Blogpost, self-reliance

Just Say It!

One of the more embarrassing moments that I had in high school was during my sophomore year. I did not possess anywhere near the self-confidence that I have today. There was a girl in my grade that I was interested in. I was walking down the hall during class time and serendipitously she was getting things out of her locker. It was just she and I in the hallway. NO ONE ELSE. The moment was perfect for me to strike up a minor conversation. Ask her about homework. Compliment her backpack. Say hello. Any one of those options would have been completely reasonable and probably effective. What did I choose to do? I ran into her with my shoulder as I walked by. We were the only two people in the hall! This was well before everyone had a cellphone, so I was not distracted by technology. I was just an unconfident boy who didn’t know how to get my message across. So I did something that made no sense other than it protected me from telling the truth out-loud.

High School Soccer from Senior Year
It may look foolish now but at the time, we LOVED these jerseys!

These types of situations happen everyday. The question is not whether you’ll have opportunities to act on the things that you want in this world. You absolutely will! More than anything, the question is whether you will succumb to the fear that surrounds that opportunity or will you act? I’ve not done a statistical analysis but anecdotally I can confidently say that I rarely regret acting fully rather than hiding regardless of the result.

Regret is the leftover debris from a losing battle with fear. Sometimes that debris is easy to sweep away because another moment comes to replace it. Other times that regret lasts a lifetime. Being true to yourself and putting efforts out into the world honestly is rarely a mistake in my experience. When we hedge to protect the little coward inside, we actually only make him feel smaller. Not because anything has really happened to us in the real world. It is because in that internal world we live a half life that is strewn with failures and successes but none of them truly happened. So we don’t get to know the truth about what was possible, if we had just given it a shot! Life is meant to be lived. Not dreamt about.

So let me be clear here! This is a call to action for you to push your best self in the direction of the things that you want. Not to be an a$$hole just because you’re being “authentic.” Consider the people around you. Whatever that thing is that is calling you, you may need help or you’ll want to share it or at least have people around to enjoy the time with. The real world does not revolve around you like the internal world does but you need to jump on the train before it passes you by. The opportunities are there. You just need to take them!

Go get ’em!

Pete

P.S. – Just in case you’re wondering, the situation from above is an embarrassing moment, not a major regret on the relationship side. We both ended up where we needed to be.

Blogpost, self-reliance

The Test Is Never Tomorrow

Although I’ve been a teacher for almost two decades, I’m not a huge believer in many of the standard operating procedures that we associate with school. We live in a world with rules and norms that are very different from the ones that we learn in school. This is not an indictment of the education system. There is still a reason for the system to exist and although it could be improved, we don’t seem to be able to agree on how to pivot. My point is actually on a much more personal level. For each and every one of us, the test is never tomorrow. It’s right now.

In school we are usually moving toward some form of informational crescendo where we will have a quiz, test or exam. Eventually we amass enough of these to warrant a graduation or certification. The documents that we accept are a proof of past knowledge. Passing a test on the War of 1812 would be pretty tough at the moment. However we’ve accepted this system to give ourselves titles of high school graduate, bachelor, or PHD. No matter whether we passed with flying colors or barely scraped by, we still hold the title. It is part of our identity and helps to form beliefs about who we are.

Each and every one of us has a variety of identities that we would use to classify ourselves. I’m a father, husband, teacher, coach, blogger, author, speaker, uncle, etc. Depending on the moment, I could be filling any one of those roles. Let’s dissect this, starting from the base and working our way up.

  • When I am being a coach, it’s possible that I’m 100% ignoring my role as an uncle. Does that mean that I’m a horrible uncle? No, just like in school, it’s possible to take multiple classes in order to be “well rounded” while majoring in other things. If I only had one role for myself, that role would get boring quickly.
  • Following along from the point above. Even though diversification of roles is important to stave off boredom, your attitude toward each role is going to usually determine your success more than your aptitude. A soccer player who pours his/her heart and soul into training and matches will often get farther than a similar level one who sees it as drudgery. (Another reason to revamp school)
  • The next step up is that very few of the tests in life are going to be based on extremely predictable information that we are just regurgitating from past situations. We need to interpret new circumstances and apply past knowledge while adapting with changes. It’s almost never multiple choice. Usually it’s multiple intertwined problems that we’ve never seen before and people are watching while we work.
  • Life’s tests are almost always “pop quizzes.” You’re rarely going to know when they are coming up. They are almost never representations of our cumulative knowledge in an area. Little combinations of information and skill are needed to navigate situations. There is almost no way to predict what tests are coming your way and what will be on them. There is no curve and often, you’ll never truly know if you passed or failed.

Life is less like school and more like juggling. You don’t pass or win at juggling. Invariably everything is going to fall down at some point. Some objects that you are trying to keep up will be more fragile or heavy. The only way to get better at juggling is to juggle, to chance the missteps and off balance situations. The performance and the practice are the same exact thing except one has an audience. Ultimately many of the variables can be changed but you are the constant. If you drop everything, it’s on you to pick up the pieces and start again. A teacher can tell you how to be a better juggler but it’s on you to make the throws.

This long post really only has one point. Now and you are all that you have. If you’re not ready for the tests/pins/bowling balls that life is throwing at you, then you need to use this moment to practice for the next time. Don’t expect it to be easy or that you’ll get extra time or extra help. If they come, great but they’re not a given, this isn’t school!

Practice and perform! You can do it!

Pete

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

[mc4wp_form id=”5149″]

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

 

SoccerLifeBalance

Soccer Vision in a Football Town – Evan Weller (Head Coach Phillipsburg High School)

Evan WellerHead Coach, Evan Weller, has been building the soccer program at Phillipsburg High School for the past 16 years.  This conversation highlights some of the components to their success and thoughts beyond the lines of the field.

 

Uncategorized

I’m a punk soccer nerd

breakfast clubHigh school is a tough time for many reasons.  It is a time when young people are looking to solidify their independence from their parents.  At the same time they create new relationships that tend to define those years in so many ways.  It is extremely cliche but generally you are the company that you keep.  That is why cliques and labels become so widespread in high school because it is easier to lump people in with a group rather than take each person as an individual.  With everyone looking to discover who they are, they are not all that interested in finding out who everyone else is.

Perhaps I was fortunate that I had absolutely no idea who I was in high school and became quite comfortable with that fact.  I played soccer and ran track, so despite being athletic I wasn’t considered a “jock”.  My best friends smoked and listened to punk, so they would be considered “burnouts”.  Fortunately I liked the music but didn’t wear the uniform or pick up the bad habits.  My other circle of friends included at least four guys in the top ten of our class.  I got decent grades and loved learning things but refused to join the National Honor Society.  The adjective “normal” was used to describe me once and I took major offense.  At the time, I was just hoping for a better label.

In the end I’m not sure who the labels help more.  Does the label give the outside world a quick grouping system that allows them to dismiss the different?  Or does it give the individual a sense of self because they at least know their classification within the social class structure?

No matter who it helps more, it definitely has more possibility to hurt the individual.  This may not be in the “bullying” sense but rather a surrendering of self.  At this vulnerable time of life and in a society of pre-scripted paths, young people are capable of following to the point of almost non-existence.  They become the persona rather than a person.  None of this is particularly new nor likely to change quickly but in a world of almost infinite choices shouldn’t we be getting closer to being able to choose ourselves?

Let me know what you think.  Click here.

Be you today people!

Pete