The Power of a Poor Start

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete

Fantasy Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose wisely!

Pete

Mediocrity Man

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

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

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

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

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

The Art of Self-Rejection

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

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

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

Stop Believing!

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

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

Stop believing that it will be easy!

Stop believing that anyone will do it for you!

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

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

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

Stop believing that you’re too tired!

Stop believing that people will laugh at you!

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

Stop believing that there are too many obstacles!

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

Stop believing that there’s nothing you can do!

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

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

The Sport of the 21st Century

MonroeThe 20th Century of the United States was largely dominated by an industrial economy.  The US rode the wave of the industrial revolution into prominence on the world stage.  Factories flourished thanks to interchangeable parts and largely interchangeable people.  Most workers in the 20th Century were able to earn a substantial living by doing simple repetitive tasks under the orders of their bosses.

In this system, it is no wonder that the sport of the century was Football.  In so many ways, football was representative of the American way.  It was progressive.  Moving forward was success and moving backward was failure.  It mirrored our historical land acquisition with its own “land acquisition”.  The decisions were made by a few bosses and executed by largely  interchangeable people.  The sport was the perfect corollary for the industrial age and both served the country well in their time.

Now that the industrial age has passed and we have moved into what many are calling the “Connection Economy”.  The people who create value in the market place are not interchangeable cogs in a vast machinery.  Cogs can be replaced, automated or outsourced to other countries.  True value in the modern economy is created by an individual whose contributions are irreplaceable and unique.

This change begs for a different representation in sport.  The football model of “run the play” holds little value when the rules of the game change so quickly.  Soccer’s flexibility and subjectivity require that players deal with complex problems and must make individual decisions for the betterment of the collective.  Since each player is a decision maker, principles rather than directives are the dictating forces.  No one person is in control.  Therefore players must learn to control themselves and direct themselves in an uncertain environment.

The beautiful game will become “America’s Game”.  It is just a matter of time.

This Is What You Wanted

MarathonAs 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.

Decide on what you want from the menu!

Pete

Secret Admirers

IMG_3202It’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.

Can The Next USSF President Undo Trump Damage?

Trump
Make American Soccer Great!

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!

Pete

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.

5 Ways to Win at the United Soccer Coaches Convention

IMG_3094It’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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Thanks!

Pete