Over the years, I’ve claimed that I’m not “obsessed” with Peterborough United. Like so many _____aholics, I’m in at least partial denial about my addiction. Since our form has been poor for much of the season and goals have been lacking, I find myself desiring a bit of help from the football gods. When one of our players streaks forward, I find myself shouting “get in the box” to people on a computer screen who can’t hear me from across the ocean. Perhaps someone out there can relate. It’s not that I want my team to dive in order to get the penalty. I just know that the opportunity is there for an “easy road” to a goal. Torn by the desire for a score but not wanting the dive either.
The easy road mentality is one that we all adopt in different amounts. Lottery ticket buyers, crash diet enthusiasts and overnight success seekers are just the extreme versions of a person that we’ve all been in small or large quantities. We’ve all wanted the big reward for the least amount of effort before. There is nothing particularly wrong with it. It’s a natural inclination but it just cannot become an overarching strategy. The person or team that is relying on something for almost nothing will find that cash cow dead sooner rather than later.
Since I know that this type of thinking is not a long term strategy, my belief is that my team will start finding the net from open play regularly. When those lucky breaks come, I won’t lament them but I know that we cannot rely on them. The plan needs to be more than hope in this world. Hope is not a strategy! Even as a feeling, it seems a little flimsy to me. Hope feels almost desperate and passive. Belief is much more positive and proactive. Despite the positive connotations though, belief is not enough.
Once you believe, you need to act. Take the feedback that the world gives you and adjust. There is not one way to break down an opposing team or get to a personal goal. Literally thousands or even millions are possible but you need to find one. Once you find success, you can build upon it. Here in lies the problem of relying on the penalty. It requires other people’s input that is less than reliable. So believe in yourself enough to create your own results. The “easy road” is there but it doesn’t make you better. It makes you dependent.
My distaste for Man City the club has been stated before but that’s not really what this is about. The second season of Ted Lasso had a great episode that did a masterful job of slaloming through stereotypes of male behavior and some of their antitheses. My love for this show is well documented but this is one time where the message hits a little deeper than the positivity that Ted disperses so willingly. Men are shown being the worst versions of ourselves while other moments are almost aspirational about what we could be. If you’ve not watched the series or the episode, there are spoilers below, so hop to it before you read farther or just deal.
Although Ted is the namesake of the show, several characters step up in this emotional episode. Jamie Tartt’s strained relationship with his father is one of the main storylines. Jamie’s need for a positive father figure was set up in the first season and put on full display in this episode. Although his father is an extreme version of a stereotype, he conjures the feelings that many of us men have had. The desire to make our father proud while also seeing their faults as we grow older. It is never as simple as a TV show must make a situation but all of the markers are there. The dynamic between fathers and sons is often strained due to the desire for independence and the inherent factor of emulation. Through the influence of Ted and Tartt’s own experience, Jamie sees his father’s negatives and begins to move in a different direction. Eventually he literally fights against his father’s way. At that moment, he is distraught, feeling the weight of what has just happened. Roy Kent, who usually puts forth a caveman-like persona, shows empathy and understanding by hugging his former rival. It’s a scene that jumps right out of a Brené Brown Ted Talk. Vulnerability is a superpower that men do not always employ.
Following along the vulnerability track, Ted opens up to his staff about the fact that a panic attack and not food poisoning had him running for the locker room in the Tottenham match. Each man in the group admits to something that he’s been holding back for some time. Ted’s vulnerability is seen as an opportunity by Nate who uses what he’s learned to expose and undercut Ted. This is the fear that most men have about vulnerability. It leaves us open to enemies, detractors and the like. The problem with this fear is that it is completely accurate. People can take advantage of a situation and many do. It’s a short term game but it works to their advantage enough to make it enticing. There is a balance to be struck here. Putting on the facade of invulnerability is an overall losing strategy. However, being vulnerable with everyone has its own perils that should definitely be avoided. It’s more art than science, like so many things.
