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If The USMNT Doesn’t Win The WC By/In 2026, It’s My Fault!

There are some things that are just NOT done in polite American society!  You don’t ask a woman if she’s pregnant.  You don’t talk politics with your in-laws.  You don’t talk about money in mixed company.  And if you’re an American soccer fan, you don’t agree with Alexi Lalas!  I am about to break that last social norm.  Alexi gave a description of the apples to oranges comparison of US Soccer’s failings to the successes of Croatia and Iceland.  I totally agree.  The component pieces of the soccer landscapes and national culture in each country are so completely disparate that comparison is a fool’s errand that is at best click bate and at worst sophisticated soccer tail chasing.  So let’s take the American soccer “watermelon*” and inspect it on its own merit to see where we’re going.

First of all, let’s take the population discussion completely off the table because it is irrelevant on many levels.  Only 2 countries in the top 20 by population have won a World Cup (Brazil and Germany).  Of that same top 20, nine nations have never qualified for a World Cup.  If more people was the answer, China and India would be in the final every four years.  The fact that the US is larger than another country does not indicate that it should be more likely to win (or perform well) at the World Cup.  So it is much more complicated than that.

The story of the nations that have won at least one or even multiple World Cups comes down to a convergence of many factors but probably the most crucial is a soccer (football) culture.  The nations that have been able to win or compete well at World Cups all have a culture that supports and/or increases their success on the field.  Culture, in very general terms, can be characterized by the statement “People like us, do things like this.”  So in those high performing soccer nations, people do several things that perpetuate the high level of play or induce improvement.  Generally speaking this is not a top down process.  Culture is a product of many little decisions made by thousands or millions of individuals, not a handful of powerful individuals making decisions.  So if World Cup success is in the future for the United States, it will follow the adoption of a soccer culture, not create one.

So even though the size of Iceland does not matter, the fact that so many Icelandic people do the Viking clap does.  It sends a message to every single player on the team and child who is adopting the game.  The message is “This matters to us!”  That message changes the daily actions of people.  Given the choice between extra ball work or not, players in those environments recognize that something important is at stake.

With that understanding well established, I will go back to the title.  If the USMNT doesn’t win the World Cup in/by 2026, it’s my fault!  This statement may seem crazy to some but if you’ve been paying attention it becomes plainly obvious.  Culture is created by individual decisions made by the masses.  It’s on ME!  And YOU!  And everyone else attached to this game in the US.  No longer can we hope that copying Barcelona drills or hiring English trainers or attending foreign friendlies on their summer tours is enough.  Every one of us that considers ourselves a part of soccer in the US needs to up their game.  What does that mean?

pulisicIt means action by the many.  In some ways this endeavor is truly in line with American culture (of the past at least).  It is almost inherently American to identify a challenge and conquer it.  For most of our country’s history, that was almost common place.  We (the people) took on monumental tasks as a collective.  Unfortunately we seem to be at a point in history where we expect other people to do it for us.  We can outsource it or it’s the government, corporation or system’s fault that things aren’t going right.  The problem lies with someone else or it’s just too hard and I can’t be bothered.  FUCK THAT!!!  We need to step up for the next eight years!  Not in some grandiose, out of reach way but in simple ways that can have a cumulative effect.  The main thing that will be required is a long term view.  So here are some of my suggestions based on a variety of perspectives.  It’s by no means a complete list but it’s a start.  Add your own thoughts in the comments.

  • Watch MLS games – More eyes = more dollars = better players = better league = better US player pool.  If you watch the EPL or la Liga but don’t watch MLS, you need to start.  I know that MLS is not as good as the top leagues at the moment.  However if we don’t pay attention now, it won’t have the monetary resources to get better.
  • Focus on players getting better  – If you’re a parent, coach, or associated with youth soccer in any other way; put progress of the player over the result on the day.  This is so extremely difficult for people to embrace because the desire for status is so hardwired into our minds.  One of the reasons that we continue to struggle on the international stage is that we are enamored with being the biggest fish in the small pond.
  • Be active – There are all kinds of ways that the US soccer culture could improve but it needs people to do.  Passivity is only going to perpetuate mediocrity.  Let your voice be heard, your actions be seen and your passion be felt.  You matter in this endeavor.

As you finish up reading this article, I hope that you have a small inkling of the feeling that I have.  It’s only a matter of time before the US wins a World Cup.  Soccer is no longer the game for everyone else but US.  The momentum of the sport in this country is well on its way but now it needs our help to reach escape velocity.  To overcome the inertia of ambivalence and low expectations, WE all must do our small part to reach the highest of heights.  But there are no guarantees.  WE must bet on the fact that together it will be enough.  And if it’s not!  IT’S MY FAULT!

