Tag Archives: sports

The Latest Version

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

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

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

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

Upgrade today!

Pete

The Javelin Thrower

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

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

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

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

Pete

Soccer’s Hate Triangle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Break the cycle!

Pete

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

Choosing the Bench

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

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

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

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

Go get your goal today!

Pete

Bubbles and Boxes

BubblesMan has created several “boxes” to travel in. They have been created to make certain types of travel quicker and safer. The most literal box is the elevator. It makes travel between floors of a building faster. In the beginning there was danger of cables breaking or other malfunctions but elevators have become ever faster and safer over the years. We have several other boxes, which gain in speed and safety as we pass through time: the car, the train, the airplane and the list goes on. Traveling in boxes has become a way of life for most people. We depend upon them heavily.

As we progress further into the modern world, we seem to desire for all things to be safe and efficient. We sanitize everything to protect us from unseen germs. Our laws call for the use of helmets, belts and harnesses. Parents do their best to keep their kids from all kinds of harm by watching their every move. Some schools don’t give an F as a grade because it might hurt a child’s self esteem. It is almost as if people want a bubble to protect them from any kind of danger.

The problem with bubble living is that it takes away our humanity. All things worth having involve some form of risk. I’m not a thrill seeker by any stretch of the imagination. So I’m not talking about life and death risk but rather the risk of failure, discomfort or embarrassment. It is only when we take those chances that we are truly alive. Trees were not created with elevators because you need to chance the fall in order make the climb. Only in the climbing do we find out what we are truly capable of. Look for the people who stretch beyond comfort and safety, you will find the people that you admire most. Look for the people who live inside “the bubble” of safety, decide if they are the model for what you want for your life.  Most likely you’ll want to burst the bubble and get outside the box!

Break out today!

Pete

Oh Captain! My Captain!

captainThe role of a captain can be very important on a soccer team. I say “can be” because on some teams, the captain does nothing more than the coin toss. My perspective is that the captain has a great deal of responsibility and should have certain characteristics that help her to lead.

Job Description: The captain is the liaison between the players and the coach. She is also the “coach on the field”. It is her responsibility to give players direction and keep the team focused on the task at hand. Away from the field, she should represent the team in positive ways. Other players and community members should see the captain as a representative of what all players in the program should strive to be.

Guidelines: There are many ways to lead others. Although I will make several suggestions about how to lead, one key component is that you need to be yourself. You may need to be a better version of yourself, but acting like someone else is not the answer.

  • ·        Arrow to the Action: Inherent to the word leader is the idea of going first. A captain/leader should never ask someone else to do something that they are not willing to do themselves. Captains set the example. If they lead by saying but not doing, they will be found out eventually.
  • ·        We before Me: A captain needs to put the good of the group before the good for herself. The role of captain is one of giving and not receiving. It requires a person who can control their desire for individual recognition. It does not mean that the captain receives no individual attention, but the team comes first and she knows that.
  • ·        The Diplomat: As the liaison between the team and the coach, the captain needs to understand what problems need to be brought to the coach and which need to be handled within the team. She is not a spy or an informant, but a representative that is the voice and ears of the team.

Not all coaches will view the captain in the way that I do, so it will be important to understand the role under your particular coach. It is possible that your coach only wants captains to do the coin toss. If that is the situation, recognize that you can do more. Despite your coach’s view of the role, your teammates may be looking for more from their captain.

If captain is a role that you aspire to hold at some point, look at the leaders that you respect. Take stock of the attributes and actions of those leaders and assimilate the positives into your personality when possible.  Remember something else.  You don’t need the actual title to be a leader.

America Needs to SOCCER!

pulisicMost of the time soccer is a noun but today I’m going to use it as a verb.  Of course when you are creating a new word, it’s important to define it.  Here is my explanation of the term.

The action of “soccering” is not the act of playing soccer.  We already know how to say and do that.  And NO!  It doesn’t mean acting like you’re injured when no one did anything to you.  The action of soccering is the real life application of the virtues that are possessed within the game.  In soccer, players must make real time decisions about what to do, based on the stimuli that they take in from both teammates and opponents in order to achieve the outcomes of simultaneously reaching a goal while defending their own.  The soccer paradigm puts the impetus of decision onto eleven individuals acting as a collective rather than following the pre-scripted orders of an overseer.  Although positioning and style of play may be directed, principles and judgment are the main directors of decisions.