Although Nate hasn’t fully shown his true colors in this episode, we get glimpses of the fact that he is employing a “fingers before thumbs” mentality which is the exact opposite of what I suggest regularly. Nate wants to blame others for anything and everything. He claims that he wants to be in charge. However, he lacks the mental fortitude to accept criticism when things go poorly despite wanting praise when they go well. His newly found power and fame make him into a bully who regularly victimizes people that he views as weaker. The willingness to see one’s own faults is a strength that needs to be developed over time. A mirror can be a powerful tool provided that it is not turned into a weapon used to self-flagellate. Another art of manhood is knowing when to point the thumb at one’s self before resorting to the finger. It’s more than likely that it will be employed incorrectly at times but my preference is always to find my faults before I start looking for others’.
Despite my dislike for Man City, the club, I am very happy with Man City, the episode. It brings to the forefront a discussion of modern roles of masculinity. By no means does it develop a definitive set of directives. However, it does juxtapose antiquated stereotypes with newer ideals. Being a man in a modern world can be a bit confusing. The messaging that is thrown at us from the past, present and future can sound like white noise. In the end, we need to see our responsibility to ourselves and those around us.
Almost everyone is interested in winning championships. It’s a special feeling to realize that type of dream. I’ve done it several times in my playing and coaching careers. The most important thing about winning championships is that you cannot focus on getting the trophy. The trophy is merely a symbol and what it represents is far more important than the metal, wood and plastic. The symbol represents the willingness to prepare on a higher level than most and the fortitude to put a performance on the field at the key moments. In all of the championships that I’ve won, I’ve never been conflicted about winning even though I know that in most cases we were not the “best team”. We were just the best team on that particular day. That is nothing to be concerned by. Managing the moment is just as important as high level preparation but let’s begin with preparation.
To prepare for a championship run, an individual or team needs to put themselves through more than they think they will encounter. A projection must be made about what a championship performance would look like. Then preparation must be done to endure that and more. Working backward from the projected championship, the road should be broken into sections. Perhaps months or weeks, those chunks of time should have a goal or marker. Each one of those periods then needs to be broken down to the daily. Then broken down again into the hourly. Then broken down again to the moment. When you get your preparation down to the moment level, you’ll need to develop your ethos or principles. You most likely won’t want to script your actions down to the moment but as you look at all that is in front of you, what are the beliefs and mindset that will aid you and propel you toward your championship run. Before you can become a champion, you need to think like a champion. Not about the person who has won the trophy but rather the person capable of winning on every single occasion. Developing a belief system that will spur you on at the difficult times. That will keep you grounded when success comes your way. These “commandments” do not come down from a higher power but come from you and what you value most. Just recognize that these beliefs need to be in line with the level of your ambition. Leading with belief is key to any grand success. Chasing an unknown future requires a belief so strong that it will not be broken by the mundane or the difficult. Every day something will be required in your pursuit that you will not want to do. Doing those things in spite of your feelings is a key indicator to whether or not you’ll make it. Oh yeah! That’s the gamble! You need to be willing to do all of this work with the knowledge that you might fail. It’s possible that you’ll put in all of the work, prepare to your utmost and still come up short. Can you live with that? I often jokingly say to groups “When the going gets tough, give up!” For some people, actually quite possibly most people, this is the perfect advice for what they want. They don’t want things to be hard. So giving up is the perfect answer to their problem. Don’t do the hard things, only do enough to meet the most minimum requirements. Talk is cheap and doesn’t get you very far (ironic coming from someone who make a living giving speeches). The statement is true however. Words can be powerful but they will always come up short in propelling you forward without some form of action. So take those beliefs and hone them, develop them. “I quit when the reps are done, not when they hurt.” These little types of statements will calcify your belief system if they are repeated over and over then followed up with action. A statement like the one above means nothing coming from someone perched on a couch watching Netflix. It means something from the person drenched in sweat and gasping for air.
Your championship level is also something that you should consider. Perhaps your championship is not a championship at all at the moment. Perhaps it’s winning one game or scoring a goal. The idea is not the trophy or the position in a ranking but more about who you become as a person or group. The moment will fade. The memory may not even be permanent but the person that you become from the experience will move forward into the world better prepared to take future steps.
