[THE PITCH: Blog 26] If you follow my blogs then you already know that, pretty much, I have nothing in life figured out. I don’t know exactly who I aspire
to be, nor do I understand fully who I am right now. I'm trying to flush out the ways of the world, but I know that, at this point in my life, I will not find all the answers. My every day is a search
and struggle to better myself, and much of the value and pleasure in my life can be found simply in that pursuit.
To borrow the words of Tracy Chapman… “At this point in my life I’d like to live as if only love mattered … As if the search to live honestly, was all that anyone needs no matter if you find it.”
As much as I hold firmly to this stance, constantly striving for progress can get both arduous and vexing … especially as a fotbollspelare … especially 22 games into a 36-game-marathon season. So, for me, this week I'm thinking about putting the joy back into the game.
I used to think of “fun” and “achievement” as two coveted but mutually exclusive aspects of life. Like two sides on a teeter-totter, it is almost impossible to find an equilibrium. In high school, I would weigh out the “fun” -- prom, boys and other diversions -- against things I knew could help me find soccer success. Fun was a temptation I had to resist in order to succeed. The problem with this balancing ideology is that it suggests a zero sum game: if one rises, the other will fall in exact proportion. However, in the last year, I have begun to appreciate a different correlation between fun and success -- a linear one. So, I've jumped off the teeter-totter and have decided to stroll through the park … and football is teaching me how to utilize both the elements of fun and achievement to positively affect each other.
|From September 13, 2012|
I’ve become aware of the root of this relationship on the field. It is present in my demeanor most obviously after I score. Suddenly, I’m smiling. I’m encouraging. I’m bubbling up inside ... and … I’m communicating. I’m moving. I’m connected and sharp. When I watch film, I can actually see myself come alive on the field after I score. First I’m happy, then I play better. Then I’m happier since I’m playing better. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of joy and success, a cycle generating enough power to send me spinning into “the zone.”
So how can I use this understanding to my advantage? Is it possible to guide myself to this joyful and effective state with intention? While there are so many subtle and intangible aspects to playing a solid game of football, enjoying the game ... my team ... each moment, is something I can absolutely control. Focus on the fun, and let the success come? Much easier said, then done. Sometimes obstacles can get in the way. Hmm…
In the past, if I hit the crossbar or post, I have been inevitably unable to convert the rest of my shots during that game. Hitting the post infuriates me! Maybe it’s silly, but the difference of an inch determining the outcome of a game, a season, or a championship seems ridiculous to me! This negative thought does not always come to fruition, but it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is an example of a time where I can use my a focus-on-the-fun mentality to actually help me achieve more success. Instead of slipping into the lonely silence of my raging mind, thwarting all future chances to score, I can feed off the excitement of the moment ... the crowd's gasp ... the keepers look of terror ... and smile!
They say you play like you practice so you must practice like you want to play. So, in honor of fun week, and with the help of my long-time friend Nima, I went this week on a day off and just “kicked it.” No stopwatch, no counting reps, no drills… I actually spent half my time on the field as a keeper, as he shot on me in his sneakers. In full Swedish form, it started torrentially down pouring on our heads, which seemed to make the whole scene ludicrous. While in the past I might not consider this as a time spent helping me grow as a player, I am beginning to believe… or at least hope… that these moments, do indeed, enhance my life, and improve my game!
In my first blog I wrote: It seems that soccer is a microcosm of life. The skills I’ve honed over the 20 years of my soccer career concerning technique, tactics, group dynamics, and training have simultaneously taught me about autonomy, confidence, problem solving, perseverance and the pursuit of happiness. Again and again, I am reminded that soccer is, simply put, “the game of life."
Six months later, the words ring even more true, if that’s possible! I’ve allowed my game to help me grow as a person, and, in turn, my life experiences have facilitated my growth as a player. So as I try my best to focus on fun during each match, I will continue to do the same off the pitch, with the glistening assurance that this will lead me to more successful relationships, accomplishments, and ultimately more happiness!
Last weekend we traveled to Stockholm to play Djurgården, the league’s last-place team. While it may seem like this would be a “no-worries” game … we had traveled two weeks ago to Stockholm to play the league’s second-to-last-place team and lost. Unfortunately, this team likes to re-live our past failings right before we play: “We never do well on grass…” or, “This was the stadium we lost the league title last year…” So our stumble two weeks ago was not put behind us.
The match was a far cry from the excitement of our previous two matches: beating Malmö to earn a birth in the Swedish Cup final and then winning 9v11 with a field player in the goal. I was very frustrated with the feeling on the pitch that day. But as my coach Torbjörn Nilsson likes to remind me, a great team knows how to use just enough energy to win a game. And so, playing on 70%, we put up a solid W and snagged three points.
While I understand that perspective from the viewpoint of a coach, as a player, I strive to play at 100 percent every time I lace up my boots. Anything less, win or loss, feels like a failure to me. Maybe I am shooting for the stars, but I believe it is possible to give 100 percent mentally, physically, and, with the right recovery strategies, turn around and give it again next game. That being said, after those frustrating and uninspired games are in the past, it is part of that very recovery process to look back on them in a positive manner. In that light, I will remember a few positive moments from our match versus Djurgården: 1) Usually, when I am frustrated in a game, I do not finish my chances, but I was able to do so in this match. 2) There was a really fun moment in which, our keeper Krisse punted the ball 65 yards to put me on a run at goal. 3) We are on a four-game win streak! (The best of our season thus far). 4) Our now 15-player squad gets tighter and stronger with every game!
Final: KGFC 2, Djurgården 0