At a certain point too much of something becomes its opposite. The drug that could save your life becomes poison. Too much time and attention from a significant other, no longer feels warm and fuzzy, it feels weird and creepy. The key to keeping this from happening is to keep from overdosing on something. At the moment, if I’m being honest, I’m LIKED out.
Growing up in the ’80s and the “Vally Girl” movement, you would have thought that it would have happened earlier. However it is only recently that the word like has become so pervasive that it feels like its opposite. No longer do I want to ‘like’ anything because it feels meaningless, a throw away compliment because it’s time to move onto the next thing. Perhaps it is time to dismiss the notion of ‘liking’ every thing that you like and only ‘like’ the things that you love. By putting this plan into action, it reduces the number of ‘likes’ to go around. Only the truly special will be donned with this moniker.
In life our most precious resource is our time. If all we do is like the time that we spend on this earth, then maybe we should hold out for more loves rather than drowning in likes. They might take some more effort to find but at least everything won’t feel like different flavors of vanilla.
It has been said many times that soccer is a “religion”. While this may be taken as an exaggeration or possibly a slight against religion, there is reason to take the claim with a certain amount of seriousness. Although the sport does not call for the fealty to a superhuman controlling power, it could be considered a form of faith and worship. Routinely throughout the year, people flock by the thousands to sport cathedrals to have their faith tested by the team of their choosing. Much like a religion, an individual must decide to keep believing in the face of conflict. Although the teams, managers and players are the facilitators, it is actually the mass’s belief in the sport itself that makes it most like a religion.
The belief structure of soccer is not something that is written in a holy book but there are some universals that are worth mentioning as they relate heavily to life.
You’re never fully in control. Although the ball can be “possessed” by anyone on the field, that possession is tenuous at best. Even the goalkeeper has a time limit on their ability to hold the ball.
Progress and protection must be balanced. Even the most forward thinking teams recognize the need for a form of balance. Those who do not recognize the need for balance pay the price eventually.
No one can stand alone. Even the best players in history needed a supporting cast in order to be successful. Much like life, the individual is part of a larger whole and therefore is dependent on others.
There are many ways to meet your aims. Style of play, formations, personnel and other components are merely ingredients to an eventual product. The path does not always follow the plan or the map but actually doing is the key.
The tools may be finite but the possibilities are infinite. Each player has a finite number of tools to use but their ability to respond to the situation with those tools is what brings people back repeatedly.
These are not commandments or any form of religious doctrine but rather a few ideas that are inherent to the game. It is because of these ideas and many more that the game of soccer is so universally beloved. It mirrors life in so many ways that the people who love it may not even realize the overlaps. The game encapsulates in ninety minutes (or thereabouts) the struggle of what it means to be alive. Collectively and individually we are all caught in a struggle and the game is an available guidepost to help us along the road.
Things were different before the internet. There’s just no denying it. I told a group of young people recently about how we used to caravan to soccer games. Most of the group of parents would meet at a predetermined spot and follow each other to the location of the game. It may seem ridiculous by the modern day standard. Ten cars following each other down the highway to reach a youth soccer game. That was just how things were done. The positive side was that we combined cars a lot. People would ride together. One of my best friends from that time came from the fact that his mother didn’t like to drive on highways. So he and his mother would ride with us. So even though it’s not how we do it now, it had its virtues.
The convenience of the GPS has made for less people getting lost but we’ve lost our sense of people. The chance to become part of a clan that travels together has dwindled. We are a species that has historically worked together in order to reach our greatest heights. Will we find the convenience to be a consolation for traveling alone on the road? It’s not particularly how fast we get there. It is a question of whether or not we got there well. Bringing people together is a key to our survival. Let’s find ourselves by coming together.
It 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!
Today my son’s game had an extremely good referee group. The center referee and his two linesmen called the game very well. Despite the fact that they did a great job and got the majority of the calls right (even the ones that went against my son’s team), there were still complaints from parents. Which made me wonder if people really have any idea what makes for a good referee or if they just want calls to go in their team’s favor? Here are some thoughts to consider.
The level matters – Recognize that the job of a referee changes as the age and the level of play changes. At the lowest levels, the referee is part of a learning process. Their job is more about managing the understanding of the game rather than calling “fouls”. Often the sidelines are complaining about things that are poor body control and not actually a foul. The higher levels require much more reading of the flow of the game. A good referee will identify possible problems developing in the play. Their use of cards, advantage, player discussions and fouls called/not called will depend largely upon their reading of the game and individual’s roles within in it. So as you are watching a game, give some thought as to the level of soccer being played and what the referee’s role truly is at that level.
Perspective matters – By design, referees are intended to be a neutral third party at the game. So they are not carrying the bias that most of us bring to the game. Their decisions are based upon what they see and not what they feel. This creates another issue for most fans because their vantage point is completely different from that of the referee’s. So it is not only possible but actually completely accurate to say that fans and referees have seen a different game. Most of the time this is done with no instant replay, no VAR with different camera angles. This is done live with twenty two players running in all directions and possibly screening the view. Despite these major obstacles, perfection is the standard that many expect.
The Laws are the Laws – A good referee will call the game based on the laws of the game, not public perception of what the laws are. There are many things that are commonly shouted from fans or even coaches about things that do not apply to the Laws of the game. “Winning the ball” for example does not make a player immune from having a foul called against them. If the play is deemed to be reckless, then a foul is appropriate regardless of who won the ball. A large number of players, fans and coaches have only a cursory knowledge of the Laws that are based more on hearsay rather than actual study.
