My rookie season with the Colorado Rapids was one of the best years in my soccer career. The year was full of ups and downs that proved helpful when it all was said in done. One of the best parts of being a rookie is everything is new. Because everything is new, it’s easier to remember things because it’s fresh. What I still remember from my rookie season is that very first time I got to play.
My first game was exciting and intense. Many different things were going through my head, good and bad. Keeping your confidence level high is key to matching the game speed and the only way to accomplish this is through solid preparation.
Preparation is critical when it comes to professional sports. It’s not just training and playing. In the umbrella of soccer, traveling, team meals, flights, etc. are essential so you can understand every step leading up to the actual game. Here are my eight things I learned in my first MLS game
1. Nerves are normal
Everyone gets nervous at one stage of their career. Nerves are normal because they show you care. And when you care, and you want something so bad, sometimes the nerves get the better of you, and I am here to help you not have that happen to you. Remember to embrace the moment and remind yourself that you're prepared and are ready to play well and confidently!
2. Don't get too high or too low
You have to manage your emotions, so they don't get the better of you also. Too high and the second something happens, it feels like the world is going to end and you find yourself unable to recover. Too low and you'll never see your potential to be great in the match, and you'll always play low. You have to find the middle ground so that whichever way the pendulum swings, you have the tools to bring it back to center.
3. Words of Affirmation
Talking and telling yourself you can do it is powerful. Having a presence and character is what helps you through new challenges. You have to say to yourself this will be a great game, and here is why. Take this approach, and this will help you play the game you want to play.
4. Preparation is key
Being prepared is the best because you understand that there is nothing that can be thrown at you to get you off balance. The time and energy that you've put in on your craft is what will lead you to new heights. It is through the hardships and tribulations that you stand there ready to play and perform you're best. Giving up isn't an option, and that is why you prepare.
5. Keep it simple
Build off your confidence by starting at simple. Starting the game by playing risking lends itself to low morale. You decide to try 3 through passes and one dribble, you're incomplete on all of them and find yourself not wanting the ball 20 minutes in. My approach was always to build on confidence through simplicity and then try things and be creative.
6. Play your game
Whatever happens with the outcome of the game, make sure you know at the end of the day you gave it your all. The mistakes are going to happen, and you as a player must understand that. But, making sure you expressed yourself and had fun is equally as important.
7. Play hard
You have to give it your all every time you step on the field. You never know when/if you'll ever get another opportunity to play the game, so you have to leave it all on the field. There is no time for saving yourself, play 90 minutes like it is your last.
8. Enjoy the moment
These moments don't come every time, and sometimes through the hype, there is never a second of calm. Calm is beautiful and I always was able to take a deep breathe and embrace what was happening. Embrace the moment that I had the privilege of being a part of, and to be thankful of the opportunity, like I said earlier, you never know when the championship game, or scoring a winning pk will come back around, don't miss your shot!