“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” – Oscar Wilde
There are many people who would push back on me suggesting that soccer is an art form. That’s completely fine! A bunch of paint splatters or a urinal hung in a museum are not my cup of tea either. Given that art is subjective and mediums have change through time, I don’t think that I’m out of line to call the beautiful game, ART. Some of the best actors do not read from a script. Musicians jam and vamp with their bandmates far from the notes that are on the page. So in my estimation, a group of eleven people trying to find rhythm from chaos is a form of ballet as much as it is a sport. Whether you buy into my belief or not, at bare minimum, you understand where I’m coming from.
Now let me take it back to the Oscar Wilde quote. Other people can dissect his words in any way that they like. For me, the idea that life imitates art comes from the fact that artists take their medium to extremes. Generally, life is not an extreme sport. In the beginning, humans needed to be conservative with their actions because our survival depended upon it. Even though there were cave paintings, they weren’t of spaceships or a flying squirrel suit. They showed hunters going after an animal. The art was in line or one step ahead of the time but it gave others something to imitate. As we progressed forward, the media of arts expanded and gave expression to the order of the day as well as more extreme ideas. Did the myths about the gods come about to explain them or give people license to emulate them?
Now that I’ve taken you through my thought process, I believe that our world is in distress due to our art. It’s not as simple as Tipper Gore would have liked. Her labels on explicit albums did not change the releasing of the art that she disliked. She simply made it taboo and therefore more desirable. Since the art that I care about is soccer, I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole. I am concerned about the artists on the field.
Soccer is called “the beautiful game” because it is a glory to behold when it is in its natural state. Eleven people trying to get the ball into the goal of the other team while defending their own. A match can have the highs and lows of a great symphony and all of the drama of a Greek tragedy. There is no lack of opportunity to raise the emotional experience to the heights that only artists can. An actor can give an audience chills when they personify a moment so perfectly with their earnestness. Unfortunately the hack actor can also nauseate an audience by faking it, not being true to the role and using tricks to skate by. It’s sad to see but that’s where we are. Players looking to game the system for the outcome rather than earnestly trying to get the result through their art. None of this is new and I know that my short musing about it will change little.
However, I truly believe that the flopping, diving and play acting has affected the world because soccer is art. Therefore, this writing, which is also an art form, could help to counteract it. A pebble in the pond, no doubt but I hope that it will ripple. If the artists who are playing at the highest level were to give up the hack tactics for a short time, would it change everything? Would kids stop flopping and taking the easy way? Would government officials stop taking shortcuts that hurt the people in their care? Would life again imitate art as it has so many times through history? I don’t know! I’d like to believe that it could. The problem is that so many things have become a business and art is a gift! So hopefully, some of the artists on the field can remember that they are making art to give to the world and it’s more than just the result. We’re all watching to be inspired toward our future selves. If you make “hack art” we’ll believe that that is en vogue. BUT if you give the gift of true expression with earnest effort, we’ll reflect that back as well.
I place the blame squarely on my own shoulders. So far this season, I’ve only been able to watch four matches and two have been POSH wins. My lack of commitment is a leading factor in the poor form. While I say this all in jest, people link results to a variety of factors which represent correlation and not causation. The away form is troubling and so are the goals in quick succession. Both are a symptom of an underlying problem that is easy to spot but more difficult to correct. Fergie put it very plainly in his post match interview. There is a lack of belief within the team that gets exacerbated away from home and when the team concede.
While it is simple enough to identify a lack of belief, it’s more difficult to correct considering all contributing factors. In order to have a squad that can withstand the workload, injuries and the level of the Championship; there needs to be competition at every single position. It is an absolute necessity but it creates circumstances where a player’s position within the team is always in question. As professional athletes, this is part of the job but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
If it were just the uncertainty of the position, there probably would not be such a grand issue at the moment. However each player must also internally wrestle with the question of whether or not, they are “Championship standard.” Obviously all of the members of the squad are eligible to play in the Championship because it is the league where the POSH are now. However there is a difference between being a Championship player and feeling like you belong at that level. Hopefully the players are smart enough to avoid looking at social media or player rating. That level of scrutiny is difficult to bear. Fans, pundits and journalists have the right to rate or not rate a player. It doesn’t mean that it’s helpful. Keeping one’s mentality straight with daggers being pulled for any play that is not up to snuff.