Pete

 

*I’ve chosen a watermelon because it is my favorite fruit.  It’s also large but lacks overpowering flavor and its seeds are possibly potent but they are often discarded or made to disappear before they can materialize.

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Better F%#$ Ups

cropped-hurykunlimitedlogolarge1Over the next week, I just plan to have better f%#$ ups.  As humans the question isn’t whether or not we’re going to F%#$ up, it’s going to happen.  Many of us spend so much time trying to avoid F%#$ing up so much that we never truly move forward.  So for this week, an experiment!  I’m not going to try to F%#$ up less.  I’m going to try to F%#$ up better!  Realizing that perfection is not a viable option, I am going to embrace the F%#$ ups in order to move from a humiliating strike out to a foul tip and see how far I can push it.  Always with the thought in mind that I’m swinging for the fences.

Thanks for the support!

Pete

self-reliance, Uncategorized

The Latest Version

IMG_3647
It’s so common to us that we are almost blind to it at this point.  The release of the latest version of something.  Whether it’s a car, an app for the phone or a video game; the old version is eventually replaced by the latest version.  Sometimes this comes with huge upgrades that revolutionize the way that we think about the product.  Other times it messes up something that was working to our liking.  The thing is that even if we don’t see the changes, they’re happening all the time.

It’s so much easier to understand with technology especially.  The cellphone does not change shape or size when you add a new app or update it.  It simply acquires the new programming and moves on.  Often bugs need to be fixed but I’m pretty certain that Bill Gates does not lament the fact that Windows 7.1 was not as good as Windows 10.2.  There is an understanding that each new version is intended to build upon the past.

In a very similar way, here you are.  Version 2018.193 of yourself.  You may look at yourself as the same person that you’ve always been but that’s most definitely not true.  You’ve learned new things since version 2015.125 (after the decimal is the number of days past in that year).  The question becomes whether or not you want to just maintain what is working or truly upgrade.  Unlike Windows, you’re not going to be rereleased.  Your bug fixes and big upgrades have to all happen at the same time.  AND YOU ARE THE LEAD DEVELOPER!  Only you can make changes to the system.

So what is the latest version of you going to look like?  Is it just like today’s you but with a few more miles worn off the treads?  I hope not.  I hope that you believe that you are capable of a big jump.  A leap from the version that you are today to the version that you’ve always wanted to be.  My hope is that you’re making the plans and putting in the code to launch yourself to a whole new level.  So that people who haven’t seen you in a while will take notice to the fact that the latest version of you is a huge upgrade!

Upgrade today!

Pete

self-reliance, Uncategorized

The Javelin Thrower

lance-150317_960_720This story comes directly from a dream that I just had.  I was brought in to help a javelin thrower with some issues that he was having.  Despite his great potential that everyone could see, he was underachieving and plagued by injuries.  As we started to talk about his issues, we walking near a lake.  He was confused and upset by all of the issues that he was having.  As he talked, he picked up a stone and hurled it into the lake.  His words became more heated as he described his disappointment in his lack of progress.  Another stone farther into the lake.  Then his disappointment turned to anger as he focused in on how many opportunities he’d wasted.  Stone lake farther.  In a crescendo of shouts and rage, he picked up a rock larger than all of the stones that he’d hurled so far.  With three steps forward and a shout of “why?”, he threw the rock as far as he could but it did not reach the water.  He winced slightly in pain and stared at his failed effort.  I woke up.

Everything was a javelin.  He had taken his own existence and reduced it down to one thing.  Nothing else mattered.  Farther, stronger, better.  These were the ways that he was judging himself.   It was not that he was on a path of progress that would get him to: farther, stronger, better but rather that those were metrics.

Measuring yourself by metrics is not always a negative thing.  There are all kinds of things that we can use to quantify aspects of our lives: grades, weight, time, distance and many others.  The issue comes from using those measurements as a punishment device rather than a measuring stick.  Dissatisfaction with where you are because it is not where you’ll be is a recipe for disaster.  The process of living is just that, a process.  Each step has inherent value as it leads you toward your destination or destiny.  To devalue the step because it is not the destination is devaluing the destination.  Because in the end you have sacrificed all of those steps for a moment.  The joy of accomplishment is compounded when the process is enjoyed.

So go out there today and pursue something that you love.  But pursue it with the joy of a child chasing a butterfly, not the angst of a man paying his taxes.  Most of life is the process, so enjoy it!

Pete

self-reliance, Uncategorized

Small Time Heroes

GrootMarvel and DC have had a long term duopoly on the Super Hero.  They’ve got teenagers bitten by radioactive spiders all the way to a billionaire orphan vigilante.  These characters have been cultural mainstays for decades with their popularity reaching a crescendo at the moment with big budget movies.  These heroes capture the imagination because of their exceptional abilities.  Each has their personal foibles but in the end the world depends on them to put things right in extreme situations.