America needs to soccer!  It needs to take back the very impetus that this country was founded upon.  Regular people doing things as a collective that move us all forward and protect us against failing.   We need regular citizens who want to be self-determining within the existing system and help to influence that system.  At the moment we seem to be overwhelmingly passive and extremely willing to look for someone else to be accountable rather than looking to be responsible ourselves.

We can soccer by trying to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.  We can soccer by changing our perspective from a “they” to “we” mentality.  We can soccer by doing the right thing even if we know that no one else will notice but us.  We can soccer by deciding to take a chance on something that might not work, rather than doing it “the way we’ve always done it.”  There are so many ways to soccer but the thing about soccering is that it has to start with you.  You can’t tell someone else to soccer.  You can only show them how by doing it first and being an example.

Below is a long description of the historical paradigms where this thought came from.  If you are inspired to do something right now, then don’t read the bottom, act now, read later.

Why do I believe that America needs to soccer?  The historical successes of the United States have in large part been attributed to a football paradigm.  Land acquisition and forward progress are the hallmarks of the All-American sport.  In the past, both politically and economically, we have pushed forward in the name of progress and it has served us well.  Manifest Destiny is the perfect example. Presidents and other decision-makers laid out a playbook for the American people to score a touchdown on the Pacific coast.  Americans led the charge across the continent through wars and promised economic success, the way football players might listen to a play called from the sidelines.  The Space Race, the Arms Race, the Cold War and Industrial Revolution were all perfectly suited to the football paradigm.  So why change?

The reason for change is that the football paradigm is fundamentally flawed in a few different areas.  The idea of neverending progress is unrealistic.  At some point stock prices level off, profits decline and progress slows and stops.  In a paradigm that preaches forward motion as the truest indicator of success, it is not surprising that we have: insider trading, big CEO bonuses for bailed out companies and strategic layoffs to protect profits.  Individuals, companies and the government have all pushed toward their given marker of success whether it be money, land, power or prestige.  These success markers are not inherently evil or negative but their acquisition without thought to the human equation has created an imbalance in our perspective on success.

There are also the separations in the football paradigm.  The coach is the one who calls the plays.  The offense scores the points and the defense stops the other team.  Although all are members of the same team, it is easy to point the finger at another individual or group when things go wrong.  In the Industrial Revolution this system was completely acceptable.  Henry Ford brought forth the assembly line.  He took men who were making fifty cents per day and paid them five dollars per day because of his efficiency.  People were more than willing to be a cog in that machine because it was a better life than what they expected.  They were linemen but were happy to be that.  Now with modern technology and globalization that deal doesn’t work anymore.  That deal is being shipped overseas and no one wants to be a lineman anymore.  Everyone thinks they’re a quarterback and expects to be paid like one.

America needs to soccer because you’re part of the problem and part of the solution.  You’re on the field.  The decisions that you make on a daily basis matter.  The President, the senator, the governor, your boss, your wife, your children, your friends, your teachers are part of it all but so are you.  So before you point the finger, point the thumb.  What can you do today to SOCCER?

Thanks!

Pete

Lost Too Many To Prioritize Winning

tombstoneI don’t feel comfortable sharing their names as I have not asked for parental permission. Nor would I ask because these people have definitely suffered enough.  In my almost twenty years of coaching, I’ve lost no less than five former players to suicide, drugs/alcohol and avoidable accidents.  This may not be statistically significant to some but it is something that I carry with me always.  In the eyes of many, the job of a coach is to direct an individual or group in technique and tactics in order to win a particular contest.

While this may encapsulate what coaching is for some, I can define coaching in one word: PROGRESS!  When broken down to the molecular level, this is what coaches should be striving for.  The progress of an individual or a group in not only their sport of choice but also as people.  At some levels, progress is measured by winning and it should be.  Professional athletes and coaches are in the business of competition/entertainment.  Their business model is dependent upon the sale of tickets, jerseys, food, etc. and winning is a key ingredient in that equation.  The problem is that the base blocks of the pyramid are not supposed to look like to the top block or “pyramidion”.  Basically 99% of all soccer played in the world is either true recreation or competitive recreation.  The previous statement will probably stick in the craw of many people but this fact should be embraced rather than lamented.