Finally the pressure of survival. This is one of the reasons that I’ve been a firm proponent of aiming higher than survival. Having taught for many years, I know that the individual who is just looking to pass will never get an A. The one who is willing to put in the work with high expectations will do far better than the bare minimum. Survival is not riding on every kick of the ball or even every match. It just feels that way and that feeling doesn’t help. The increased pressure produces anxiety that does not improve performance.
It’s simple enough to just say “get on with it.” These players are professional athletes who signed up for this pressure. True! However, any fan, pundit or journalist can tell you that a striker in the Championship needs to be more clinical because the number of chances are fewer and more difficult. So a player will train to improve their finishing skills. It’s necessary to perform at this level. How much training have players gotten on their mindset? Belief? Self-talk? Visualization?
I’m sure there has been some but if this truly is the missing component to success then it needs to be a core component to the training. A striker who is not putting shots on frame would not be told to just figure it out. There’s too much at stake. Each player would be different. Depending on their personality types, learning styles and modality preferences; they would need to develop skills to help them put legs under the “table” of their belief. For now they seem to be able to believe at home. That’s something! Unfortunately that does not scratch the true potential of this squad. They can make a real dent in this league but they need to believe it to their core. For now, they are waiting for the results to give them belief. That’s actually reverse of what needs to happen. Belief is a skill that they need to hone.
Up the POSH! I’ll do my part. I’m positive the players can do theirs.
“I got the ball!” is the exclamation of many players after they’ve been called for a foul. This phrase represents a separation between the actual Laws of the Game and the common misconceptions about what they say. Nowhere in the laws does it say that a player’s contact with the ball makes something a foul or not. It does however refer to careless and reckless behavior. That is the standard by which a referee must determine a foul, not contact with the ball.
This type of misconception is not exclusive to fouls in soccer. It is represented in a variety of other areas where we should really know better but we try to justify our careless and reckless behavior with a qualifier. “He hit me first!” “I don’t usually do this type of thing.” “My parents used to….. so I can.” “It’s not against the law.” “No one is watching.” If we were to truly look at our actions with an objective eye, we can see the folly. However we stack up these “got ball” excuses to make it easier to exist as a lesser version of ourselves. We don’t want to admit that life is going to demand a higher standard than makes us comfortable. It’s easier to fall to the level of what “everyone else” is doing.
This is not a finger wagging session from a pedestal of superiority. Quite the opposite! It’s an admission of my lower self in soccer and life. Telling the players on my TV to “just get in the box!” in the hopes of a soft penalty. All of the other areas of my life where I’ve not held myself to that higher standard because it was inconvenient, time consuming or I just didn’t want to! We’ve all been careless or reckless at one point or another. Now we have another chance to decide if we will continue or not. The game is not over! You’re probably not even at halftime yet. Make a change in order to play a better game. I need to as well.
Formations in soccer are popular solution to game time problems. Often one formation or another is viewed as a cure-all but in reality, they are mainly aimed at defining responsibility. Soccer is such a fluid game that very rarely after the first whistle will the alignment of players look like a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. The positions morph to respond to the moment. It is completely possible in a moment of crisis that all eleven players could be called upon to defend in their own box. We don’t call that a 1-10 because generally those players responding to the crisis have a role that is at least partially defined by their position in the formation. If you never told a striker that they were playing that position, it’s conceivable that they spend all of their time defending in their own box.
One of the many jobs that a coach has is to align the team in a fashion that will lead to success. Perhaps that will mean crawling into a defensive shell, initiating an all out attack or finding a balance. Each of us must do the same thing within our own lives. Decide on a strategy that moves us toward our goals and protects against conceding our self-esteem. And the people that surround us are also part of that equation. Some are on our team while others are opponents to our cause. Putting the right people into positions that will help move you forward and protect you as well is important. Obviously I can’t do this for you but the suggestions below may help you begin to decide if people are in the right positions or not.