Obviously this is just a small sample but each is worth considering. The game requires referees and the good ones need to be identified, praised and promoted. I fear that many people involved in the soccer world would not be able to identify a good referee if they saw one. That is unfortunate because that means that people are unable to see past their own desires. Most of the soccer played in this country is youth soccer. Therefore the majority of children are getting a skewed view of right and wrong. Right means in my favor and wrong means anything else. The ability to be objective could be lost.
I 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!
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
Our concept of time is messed up to a certain extent. Not the measurement of time. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc. are effective units to use for measuring time. It is our relationship with it that may be in need of a revamp. Perhaps I am only speaking for myself but I generally don’t think that I’m so unique to have a completely new thought. Time is something that in our younger years we waste so often it is as if we believe that there is an infinite supply for us. Then as we get older, we lament its passing, wishing that we had some of that wasted time back. It seems that the only people who truly grasp the limited resource which they have are the people who have a brush with their own mortality. There are a multitude of stories including George Lucas, Franck Ribery and so many others who gained clarity from a near death experience.
For me, I was too young. Too young to remember and I never got the lesson. When I was two and a half, I had meningitis. I almost died. Despite knowing this story since I was a kid, it never really sunk in that I was working with borrowed time. At this moment I am forty one years into a lease on a life that easily could have passed by already. So what does one do with this realization, even if it comes extremely late? Like so many things in this world, the first thing is most likely to be grateful. None of us is owed anything in the world. So gratitude for all that has sprung out of that borrowed time is the most natural course. Then comes the projection forward. If you’re playing with house money, do you play it conservative only betting on the best odds? Or do you look for some long shots that would pay off big because let’s face it you were supposed to be cashed out long ago? I’m sure that you had a gut feeling about what you would tell me to do. The question is can you follow your own advice?
We’re all living on borrowed time. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve beaten a terminal disease or been healthy as a horse since birth. It’s not completely up to us when we cash out. So with that little bit of clarity from your gut, you need to decide, what are you doing with the chips that you have today? There’s no particularly wrong answer, just an answer that’s right for you.
Our beliefs tend to color or almost define our worlds. The thoughts that we hold most dear are the filters through which we cyphon our experiences and produce meaning. Recognizing this would make one think that people would be deliberate in the creation of their beliefs. Unfortunately this is rarely true. People’s beliefs are often a mismatch of heritage and circumstances. This haphazard approach is bound to lead to disaster more often than not. I’m not here to offer a complete belief system but rather one small sample: Soccer Karma!
I’m a huge believer in soccer karma. It is a term that I may have coined (or stolen, not sure!). The concept is simple. On the soccer field, if you give a good ball, you’re going to get a good ball. Meaning that if you give a quality pass to a teammate, they’re going to give you a quality one back. This is of course, not completely accurate. It’s completely possible that you give a good ball and get a crap one back! This is true. However the belief matters more than the reality. If I believe that my intent is going to have positive returns, I’m more likely to put effort in that direction. That effort will eventually influence those around me, especially if we all believe the same thing. This belief acts a ratchet that brings positive returns.
For years now, I’ve been professing the positives of this belief system. While I know that it has paid dividends for my players and teams on the field, my hope has always been that the metaphors of our sport are not lost on those who play it. The moment that we step off of the field, we are being released out into a larger venue with bigger stakes and uncertain scoring. Regardless of that, the belief system can be applied with equal effectiveness. If enough of us believe in it, then we truly can make life “a beautiful game”.
It was many years ago but I’ve still not encountered a better example. I was the field marshal at a youth tournament in Pennsylvania. The players were under twelve years old and engaged in a very back and forth game. One team was extremely adept at the offside trap. Late in the game, there was a corner kick. The cross was cleared out of the penalty box and the defense pushed up. The ball fell to the foot of a offensive player about 30 yards from goal. He shot. The ball rocketed toward the goal and hit the post. The rebound fell to a forward who was slow getting back onside and he scored. The referee instantly called offside and awarded a free kick to the defense. The coach of the team that had the goal disallowed went ballistic. He screamed about how “ridiculous” the call was and asked about the referees sight, etc. As the field marshal I felt that it was my job to diffuse the situation in order to avoid it interfering with the game. I said, “Coach, if you’d like, I can explain to you why that was the right call.” He responded, “I know it was the right call! I’m just blowing off some steam.”
In most cases, soccer is not a life or death situation. It’s a passion, diversion, recreation, fun or even a teacher. The game has the possibility to do so many things because it garners the emotions of the people around it. There is nothing inherently wrong with emotion. We need them to live and color our lives. However emotion without any sense of reason is problematic. The word was chosen very deliberately. REASON! The reason why we’re there in the first place gets lost when we cannot control our emotions. Referees become demons. Opponents become enemies and sense of our self-interest overrides the judgment that we use elsewhere. This is not so much of a problem when it is a single person. However it seems to have become a societal norm.
The steam that so many people are letting off is clouding our vision. The ability to see what is right in front of our faces. Children. Children who are looking at us for how to act. Not just on a soccer field on Saturdays or Sundays but in their daily lives. When something doesn’t go their way, they’re supposed to have an emotion freak out session because that’s what you do. You don’t take a breath and refocus on the task at hand. You don’t see the bigger picture. You don’t recognize that human error is part of life and needs to be coped with. Those things aren’t done because they’re hard. They require effort, judgement and self-control. These skills are difficult to develop, especially when you’re a child, watching the adults act like children.
So don’t breathe in the steam, just breathe! Recognize that the children on the field have spent hours this week trying to improve their skills in order to perform for you. Put your focus on that. Double, triple or quadruple your focus on the fact that these are kids, trying to do something that is difficult. AND DIFFICULT THINGS ARE THE ONLY ONES WORTH PURSUING! So don’t produce steam, produce esteem for what everyone on that field is trying to do.