There are two problems with the Super Hero though.  First, the world is very rarely in the kind of peril that requires Super Heroes.  Second, they’re not real!  Even the Super Heroes, with no super powers whatsoever, bend all kinds of rules of reality.  So if we don’t have those big problems and these individuals don’t exist, why are we so obsessed?

It is really quite simple.  Super Heroes are a distraction.  A way for us to be let off of the hook.  Since I’m not able to do anything EXTRAordinary, I only need to do the ordinary.  Being a hero is just too far out of reach because I don’t have a magical hammer, futuristic body armor or a utility belt.  It’s just me!  What can I do?

You can be a small time hero!  You just need to do a little more than the ordinary person and that by definition makes you EXTRAordinary.  Be a little kinder.  Be a little more resilient.  Be a little more intelligent.  Love your family a little more.  BUT what difference will that make?  Almost none.

UNTIL a few people around you catch on.  Then it has the possibility of developing super power.  Because small time heroes stacking up their little powers together becomes a force multiplier.  It’s not particularly easy!  Nor is it blockbuster movie worthy but it really is the only way.  Super Heroes are not coming!  The people in “power” generally worry about two things: keeping the power they have and leveraging it to their own ends.  So it is up to us, the small time heroes to save the world from………us!  Go suit up!

Have a great day!
Pete

 

 

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Soccer’s Hate Triangle

Huryk-LukeWith the World Cup only a week away, the passion of nations is about to be put on display for the world to see.  The line between ecstasy and exasperation will be measured in moments and inches rather than hours and yards.  Preparations for this spectacle have been going on for years because for most of us, it is just that big of a deal.  Soccer truly is its own religion.  The problem, however, is the same as it is with most religions.  When people care that much about something, they tend to leave their ability to reason at the door.  Passion trumps perspective and people lose sight of what is TRULY important.  This is extremely evident in soccer’s hate triangle*.

HateTriangleThis past weekend at my son’s game, it became evident that there are a lot of negative feelings swirling around the soccer fields these days.  There is obviously plenty of excitement and passion to go around but the negative feelings are also ubiquitous.  Most of the time these feelings are directed at a particular group of people involved.  Every game has the potential to become a powder keg as tempers (both expressed and unexpressed) flare up.  Three groups represent the biggest sources of animosity and project it outward toward one or both of the others.  Coaches, Parents and Referees are the adults surrounding a game.  While stuck in the middle are the young people that the game is supposed to be for.  Obviously not every parent, coach or referee has these negative feelings toward the other groups but it is so ever-present that most kids are affected.

So in the name of the children that we are supposed to be helping navigate this game and life, here are some suggestions on how to break the hate triangle:

Walk a mile – It’s so extremely easy be an expert on something that you’ve never done.  Perspective is a game changer.  So if you’re a parent or coach who regularly finds fault with referees, sign up for a course or volunteer to “referee” a scrimmage game within your club.  These simple actions can give you the perspective of the other party.  Empathy is a key component to breaking down the walls between opposed people.  One of the best ways to cultivate empathy is through a different experience.

Communicate only when emotion is low – Do your best not to say (or scream) what you’re thinking in that heated moment.  Pause and wait for a time when you and the other party are calm to discuss situations.

Remember people – More than likely you’re not dealing with the reincarnation of Genghis Khan.  This person is not a demon.  They are another human that has a family, friends and a job.  It’s easier to judge someone else as bad based on one moment of their life.  While I’m sure that you’ve handled every situation of your life perfectly, it might not be fair or helpful to hold everyone to a standard of perfection.

Be a person you’d like to meet – If the roles were reversed, would you want to deal with you?  Putting the best version of yourself forward gives an example for the other side to live up to.  At bare minimum in these tumultuous times, people might not show you their best side.  You should never lower yourself to become a person that you don’t like.

These are not the only strategies but they’re a start.  In the end we need to remember every single weekend that the World Cup is most likely not at stake in the game that we’re involved with.  Something more important is.  The future of how our young people relate to one another is being formed at every moment.  How many more generations do we want to keep in soccer’s hate* triangle?

Break the cycle!

Pete

*(I use the word hate on purpose.  It is more to describe the depth of feeling rather than pervasiveness of that feeling.)

self-reliance, Uncategorized

Choosing the Bench

BenchIt’s such a common conversation that in each instance, I really need to work to not get fired up.  A player (or a parent) will complain to me about the fact that their coach is not playing them for __insert reason here____.  Usually it is some combination of “playing favorites” or “doesn’t know what he/she is doing”.  The reason why these conversations are so difficult is that the player almost invariably refuses to see that they are choosing the bench.  That sentence and the title of this post must sound ridiculous but I’ll do my best to make my argument for its accuracy.

