Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Compress The Penalty Area: Anxiety at Both Ends

Whether you’re Christian Pulisic breaking through the lines at Stamford Bridge to score or a U9 goalkeeper defending a corner, the penalty area or 18 yard box can be a place of high anxiety. That’s why the best strikers are worth their weight in gold at the highest levels and goalkeepers who are consistently good play until they’re almost 40 years old. Proximity to the thing that you want or that which you want to defend raises the stakes of the moment. The people who cope with that pressure well are considered special or talented. The truth is that like almost anything else it is a skill that can be trained. Also, the players who cope well have just compressed the penalty area.

A few weeks back I blogged about the relationship between the lines on the field and daily life. There’s also a video but more people read than watched. I guess I need to hire an actor or an editor. Regardless of my video issues, the 18 yard box at each end represents anxiety. At the defensive end, the anxiety linked to something that is going to hurt your self-esteem. It could be anything from fretting about a poor grade on a test, denial of college admission, the negative opinion of a boss or a multitude of other situations that might cause a dip in your self-esteem. Recognize, this isn’t the thing actually happening. It is just the anticipation of it. At the other end it is a similar situation. The 18 yard box represents anxiety around something that you want, a goal of some importance. Again the examples are numerous but a few might be college acceptance, a date with a special someone, a promotion and the list goes on. Notice at both ends, the goal represents the actual event happening. The box just represents the anxiety around it. So I suggest that you compress the box.

The idea that I’m suggesting is that you develop that same skill that world class strikers and keepers have mastered: being calm under pressure. This is not easy!!!! However it is also not impossible. Each of us have a different sized penalty area of anxiety. For some it is the tradition 18 yards. For others, it reaches all the way to the center circle (read about it) or beyond. The people who are best at dealing with their anxiety compress it down to 6 yards or less. How? Like any other time when dealing with emotions, I go back to the triad.

  1. Physiology – The way that you use your body is going to influence how you feel immensely. Breathing is a great place to start. Building a breath practice into your day can be a game changer. Habitual movement patterns are another place where huge changes can be made. Your body sends signals to your brain and vice versa. It is possible to move yourself in and out of emotions. If you’re feeling anxious, how are you using your body? You can train “calm states” into your brain by doing particular movements. It just takes practice. Don’t expect it to just happen.
  2. Focus – The things that you focus on become your reality. In this particular case, I suggest trading anxiety for excitement. It’s not a huge step. Each emotion has the same basic component pieces of anticipation, desire, uncertainty, etc. but excitement drops the negative connotation around the possibilities. I can hear you now, “That’s great when going to goal (a positive) but what about when I’m anxious about something bad about to happen.” Excitement can still work because just like the field, being under life pressure allows for acres of space to move forward after the crisis. Once this attack has subsided, the event will have happened or not. At that point, you can move forward with renewed possibility. There is also value in reframing the situation. It is more than likely that you are not going to die from this situation. So actually deal with the worst case scenario mentally. If this bad thing happened, how could you get past it with letting it damage your self-esteem?
  3. Inner Dialogue – The words that we say to ourselves inside of our own head are extremely important. I just finished Trevor Moawad’s book “It Takes What It Takes” and his points about neutral thinking could be game changing for many people. However one of the key things that he talks about is not saying negative things out loud. Although I suggest working on your focus, everyone has messed up thoughts from time to time. It is crucial that you don’t say those things out loud because saying it amplifies the message to your brain by 7 to 10 times. Keep those negative thoughts out of your mouth!

None of these things are easy but they can be practiced and therefore improved. Compress your penalty area as small as you can. That way no matter what comes at you, the ability to stay calm will be at your fingertips. The astronauts who are thrust into space go through all kinds of training on keeping their wits about them in pressure situations. Their lives truly do depend on keeping an even keel. Most likely you’re dealing with something that you’ve seen in the past and you can handle it!

Make it great people!

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.

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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

These Joyous Means May Not Have Soccer Ends

I was asked about the use of certain “games” in the US with young soccer players such as Stuck in the Mud, Red Light Green Light or Shark and Minnows. The thoughts below do not represent an in depth study of the situation, these are just “thoughts.”

The Strider or Balance Bike is a product that was created to help kids learn how to balance and steer without the additional concern of using pedals. Although it is not a “real bike,” it can make the process of learning balance more joyous than the use/removal of training wheels. Despite training wheels being used for generations, it may inhibit the actual desired outcome. The learner’s reliance on the training wheels keeps them from learning how to counter steer which means they must almost “relearn” how to ride. Finally the strider bike can also be used as a learning tool largely independently from direct supervision. A child learning to balance on a standard bike requires help from someone. Children are not small adults. Their needs are quite different but in the beginning, the strider bike was derided because it wasn’t a “real bike.”