Recreation is the main reason that athletics came to be.  The battlefield was given up for the athletic field, where defeat did not mean death.  Therefore the “vanquished” could improve and RECREATE themselves into a better version.  Progress as an athlete meant facing your shortcomings.  That self-analysis is a skill that overflows into everyday life.  Recognizing one’s own weaknesses is not weakness.  It is actually strength because it allows the individual the possibility of progress.  Pain + Reflection = Progress is a formula coined by Ray Dalio (Bridgewater Associates).  In it lies the secret that so many of us continually overlook.  Failure is a key component to progress.  Those who are unwilling or unable to see their own faults cannot hope to move past them.  Since coaching is about progress and failure is a necessary ingredient to progress, then winning can’t be the point.

Having lost so many former players, I know all too well that the results of today’s game matter little compared to the results of a lifetime.  The point is not to win the game but rather to have a dynasty of days that have been won by moving forward.  So take the long term view with yourself and those that you care about.  Decide that short term wins that lead to long term loss are not in your game plan.  Recreate yourself regularly and recognize that the only person that you’re competing with is you.

Have great day!

Pete

Subtly The Best

MostBestAt one point in history, I’m sure that superlatives meant something.  I surely felt like they did during my childhood.  Michael Jordan was definitely the best player in the NBA.  You didn’t need to shout it louder to make your point.  It could be said softly with a calm assurance that it was accurate.  As the internet has given a voice to every two thumbed animal with a high speed connection, superlative seems to be a game for people who want to yell the loudest.

Since everyone can be heard, the time to say nothing may be here.  Perhaps in the era of communication overload, it is the individual who does and says nothing that will truly stand out.  Rather than doubling down on superlatives and expletives, it might be time to be more subtle.

Today when you go out into the world, do the simple and subtle.  Smile a little more.  Be a little more patient.  Be forgiving to yourself.  Home-runs can win games but so can singles.  If we’re always swinging hard for the fences, we may strikeout on underhand pitches because we’re too jacked up.

The Power of a Poor Start

RockyMy soccer career started on a team called the Orange Crushers. I didn’t know what “irony” was at seven years old but our name epitomized it. We crushed nothing and it seemed as though our purpose in the league was for us to be crushed by others. My memories of that season are a complete blur except for one game. In one of our final games of the season, we won and I scored. I was so glad when it happened. The other team from town, Blue Bombers, was filled with friends and classmates and they were undefeated. So that lone victory was important for me because I’d received some ribbing at school.  Perhaps that lone victory kept me hanging on despite the poor start to my soccer career.

As the years went on, there was a slow dance that went on between winning and I. One year my team would be a success. The next we were knocked back down a peg. By the time I reached my senior year in high school, I had figured out who I was as a player. I was one of the kids who wouldn’t quit. That was my first year as a complete “success”. Conference and County Championships were the first two real trophies that any of my teams had ever won. As I thought back to that team, I realized that not one player from the Blue Bombers remained. They had all stopped playing soccer or switched to other sports.

Knowing how to lose and not quit or to persevere through tough times are skills that you acquire from a poor start. These skills are invaluable because no one maintains success forever. Using memories of our failures as stepping-stones is the way we make a staircase toward our success. The examples of poor starts are woven throughout the history of the United States. Lincoln, Ford and Carnegie are three that instantly pop to mind but one of my favorites from the present day is Stallone.

When Sylvester Stallone sold the script of Rocky, the studio wanted to make the film but with someone else playing Rocky. At the time he was completely broke and refused a series of offers from the studio for hundreds of thousands of dollars. He stuck to his guns. He knew how to survive and live with failure but he saw this film as his one ticket to ultimate success. So with very long odds, he bet on himself and won. I used to watch the Rocky films regularly when I was in high school. Later I learned just how much the movies mirror Stallone’s life. In Rocky Balboa, Rocky tells his son that life is about “how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” My guess is Stallone learned this early and never forgot.

A poor start is not something to be embarrassed about. It is something to be embraced. The power of a poor start comes in the fact that you know where you began is not where you’re going to end. The power of a poor start comes from realizing that failure did not put poison inside you, it put fire inside you. The only negative to a poor start is if you quit and make your start, your end.

It’s ok to start poorly, if you finish strong.

Pete