may seem like semantic double talk but it truly is the way forward.  Human beings lead with belief.  Too many of us are being held back by our need for the world to give us proof before we are willing to leap.  Absolutely!  Put on a helmet if necessary!  But most of us are not afraid of the moon shots, we’re afraid to be disappointed, to try, to give everything we’ve got!  The unfortunate thing about this is that although we’re not dead, we’re not fully alive either.  We live in a time when anything is possible but exist day to day only in what is probable.  Our vision for the future should not look exactly like the past.

Pete

“What’s he doing?” – Trinity

“He’s beginning to believe.” – Morpheus

Blogpost, self-reliance

That Diploma in Your Hand (What It Does and Does Not Say)

Senior High School PhotoIt is graduation season!  Whether high school or college or even pre-school, millions of students will be walking forward to receive their diplomas.  This tradition has carried on for centuries and will probably continue into the foreseeable future.  The act of public recognition of achievement is extremely important.  It releases a cascade of chemicals into our systems that act as a reward/marker for the accomplishment.  Our feelings are what drive us to do almost everything in our lives.  So the event is important but what about the paper?  What does it say or not say about us as individuals?

The things, that a diploma is, are numerous.  It is a certificate of completion of requirements.  Depending on the level of study, it may indicate certain levels of outstanding performance.  It is a signal of a certain level of commitment.  At the university level, it is almost a form of tribalism that uses the reputation of the institution to in theory say something about the individual.  All of these and many more are things that a diploma may say.  But even more important for graduates at the moment is what a diploma does not say.

It does not say:

  • That you’re done learning.
  • That you’re smart.
  • That the world now owes you something.
  • That you won’t need to reprove that you deserved to earn the diploma.
  • That you are less than, equal to or better than anyone else with a diploma or without one.
  • That you’re stuck pursuing that one thing for the rest of your life.
  • That the value of the diploma won’t change over time.

Obviously this is just a short list but at this point you probably get the picture.  A diploma is a piece of paper.  In the end it is not the paper that matters, it is you!  You are the one who will go out into the world to make things happen.  Pinning that paper to your chest to use as a shield against all future challenges is a poor strategy.  INSTEAD use the diploma as a milestone.  A marker that delineates the difference between one portion of your life and another.  The story that we tell ourselves about ourselves is extremely important.  So recognize that the paper is flimsy, easily tarnished and not very valuable on its own because another copy is available at a price.  However you have the ability to be anything that you decide to be regardless of the paper.  You are what truly matters and your continued pursuit of life will be the record that you will be judged upon.  There is no other copy of you, even if you’re a twin.  Take your individuality and mix it with what you have learned and pursue those things that create energy within you.  Build a life that you will be excited to get up and live every day!

Best of luck to all of the graduates!

Pete

Blogpost

My Biggest Regret As a Teacher

IMG_4128I was raised in the Catholic faith but have some major misgivings about the history and present of the religion.  Regardless of those feelings there are certain things that stick out from my childhood experiences of religion.  One phrase that always stuck out for some reason was part of the act of contrition.  When repenting for sins, the prayer asked for forgiveness “for what I have done and what I have left undone.”  The second part is what always hit me.  That I was not only responsible for seeking forgiveness for the actions that I had committed but also the ones that I had omitted as well.

Several years ago, I had a student in one of my classes.  He was one of those kids that was smart but did not care about the class enough to put forth much effort.  Since he was a senior, his only goal was to graduate.  So that he could get into the army and get away from the problems at home.  On a particular day, he and I got into a conversation about his lack of effort.  He said “Mr. Huryk, I’m not worried about this class.  I’m worried about what I’m going to eat today.”  After class I asked him to hang around for a minute.  I took out the container that held my lunch and handed it to him.  He refused but thanked me for the gesture.  After that day, I paid a lot more attention to his mood and weight.  It became pretty obvious that he wasn’t lying.  He had gotten skinnier.  So I packed up a brown paper bag with a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly, Clif Bars and other low maintenance foods and put his name on it.  I had the secretary in the office call him down right before the end of the day and tell him that someone dropped it off for him.

No one knew who had sent the food but there was no secret that problems ran deeper than just hunger.  I talked to my wife about it and she knows how much I try to help people who need it.  She said if the situation was that dire, I could offer to give him a place to stay temporarily.  I just didn’t know him well enough to take that step.  Besides the year was almost over.  He was going to pass my class and be able to graduate in order to get into the army and move on.  On the last day of class, he asked me if I had been the one who had given him the food.  I admitted that it was.  He thanked me and said he appreciated it.  At that point, I thought I had done my part and I would never see him again.  I was right on half of that equation.