Kids need to enjoy what they are doing. As they begin playing soccer, FUN is paramount to their desire to continue playing. Most players in the US do not grow up in a house where soccer is reinforced as a “way of life.” It is an organized activity that they are introduced to as part of some programming. For their parents, it can be a form of exercise for the child or even a cheap “childcare.” Although youth programs exist throughout the world, there is also cultural norm of individual or “street play.” Games like the ones listed above are intended to create a fun environment to learn skills. Elsewhere in the world, the development of skills is part of a cultural ratchet that values skill acquisition. Often through “unorganized” play, peer groups will create an environment where fun and skill acquisition go hand in hand.

Danny Rojas from Ted Lasso loving the game for all that it is!

There is nothing inherently wrong with playing fun games like Sharks and Minnows with young players. Much like using training wheels, it is a viable strategy. It can add fun to soccer for kids who are not already invested in the game. The issue is that many kids/parents are looking for a fun activity rather than specifically soccer fun. Therefore a disconnect happens when, “it’s just not fun anymore.” This can happen at any point in a player’s development. Learning to play chess, the flute, basketball, monopoly, etc. are worthwhile pursuits for young people. Only a small number of people will make it a lifelong pursuit.

Being honest with ourselves about why we are doing something is a crucial component to any endeavor. Playing monopoly with a 6 year old in order to instill a love of real estate investment is a strategy. However at some point the real thing doesn’t match up with the game. That first encounter is most likely not going to be the crucial component to a lifelong love. There will be milestones along the way that will either add or subtract to the child’s love for the activity. Having kids dip their carrots in ranch dressing is fine but at a certain point, the carrots need to stand on their own.

For me, soccer is a lifelong passion that speaks to me on a variety of levels. For some of my childhood friends, it is a game that they used to play when they were a kid. We spent years with undereducated coaches doing many poorly thought out drills by modern pedagogical standards. They did the best that they could with what they knew and got at least one lifelong convert. The strider bike may be the best possible way to get the intended objective but the training wheels still work. Neither guarantee that a kid will grow up to love bike riding.

The game is all about people. While I’m all for best practices, curricula and methodology; they do not guarantee anything. A kid needs to enjoy what they are doing enough to continue. More than likely, they need to see others enjoying that same thing. So if you are a coach, display your joy for the game! While we all might love soccer, joy is happiness that kids can see. That’s worth more than any activity that you’ll ever run for any age group!

“Football is life!” – Danny Rojas from Ted Lasso

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

The Lasso Way: Being You First

I am a Ted Lasso super fan. Anyone who has had a conversation longer than ten minutes with me over the past two months has been told to watch the show. Somehow Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt and Bill Lawrence created the perfect TV show for me. At this point, I’ve watched each episode at least five times and I’m probably lowballing that number. Despite my love for the content, I’m not going to just sing the praises of the show. I’m focused on the biggest takeaway from the show.

The outside of my laptop. I’m a little obsessed.

Although it is in essence a sitcom, Ted Lasso works on a variety of levels. Laughs are intermingled with possible tears and new vocabulary. While the origins of the Ted Lasso character come from a commercial where he leads with stupidity, the show’s main character leads with caring and empathy. Despite being out of his depth in his job, he is (usually) unapologetically himself. This is a refreshing characteristic to find. In a world where so many people are in a constant state of posturing for their audience, being yourself seems to be a lost art in many ways. Accepting others seems to almost be easier.

The oddities, faults and curiosities that other people carry can be easily overlooked because “it’s not me.” Unfortunately being ourselves is often difficult because the court of public opinion is open 24/7/365 these days. It can be exhausting to maintain a public persona that is different from who you truly are. This tactic also erodes self-esteem over time because it’s hard to “esteem” someone that you’re hiding from the world.

Now this is not an excuse to have an Ally Sheedy in Breakfast Club moment and dump your metaphorical purse into the world’s lap. It is however a call to feel comfortable in your own skin. Live in at least a mental existence where who you are is OK. Then share that person that you most want to be with your world first. Your world is not the world. It’s the people that you love and trust. By doing those experiments at home first, you’ll get a sense of how you come across to other people. Again this is not a call for no filters but rather a bit more honesty. One of my favorite public figures, Tom Bilyeu, admits quite openly that he wants to be a Jedi. Not a lightsaber wielding spaceman but an influencer of people’s minds. That idea or dream of being something outside of the norm is uncomfortable for most of us. However admitting who we are, what we want and how important things are to us is a crucial piece of our development as people. Otherwise we’re a dancer in a Gap commercial. Not dancing for joy but because it’s a job. Not wearing khakis because we love them because that’s the costume.