The player who is complaining about playing time is almost always ignoring the fact that they have control over the key component to their PT, themselves.  When people don’t get what they want, the easiest thing to do is  blame someone else or circumstances.  While this is the easiest thing to do, it rarely has positive results.  In these situations of complaint, I usually direct the player’s attention to how much extra time they’re putting into their skills, fitness, tactical awareness, relationship with key players, etc.  Upon asking about these things, I usually get a blank stare or a halfhearted explanation of their “extra” work.

In all of my years of playing and coaching, I’ve never met a coach who kept talent on the bench without a reason.  Therefore the equation of playing time becomes quite a simple one.  GET SO GOOD THAT YOU CAN’T BE IGNORED!  The truth of most of these situations is that the player only wants to do enough to get what they want.  They do not truly want the playing time because if they did, they’d be doing all of the work to get it and a ton extra.  The obstacle of the coach is just an excuse for them not to do the work.

“Thumbs before fingers!” has been a mantra of mine for years.  It simply states that you need to acknowledge your contribution to any challenge before you blame someone else.  By seeing your faults first, you have the power to change them.  If you ignore the fact that you have any fault, you become powerless.  You are completely at the mercy of the person or situation.  So I implore you!  Don’t put yourself on the bench!  Become so good that you can’t be ignored!  Give so much effort that the coach has to feel guilty about taking you off the field!  Then other people can talk about you being “the coach’s favorite” but you’ll know the truth of how hard you worked to get there.

Go get your goal today!

Pete

self-reliance, Uncategorized

Desire for Perpetual Triage

ERUnless you are brought to the hospital in an ambulance, the first place that you visit is triage.  It’s the station where the severity of your injury or illness is determined in order to prioritize treatment.  Broken bones take precedent over upset stomachs and so on.  People who can wait, often do, for long periods of time in the waiting room.  However no one stays in triage for very long.  Once your situation is determined, it is time to move on to get the help that you need or wait your turn.  Triage is not an outcome!

This is so apparent when dealing with a medical emergency.  No one would forego seeing the doctor so that they could stay with the triage nurse longer to describe their situation.  However when it comes to our lives, many of us seem to desire eternal triage.  Describing the horrible situation that we are in with excruciating detail to friends, family, classmates, coworkers and even strangers.  Rather than doing something about the situation that we lament, we pile on more and more description.  The unfortunate thing is that many people seem to want to turn their paper-cut into a shotgun wound.  This situation is at the forefront today because it is Monday.  A day that many people dread because it is just too far away from the weekend.  Does this day carry with it any particular issue?  No, it is just the story that we’ve made up in our heads.

So here we are at the door to the emergency room.  What are you going to do today?  Spend the entire day describing your issues to the triage nurse in order to make your headache seem like a stroke.  Or check yourself for bullet holes and if you need real help, go get it.  Or most likely, you can handle this on your own/with the help of those close to you.  Describing the problem with more clarity is rarely the answer.  Moving forward takes action, no matter how small.  Clawing your way toward a destination is far better than hoping it will be attracted by the sound of your complaints!

Today is an opportunity, not a punishment!

Pete

self-reliance, Uncategorized

Dropping the D Bomb

YodaSome people get very offended by particular four letter words.  Others use them so much that they cease to have any power whatsoever.  Despite their semi-taboo nature, the things that they represent are quite common place.  The teeth of the matter can be taken out by substituting a word.  It’s the word that makes it vulgar and repellent.

By contrast, the word “DO” has almost no connotation whatsoever.  It shows up in so many contexts that its meaning is somewhat of an afterthought.  When it’s not holding up space at the beginning of a question, do implies some form of action.  Therein lies the problem with this seemingly insignificant word.  People are not afraid of the word, they’re afraid of what it represents.  ACTION that will take them out of their comfort zone or cause them to face their inadequacies.  Do may only have half the characters of the four letter words but it has ten times the bite.  People are paralyzed by their do’s.

So just like the foul mouthed people who drop the F bomb way too much, the key to reducing the potency of something is to increase the frequency.  DO until you’re not afraid to do anymore.  Give it a shot!  Try!  (That’s right Yoda, I said TRY!  Go F#%$ yourself.)  Succeeding/Failing do not matter anywhere near as much as the feeling that you have about who you are when you unshackle yourself from fear.

DO today!

Pete

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Walking the Dog of Life

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Photo taken while walking my dog this morning.

Life can often feel a lot like walking a dog.  You’re getting pulled forward by a force that you only partially control.  All the while, you’re carrying bag of crap that you’ve picked up along the way.  If you don’t ever look up and enjoy the scenery, this can feel like a huge chore.  However if you’re able keep what you’re doing in perspective, it can be a truly enjoyable way to pass the time.

Have a great day!

Pete