Upon returning to school in the late summer, the secretary who had helped with my covert food operation informed me that he had passed away over the summer.  The combination of his poor circumstances and some poor judgment sent him to a far too early grave.  All he wanted to do was escape the situation that he was in but it just didn’t happen fast enough.

I know that I shouldn’t tear up every time that I think about this.  In reality it was not my responsibility to make sure that this kid got off to the army safely.  I was almost inconsequential in his life.  The issue is that I know the outcome now and can see all of the things that I left “undone”.

We cannot do everything.  We cannot save everyone.  Regardless of how hard we try.  Bad things are still going to happen to good people who deserve better.  The reason why I relive this story in my mind often is because even though we can’t save everyone, I want to live in a world where we try to or at least want to.  Hate, malice and indifference are easy because they take nothing from the person who puts them out into the world.  Kindness, generosity, caring and love require that you give something of yourself and may not get it back.  That is a bargain that many people are just too afraid to make.  However the easy road ends with us all being alone and separated because the caring muscle atrophies when you use it infrequently.  So although it is a painful memory, I will continue to dwell upon what I left undone because I don’t want to believe that it’s not my responsibility to care for my fellow man.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are!

Pete

Blogpost

Would You Know a Good Ref If You Saw One?

refereeToday my son’s game had an extremely good referee group.  The center referee and his two linesmen called the game very well.  Despite the fact that they did a great job and got the majority of the calls right (even the ones that went against my son’s team), there were still complaints from parents.  Which made me wonder if people really have any idea what makes for a good referee or if they just want calls to go in their team’s favor?  Here are some thoughts to consider.

The level matters – Recognize that the job of a referee changes as the age and the level of play changes.  At the lowest levels, the referee is part of a learning process.  Their job is more about managing the understanding of the game rather than calling “fouls”.  Often the sidelines are complaining about things that are poor body control and not actually a foul.  The higher levels require much more reading of the flow of the game.  A good referee will identify possible problems developing in the play.  Their use of cards, advantage, player discussions and fouls called/not called will depend largely upon their reading of the game and individual’s roles within in it.  So as you are watching a game, give some thought as to the level of soccer being played and what the referee’s role truly is at that level.

Perspective matters – By design, referees are intended to be a neutral third party at the game.  So they are not carrying the bias that most of us bring to the game.  Their decisions are based upon what they see and not what they feel.  This creates another issue for most fans because their vantage point is completely different from that of the referee’s.  So it is not only possible but actually completely accurate to say that fans and referees have seen a different game.  Most of the time this is done with no instant replay, no VAR with different camera angles.  This is done live with twenty two players running in all directions and possibly screening the view.  Despite these major obstacles, perfection is the standard that many expect.

The Laws are the Laws – A good referee will call the game based on the laws of the game, not public perception of what the laws are.  There are many things that are commonly shouted from fans or even coaches about things that do not apply to the Laws of the game.  “Winning the ball” for example does not make a player immune from having a foul called against them.  If the play is deemed to be reckless, then a foul is appropriate regardless of who won the ball.  A large number of players, fans and coaches have only a cursory knowledge of the Laws that are based more on hearsay rather than actual study.

Obviously this is just a small sample but each is worth considering.  The game requires referees and the good ones need to be identified, praised and promoted.  I fear that many people involved in the soccer world would not be able to identify a good referee if they saw one.  That is unfortunate because that means that people are unable to see past their own desires.  Most of the soccer played in this country is youth soccer.  Therefore the majority of children are getting a skewed view of right and wrong.  Right means in my favor and wrong means anything else.  The ability to be objective could be lost.

Blogpost

An Open Letter to My Future Players

To Whom It May Concern:

VESPhotoI am your new coach.  That’s a role that I take very seriously.  It’s a mixture of teacher, mentor, psychologist, personal trainer, confidant and many other jobs that coalesce into a position of great possible influence.  The word possible is in there because people are put into roles like this every day but just because someone leads does not mean that anyone will follow.  A position of power does not make someone a leader.  Leaders must be willing to go first.  My hope is that I am able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am.

