With anything you do in life, you have to give yourself an honest assessment in order to grow. Honest assessments come from self-reflection and then implementation.
The struggle of assessing your game can take your game to another level and will be a tool you can use to your advantage. As a player, I want to share with you all of my experiences so you know that ups and downs will happen while you play. People that can analyze where theyre and implement a plan can see success in the game.
Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a professional soccer player. I knew this was something I wanted to do for a very long time, and would do anything to make it a reality. I thought that all I had to do was work hard in practice, play well in games, and that would be enough to be successful.
This was a flawed since of reality and it took me a long time to fix this state and become an honest player. This flawed reality occurred because I thought I was better than I was. When you think youre better than you are, you cant see what you can improve on.
It took me to get cut from the Olympic Development Program (ODP) to really change how I approached Soccer. I was 13 years old playing up a year on the 87 Illinois state team. This was an amazing accomplishment because in my head, Im excelling against older players. That year I worked my tail off to because I wanted to make the Region II ODP team. When youre young you look through a small lens and think this is success.
I end up not making the team and not feeling bad. The reason I didnt feel bad was because I made excuses for myself. I blamed everyone. I blamed coaches and said Ill clearly make the team next year because Ill be playing against kids my age. A year passes and here I was again, at camp trying to make the 88 Regional team. They called names by state and once again my name wasnt called. What hurt even more was the 88 Regional coach was a coach at the club I player for (Chicago Magic).
I was sad, and frustrated. I cried and did not know why I didnt make the team. I made every excuse, again, in the book about why I didnt make the team. I played out so many scenarios in my head to try and find solace. I didnt find it for a while and it affected my game for months. Once again, I based my success on making this team, and because I didnt make the team, I was a failure.
It took my parents having a stern, but honest, talk with me. When youre young it is tough to hear stuff that isnt the most positive. Youre at a fragile age and you cant fully grasp receiving feedback because it feels like youre being attacked.
My parents did a good job of letting me know that you didnt make the team, and thats fine, but you cant continue to feel sorry for yourself. You have to take the good with the bad and learn from this moment. They told me to always remember this moment, and use it as motivation to go after your goals. You cant blame others for your misfortunes because that will paralyze you from doing anything successful in your life. You have to go out there and get it. You have to understand what youre trying to achieve by being honest with yourself to see if youre on the right path.
After that talk, I slowly changed my outlook on the game and how I approached life. From this point on, I would be honest with my Soccer ability. I would now work even harder than before. I would never get complacent because that would get me back to a sunken place I didnt want to be in ever again. This revelation was what got me to playing college soccer for one of the best programs in the nation, playing for youth national teams, and ultimately being a professional soccer player
I do want to let you know that to this day, I still fail, and I fail often. The only difference now is Im conscious with what Im doing and why Im doing. I know that even though it didnt work out this time, this is a situation to learn and continue to grow and change your habits.
So, here are the 5 things you have to ask yourself when deciding if youre on the right path!
1. Are you open to criticism/feedback
Criticism and feedback is why the elite athletes excel. Messi and Ronaldo are arguably the best two players of all time. They do incredible things on the field and it is amazing to watch them. These players miss PKs, they lose games, and they arent always playing to the best of their abilities. They understand that there is always work to be done, so they consistently are looking for ways to be better, and they never make excuses. You have to adopt this mindset into your game so you dont become complacent like I did. Initially this might not feel the best, but it is for the best. Ask your coaches what you can improve on and how to go about that.
2. Are you being honest with yourself?
Honesty is the best policy and it has been a mantra for how I live my life. I want to be honest with myself so Im not going through life living a lie. You dont need to feel sorry for yourself, like I said, Use every situation as a learning moment. Focus on the positive in every situation. If you are very one footed, be honest with yourself and work on a way to change that. If you know you arent the best defender, let it be known and find ways to become better and mapping a plan.
3. Are you still making excuses?
Are you like me and making excuses to why you didnt score goals, or why you didnt make the team? If you are, you need to start adopting habits of someone who doesnt make excuses. A book that can help you form great habits is by Charles Duhigg entitled, Power of Habit. The book dives into the intricacies of the body and mind, and explains what is needed to form strong habits in your everyday life!
4. Are you working when no one is watching?
Remember, someone is working while you sleep. So if you want to be the best you have to adopt a mindset of never being out worked. Remember that there are things that you can control, so there should never be a reason that you dont work hard and have a positive attitude.
5. Remember to also focus on the good you do!
It is easy to say the things you could have done better, and things that flat out werent good enough. I do appreciate when players are honest with themselves, but it can be a detriment to your game if you are careful. So reminds yourself if the great things you do on the field so youll have some confidence while playing. Confidence is key and I want you to have the confidence to be the best player you can be.
It isnt going to be easy, and any thing worth something is worth putting in the work to be great! I hope you take the necessary steps to have your dreams become reality!