So here is my public admission. I want to be the team psychologist for Peterborough United. The ridiculousness of this aspiration is not lost upon me. At the moment, I don’t have any of the credentials that a team might require. I’m an American who has mainly coached at the high school and college level. Much like Ted Lasso, I may be in over my head for that job. That doesn’t mean that I need to give up or apologize or lie about my desire to other people or especially myself. Perhaps I’m a fool to believe in this dream but I’d rather be the star in my own sitcom where I’m the butt of many jokes rather than a background character in a Gap commercial where I’m indistinguishable from anyone else.

So start inside your own head. Get comfortable in that skin of yours. It’s not going anywhere and neither are the basics of who you are. You’re not a background dancer. You’re a star! Shine for the people around you!

Be you!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

POSH Need a New Drug

I wrote this before the announcement of the postponements but figured I’d post anyway.

With Peterborough being reclassified as a tier 3 area before this weekend’s fixture, it takes away the fans as an influence on the match. Although POSH were able to go on a long unbeaten streak without fans earlier this season, some performances lacked the energy and commitment that will be required to continue their climb up the table. There is definitely not a lack of talent within the squad. It basically comes down to the emotional/mental state of the players at game time. Ferguson and the players have proven that they can play with energy from the first whistle. Unfortunately the government has sucker punched the POSH (and all clubs) by taking away the fans that just got back to the ground. This undesired circumstance forces the POSH to find a “new drug.”

Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, I’m not talking about any illegal substances. Everything that human beings do, we do in order to produce or reduce some form of feeling. These feelings are caused by chemicals (drugs) inside of our brains/bodies. The good feelings that are produced during a football match by players and fans are generally from four chemicals: endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. My post “Soccer is not a zero sum game” outlines these in greater detail.

Regarding the POSH situation, it has been suggested that the team and some players in particular thrive off of the crowd. This is most likely due to a rush of serotonin. It is the chemical that causes several feelings but in particular it is responsible for the feelings of pride and status. In normal seasons, this is a perfectly appropriate feeling to chase as a footballer. Even at away fixtures, there would normally be handful of fans who would cheer on the players giving them a quasi-hero status. In COVID times, that pursuit has been taken away and it is difficult to say when it will be back. While I recognize that this is an opportunity to get angry at an outside entity that has taken something away from the boys in blue (or pink depending on the day), it may not be the best answer on its own. A healthy dose of oxytocin is the drug that I’m suggesting.

My son and I at London Road. Oxytocin creating moment.

Oxytocin is the chemical that we would normally associate with “love.” A large amount of oxytocin is released during childbirth in order to create a connection between mother and child. This is probably a little more “touchy feely” than footballers would probably prefer to be. So the recognition that similar types of oxytocin filled bonds can be made between soldiers at war or friends with a close relationship. Due to the fact that thousands of fans will not be there to cheer on the successes of the players, they need to double or triple down on each other. The Sammie and Frankie show was born out of friendship. Those feelings need to transfer to the field and spread throughout the squad. Each member of the squad needs to celebrate the success of his teammate as a success that he takes part in. This shared feeling of accomplishment and desire for the good of everyone needs to become an “addiction.”

While I am a huge proponent of the positive, there is a power to the dark side of our emotions. The problem is that anger and other emotions like it become corrosive if they are overused. So my major suggestion is to triple down on connecting with each other but leveraging the power of the negative situation could be useful in spirts. Even though it is not fully true, taking the view that the government and EFL are both against POSH and their fans gives extra juice and unites the group even more. El Presidente named this the “Revenge” tour which goes in line with this perspective although it may lean a bit too much toward a victim’s mentality. My slant would be that this is the “Confirmation Tour.” Confirming the idea that POSH were truly on the promotion trajectory when the season was ended. Other teams are on their own journey confirming the reverse.

So if fans continue to be kept away, it is vital that the players leverage the unity within the group to confirm who they are: the best squad in the division. The obstacles that are thrown in front of all of us need to become the path that we trend. Lamenting and complaining only create an emotion barrier to overcome. Embrace the obstacles and help each other climb over them. They are not impediments to be feared. They are the staircase that leads to the top!

Up the POSH!

Pete

P.S. Had to link this at the bottom. “I want a new drug!”

Blogpost, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

Formation Isn’t Everything

Having grown up in the relative infancy of soccer in the US, the information that I had about the game came directly from my coaches. Soccer was not readily available on TV like it is today. Therefore the switch from a 2-3-5 to a 4-4-2 seemed less like a change in tactics and more like a change in coaches or seasons. As the game has progressed over the past few decades, there are more formations available than ever. Players and coaches have their preferences on how to organize their teams. The function of a formation is not to directly solve problems. It is to provide a structure of standard operating procedures for a team. Therefore players can recognize patterns and hopefully create openings within their opponents defense. While this is a completely necessary portion of a team’s strategy, it does not solve all problems nor does it always represent the best use of talent.