At this point, I could list all of my past experiences and accolades but they are only slightly relevant.  Prior success is not a guarantee of future success.  Also that term is something that we will have to define together.  So what am I offering?  Commitment…  A similar commitment to the ones that I make to my wife and children.  I take it that seriously.  The commitment to do what I believe is best in the long run.  Not particularly today.  Not the things that are easy.  Not the things that most people would do but rather the things that few people would do.  Things that may lose games but improve lives.  Ultimately that is the game that I care the most about: LIFE.  Eventually everyone’s playing career comes to an end.  The things that we carry with us after the games are over are the true victories.  The friends, confidence, self-discipline, self-awareness, and so many others are the trophies that we not only carry with us but can rely upon for years to come.  In the end, your ability to control a ball will probably amount to very little but your ability to control yourself will give you everything.

So where do we go from here?  Forward!  We are going to take the necessary steps in order to prepare for what lies ahead.  There is no way to predict what those things might be.  Every team and every season is different.  So we will do our best to anticipate the challenges and prepare for them.  We will endure hardships.  Face opponents external and internal.  Enjoy the successes but no matter what it will be done together.  Every one of us will contribute to whatever we accomplish.  From the starting captain, all the way down to the last person on the bench of the lowest level team, we all have something to give.  It may not be goals, saves or minutes but there is value in all of it.

I could go on but rather than talking about starting, we should just start.  So for now, let me just say that I am extremely excited to be working with you.

See you soon!

Coach

P.S.  Below is something that I wrote a few months back.  Not sure how it will play into my plans but I’m putting it here for your consideration.

“Toward Full Stature”

I go out today in search of victory,

Not over the opponent who stands in front of me

But the lesser self that resides within me

Before I can conquer anyone or anything else

I must first conquer and control myself

And if today I am able to stand victorious,

I know that tomorrow will bring a new challenge

Each day my ability to stand tall will be tested

But I am confident that I will reach my full stature

Blogpost

Leveraging the Dark Space Inside

High School Soccer from Senior Year

My overall purpose in this world is to help people get the best out of themselves.  Whether I do that work in the classroom, soccer field or elsewhere is irrelevant.  Most of the time it is done through helping people see the possibility within themselves and breaking through the self-imposed limits that they have.  Although my messages are usually positive in nature, I’m not against the idea of leveraging the dark space inside each of us.  It is probably the reason that I’ve been a successful coach for many years.

It was my senior year in high school and there were no big expectations for our soccer team.  There had been lots of talent in the prior year’s senior class and the season had no trophies or accolades.  My senior class had only a couple players of impact.  The junior and sophomore classes were full of talented but untested players.  As the only senior captain, I believed it was my role to help get every last bit of effort out of our team.  If we kept the idea that we were all in it together, we’d do OK.  In all honesty, we shocked a lot of people, even me.  We had an impressive record with only one loss and one tie as it was getting close to the playoff portion of the season.  Our record was good enough to win the conference title.  Against all odds in a penalty kick shootout we were able to beat a much bigger school for the county title.  We were ranked highly by the papers in the area and the number one seed for our section in the state tournament.  I’m not sure if it was one factor or a combination of things but we lost in the first round of the state tournament.

That was over twenty five years ago.  Despite that fact, it is one of the reasons that I have so much to give to my athletes from the sidelines.  Winning and losing are not actually my concern.  The reason why that is such a hole inside of me is that we didn’t give it our all.  I, as the leader, was possibly complacent and overly confident going into that game.  Sure there were other things that impacted the outcome but I know inside that it was at least partially my fault.  So I’ll have this hole inside of me forever because I can’t rewrite the past.

The only option that I have is to leverage that dark space into something positive.  That cautionary tale that I lived through is a driving force on the mundane days where no one feels like giving their best.  It is that pain that gives me the energy to work harder than others and leave it all out there.  I don’t talk about it often or even replay it in my head.  I don’t have to, it’s just there in the background.

We all have these experiences.  There is nothing particularly special or unique about mine.  The question becomes whether or not you can use it toward a future positive end.  Even the greatest lose from time to time but it is what you do with that setback that matters.  No moment is a definitive statement for the positive or negative on who you are as a person.  We are what we’ve done consistently.  With todays challenges you should absolutely give them everything you’ve got.  But if you come up short, take the lesson from it and allow it to propel you forward.  Sometime you win and sometimes you learn!

Have a great day!

Pete