Your goalkeeper: This should be someone who will defend you with everything that they have. Depending on your station in life, this may be your parents or spouse. I wouldn’t normally put a best friend in this position. The reason why is that you don’t usually want your last line of defense to also be constantly helping to move you forward as well. However this is your team. You may do as you see fit.
Your backs: Similar to the goalkeeper, these people are interested mostly in your protection. The difference is that they are also part of your progress forward. Family, friends and possibly selected colleagues who truly have your back. There’s no perfect number to delineate their responsibility but 75% defense and 25% attack would be reasonable. So these people are invested in your protection more than your progress forward, REMEMBER THIS!!! It becomes important later.
Your midfield: These are people who are half protection and half defense. Again, friends and family are the most likely to make up this group. However there are plenty of sections to your life that may produce people to help in this area. Work colleagues may be helping to push you forward, possibly even a boss who sees potential in you. Personally in the past, significant others were almost always a catalyst for improvement, either personally or professionally.
Your forwards: This is the group that is most likely to help you to achieve (score) your goals. This may be the most diverse group. It is possible that you don’t even need to know these people. Inspiration to get you close to your goals can come from anywhere: books, podcasts, videos, speaking events. However the people that we’ve mentioned before could also play this role. It all comes down to who it is best equipped to help you in this area.
Your formation: Depending on where you are in your life, you may be playing defensive or offensive. It may also be a different strategy depending on the portion of your life that you’re considering. Regardless, it’s worth considering the roles of each person. Some people may need to be put on the bench. Others may need to become more important players. Remember that your team isn’t the only one that is playing. You can have direct or indirect opponents. Some will show up in places that you wouldn’t expect.
Opponents: These are the people who are looking to take shots at your self-esteem or just thwart you from achieving your goals. They might be “enemies” but more often than not they are people that you probably thought of as we worked through your teammate list. Remember the people who were 75% protection. Although they have your best interest in mind, they may be trying to protect you from going beyond their comfort zone and not yours. It’s worth considering the fact that the line between teammate and opponent could get pretty blurry at times. The most difficult opponent to get past is usually yourself. You know your fears and weaknesses. So it easy for you to stand in your own way at times.
As the coach of your life, it is up to you to get the right people in the right positions on your team. It’s also your job to read the opponent and change the game plan to get around them. None of this is easy! Especially when we’re not talking about getting a ball into a net but rather our lives. Regardless of whether it is easy or not, it’s necessary. Surrounding yourself with the right people and having them serve the right roles in your life is important. Only you can make those decisions though. Find your formation but don’t fall in love with it. It needs to be adjusted when necessary.
As a player, I slowly moved from the front to the back in terms of position. Originally I was a forward or wing (playing in a 2-3-5). As a player in men’s leagues, I was usually center back. If I weren’t horrible at it, I probably would have ended up in the net at some point. This progression was not surprising. When I was young, I was pretty fast but eventually my most prominent skill was my ability to talk. Center backs and goalkeepers have some of the best views of the field. Therefore it is their job to help organize everyone in front of them. A perfect use for my big mouth! If it weren’t for my height, I probably always should have been playing in the back because it fits with my personal ethos to help people.
Recently I had been thinking about all of the overlaps that find and point out between soccer and life. My intention behind this exercise is always to help the people in front of me (literally or virtually). Despite the fact that it is a transformed version of a negative American Football term, I’d like to use it as a positive. I’d like to be a “Monday Morning Center Back.” Rather than someone who second guesses your mistakes after you’ve made them. The point would be to help people to be ready for the week going forward.
Monday has gotten a bad rap because people are living for the weekend. Generally they want to “survive” 5 out of the 7 days of the week. I get it! But it’s also a pretty big waste of time. Finding the joy in the mundane is a skill that needs to be developed. Otherwise the source of our joy is dependent on circumstances beyond our control. During my time as a garbage man, I developed this skill out of necessity. Eight hours in the heat of the summer, throwing trash into the truck while smelling horrible and encountering maggots and other fun things. I had so much fun! Literally, I found a variety of different ways to enjoy the job and the time. The first time that I conceived of writing a book was on that truck and I “wrote” much of it inside my head during that time. So whatever you’re doing on a regular basis, it is probably not maggot infested. Make the best of it because this time is all that you get. Don’t give away 5 out of your 7 days without a fight.
