Welcome back to the #AskASoccerPro Show! I’ve been having a blast interviewing athletes and learning their mentality and hearing how they handle the pressure and challenges of sports. This week I had the chance to speak with my former teammate and good friend, Mike Magee!
In this episode we cover:
- How I Met Mike Magee
- How Mike Approaches the Game
- Why Mike Told Me to Focus
- Acting Impulsively
- Embracing the Suck
- And More!
Listen to the episode here:
Watch the episode here:
Self-Honesty: How I Met Mike Magee
I was thinking back this week to the core value that exemplified my relationship with Mike Magee and the time we spent together. I would have to say without a doubt, self-honesty would describe both Mike and our friendship. Mike is a very self-honest individual, and I’ve learned so much from him.
Mike and I met when I was playing for the Chicago Fire from 2013-2015. Now, before I met Mike, what I thought about him was limited because my perspective was only from the outside looking in. I only ever saw what Mike did on the field and knew a bit about the team he played for at the time, the LA Galaxy.
Mike had been playing very well, scoring a lot of goals, and even scored a hat-trick against the Fire in the first game of the season. From my limited understanding of the game at that time and my limited knowledge of Mike as an individual, I had made some assumptions about him.
I believed that the reason Mike was successful and performing well was due to the caliber of players around him. You know, he was playing with Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, David Beckham… so I automatically assumed that since he had many high-level players with him on the LA Galaxy that he was getting so many opportunities and gaining success.
When Mike was traded to the Chicago Fire, this was my frame of mind. I’ll stress to you right now, when you have an assumption or idea of someone or something, there’s nothing wrong with that, because you only have access to just so much information. What is important is that once you’re actually meeting someone in person, you have to keep your assumptions from preventing you from seeing what’s actually true.
When I saw Mike play for the first time, and then over the subsequent weeks, I realized that I was 100% WRONG in my thinking. Mike was not successful and a great player only because there were high-level players around him, but rather because he was unbelievably intelligent in the way he played the game.
Mike Magee’s intelligence in the game was something that up until that point in my career, I had never seen. While Mike wasn’t the most athletic player on the field, he was an astonishing decision-maker and a clinical finisher. This combination was absolutely deadly.
I’ve always been an athletic player, and I learned so much from watching Mike. Players that are the ‘athletic’ ones always rely too heavily on our athleticism to bail us out, whereas Mike was looking at the game strategically, seeking out opportunities to put himself in a good spot to finish his chances or create scoring opportunities.
Meeting Mike forced me to be honest with myself that I had made false assumptions about him. If I had persisted in sticking to those false assumptions, I would have denied myself the opportunity to learn from a great player.
American Soccer is Changing
Mike and I discussed this week the changes that have occurred in American soccer even in the past ten years. The way that we have both approached the game is to contribute what each game needed, whether that was more defensive action, trying to score just one more goal, or drawing players so that our teammates would have scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, decision-makers don’t always value players like Mike and me who have this style of play.
I asked Mike what he thought about this. He said, “’s a simple answer. No offense to anyone, but you know that the game has changed so much right? American soccer has changed ten times more than even soccer has changed, if not a hundred times. The older guys in this game in positions that hire or make decisions clearly don’t know as much about soccer as maybe… it’s the truth! I’ve had conversations with guys really high up and they’re talking about players that they put on a pedestal and I’m like, “dude, this guy? I would just kick this guy off my team.” You see it time and time again.
Then you realize what we’ve seen in the game since Beckham got here in 2006, I mean that’s thirteen years and the game has evolved so much. If you haven’t played it, seen it, if you’re just kind of sitting somewhere else, it’s hard. If you haven’t played the game at any level and not even coached overseas, and you know these guys have only coached in MLS and never played with guys like Robbie Keane or Wayne Rooney and now they’re trying to coach everyone together. If I hadn’t played with these guys, I wouldn’t have ever known any of these things.
My opinion is, you know the guys still making decisions still don’t know. In one or two generations from now, I think the USA is gonna be really soccer savvy, but we’re just not there yet.”
I agree with Mike, I think the game and league has outgrown the level of education of the generation that has been bringing them up. Before the game was smash-and-grab, now you’re seeing a transition into a thinking game. Back then we were playing checkers and now the game is chess. Now, we need to think more strategically about the game than ever before. As Major League Soccer enters its 25th season, it’s time to change our perspective on what it means to play soccer in the United States.
What a great episode this week! I always love talking to my current and former teammates and learning more about their mentality.
Whether you are just beginning to play or a seasoned pro, self-honesty will serve you well. Knowing yourself and being able to admit when you are wrong will keep you from missing out on opportunities to learn. I know if I hadn’t been able to be honest with myself about the wrong assumptions I had about Mike, I would have missed out on a wonderful teammate and friendship!