While none of us is running a “4-4-2 life,” it is important to have some form of organization to the way that you attack your day. Leaving things up to chance is a great way to end up getting nothing meaningful done. Coaches will generally have two or possibly three formations that they will use in order to attack a particular opponent’s weaknesses. This is probably a helpful guiding principle for organizing your days. In general you want to have in mind whether you are attacking the day or defending in order to counter. If you look at each activity that you do as a player, then how have you aligned yourself. Are you completely defensive? Only doing the things that protect the status quo that you’ve set up for yourself. Or are you mainly offensive? Using all of your time to move yourself forward in some way: financially, socially, mentally, spiritually or in your career. The way that you allot your time is going to tell you something about intentions. Are you actually playing the game that you want to be? Are you trying to win it or hoping not to lose? Is your formation completely dependent upon your “opponent”?

Just like in the game, formations are necessary for organization and strategy but what happens in transition is usually the difference between winning and losing. The way that a team deals with things when their plans fall apart is crucial to their overall success. Those moments in between all of the planned activities. How are they spent? If you’ve invested time and effort into working out but then undercut that forward motion by snacking in transition, your formation becomes almost meaningless. While some people might use this as an excuse for more organization and formation, my preference is toward principles and defining goals.

In a game of soccer, the goal is always the same. However in life, our goals can cover a wide range of possibilities. At any given moment, I would try to limit yourself to three unless you have more that can truly coexist without interfering with one another. Build your principles around the goals that you have for yourself. If your major goal revolves around health and fitness, then set up principles that align with your desired outcome. Decide what you are going to do in chaotic situations before they come up. By developing principles ahead of time, it is less likely that a chaotic moment will devolve into negative consequences. Life is a game that you can win with the right formation and principles about how to deal with transition. Set yourself up and then ATTACK! Or defend, it’s really up to you!

Make a great day!

Pete

Many people refer to soccer as a “religion” and while I see where they are coming from, I use it as a metaphor for life. It can be used in a variety of ways to bring clarity to a world that can be difficult to traverse. My co-author and I are working on a book that uses soccer to explain person finance. If you’re interested in getting details as the project develops, sign up below.

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Szmodics Can’t Outrun This Defender

Let me start by saying, that I am a huge Sammie Szmodics fan! Not just for his play on the field but the way he seems to conduct himself outside of the game. Last season he seemed to pop up in a variety fans’ Twitter or Instagram feeds, not just posing for a picture but also engaging on a personal level. It was great to see and I was ecstatic when it was announced that he was coming back. Thus far he has not lived up to the expectations that many people (including him) have had. While I’ve seen it suggested that he will be fine once he scores a few more goals, the ingredients are there for the goals to have gone in already. So I believe there is something more to cope with.

Last season Sammie came in as a breath of fresh air to replace the Maddison circus as it left town. Despite the high hopes for him, there was no pressure. It was a loan, not a long term signing. Ivan was scoring for fun and therefore he drew defenders’ attention. Sammie also had “something to prove” because he had been sitting on the bench for Bristol for the first half of the season. All of these circumstances gave him the perfect platform to be a smashing success with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

This time around the situation is completely different and Sammie is struggling with the opponent inside at the moment. The pressure of being a highly sought after signing is a far cry from replacing a team cancer. Expectations from fans, management and especially Sammie himself have put an invisible cover on the goal. Obviously there is not a cover on the goal itself but rather an obstacle inside of his own head. The pressure of not scoring regularly causes him to overthink things that just flowed last season.

The thing is that he has probably scored hundreds maybe thousands of times in more difficult circumstances in the past. The myelin* is there to repeat past positive performances. His amygdala** is firing off fear signals in those crucial moments because this year means more. If he misses, then was Bristol right to let him go? Is he worth the investment? Was it all just Ivan’s influence last season? We all do this in pressure situations with our own personal story.

At this moment, Sammie and a few other players need to change the story that is going on inside of their head. The chances to score are not any more difficult. The money, outside pressures or situations do not change one’s ability to kick the ball in that moment. The narrative that we all tell ourselves affects how we perform and we can control that. Creating a new story inside of his own head about what he has to do in order to be “successful” is a key action. Separating himself from the expectation will give him the freedom to be exactly who he is. Rehearsing his future successes in his mind will open the pathway to better performance and remove the cover from the goal.

Whether he does these actions explicitly or time allows for the pressure to subside will eventually play itself out. Sammie is quality player who has had a small dip in form that will be worked out. He just can’t outrun this defender because it is the one that is matching him step for step everywhere he goes. I wish him nothing but the best in this battle. It is the one that we are all fighting and it’s never completely won!

Up the POSH

Pete

*Myelin is an insulating layer or covering that allows electrical impulses within the brain to travel more quickly and efficiently. The more times that an action or thought is repeated, the more that the myelin insulates that neural pathway.

**Amygdala is an almond shaped structure within the brain that produces several base emotions like fear and is linked with the “fight or flight” response.