Now that I have the concept inside of my head, be on the lookout for more Monday Morning Center Back ideas. I’m here to help and I’ll try blogging, videos, podcasts in order to see what sticks. Have a great week! Yes I realize that it’s Wednesday but hey, nobody’s perfect!
As the Euros are on at the moment, there is plenty of buzz around different players. The value of a player can go up or down massively during a tournament like this. Some stars are born out of these circumstances and others that have shown bright in the past fade. Gareth Bale used to be worth nearly 100 million pounds. Now his market value is around 19 million. Is he one fifth the player that he used to be? Probably not, his chipping has definitely improved! Haha! But seriously, a player’s value is not a fixed thing, nor is it ever completely accurate. It is based on many perceived factors including consistency and potential. No one can see what tomorrow will bring but those who guess right consistently enough, create value for their clubs.
Luckily for the past decade and a half, the POSH have had a relatively consistent combination of a gambler and a teacher who have maximized player value. This season that value is no longer going to help finance the club’s future young starlets. It is going to pay the rent for a year in the Championship. While the POSH haven’t done any transfer business yet this summer, the core of their promotion winning side is intact. This side’s fate will depend largely on the “dynamic duo” of DMac and Fergie to do what they have for so many years, see value where others don’t and improve it.
Although it’s easy say after the fact, that Boyd, Gayle, and Toney were “destined” to be great, no one can ever truly say. The order of the moment is to believe. Consistently through the years, the DMac/Fergie combination have delivered results. Although the Championship is a different level, lessons have been learned and the course is clear. There is nothing magical about the Championship. No one has a divine right to play there but there are teams that it’s almost a given that they are going to stay up. The bookies know who they are, that’s how they set the odds. However they have made a slight error in setting the POSH at 15/8 to get relegated. They are discounting the gambler and the teacher. The track record of turning potential into POSH should not be overlooked. Perhaps it’s for the best though. Long odds can create strong mentality of belief in teams and individuals. Us against the world is an idea that can be sold because people who are undervalued have something to prove. This season is all about the things that POSH does well. Finding diamonds in the rough and getting them to shine for all to see. Patience.
There are many things that can be considered “unsporting behavior” within the game of soccer. However I believe that the one that encompasses them all most concisely is “Shows a lack of respect for the game.” Whether it is a reckless foul or attempting to deceive the referee, all situations that can be characterized as unsporting behavior show some level of disrespect toward the game. Generally speaking most people tend to respect the game at levels that allow for the game to move forward. If too many people disrespect the game, there is no continuity and possibly, not enough players left to make the game worth playing.
This situation almost never happens. Games are infrequently abandoned due to a high number of players being dismissed. It would be counterproductive. Players inherently want to play. So excessive disrespect to the game is not in their best interest. Even implementors of “anti-football” had to recognize that the more egregious their actions, the more they gambled with the tactic backfiring. Stifling the opposition can be a team’s undoing if they take it too far.
Taking a step back from the rectangular field with lines and focusing on the spherical one with continents. The same logic seems to fit. A lack of respect for the game is counterproductive and can stifle us all. The problem in the bigger game comes from the fact that not everyone is aimed at the same goals, each person has their own set of rules and mostly people referee themselves. So a lack of respect is even more subjective than in a soccer game. Playing within the rules can get frustrating when confronted with opponents who seemingly have no rules. Your goals and ambitions may be nothing more than trash to other players in the game. Therefore many people end up disillusioned or overwhelmed by the world. The game of life was never set up to be fair, equitable, convenient nor consistent. So as the player, it is important to decide how you are going to play the game and the rules that you’ll live by.
From time to time, it may be necessary to revamp your personal “laws of the game.” However you should not adopt someone else’s just because it’s popular, easier or more convenient. Your laws need to match who you are and where you want to go. The feeling of being aligned with these components is worth the difficulty of defining them. Playing the game in a fashion that makes you miserable is probably not ideal. So be as deliberate as you can defining your goals and laws of the game. That way you can hold yourself accountable for unsporting behavior. Almost no other referees are watching. So you need to be.