4 lessons sports will teach you
Sports, particularly soccer, have always had a special place in my life.
Some of my best childhood and teenage memories were in the field. I remember those days playing ball, imagining that I was disputing the world cup with my country, whether I was playing ball at the park with my friends or at a tournament with my school.
It's been years since my last college game. I still try to play from time to time, mostly to stay in shape and meet new people.
Having said that, the lessons I picked up from my competitive soccer days still shape me to this day. Soccer was my life's first passion and it took me on a journey, with all the up and downs, and lessons that come with it.
These lessons are universal and not exclusive to myself, or even soccer for that matter.
In no particular order, here they are:
1. Commitment to something bigger than yourself
We have all heard the expression "there is no I in team", it has become cliche. However, the truth behind it is true in all team sports.
We all dream of being the MVP:
It's not wrong. If we want to be the best contributor to our team, we MUST strive to be the best version of ourselves.
Having said, it always comes down to the team. People will remember who won the championship, not how many tackles you had. A player who stacks his stats at his team's expense is a liability.
Sometimes you can be your team's best asset as a quiet contributor. Your best performance might REQUIRE you to step away from the spotlight.
This was my case many times. As a kid, I always loved trying the tricks, dribbling past people like Messi, going for the big tackle like Marquez, going for the long shots like Ronaldo. Sometimes it worked...many times it didn't.
I am not Messi
I am not Marquez
I am not Ronaldo
I was trying to write checks I couldn't cash to get in "the spotlight". As I matured in the sport, I noticed my best games were significantly discreet. Pass and move, recover, close down spaces, run down the wing then hand the ball off.
I was becoming the best version of myself by STEPPING OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT, my game mostly suffered whenever I tried going for the spotlight.
The same can be true in many environments. We will be in all kind of teams throughout our life. In some teams, we will naturally be the frontmen and lead our team to victory. Many times, however, our contribution may not carry the same exposure, but that's not to say it's not CRUCIAL for the team.
When we think of Apple, everyone will think about Steve Jobs, he was "the frontman", but understand he wouldn't have achieved a fraction of what he did without a quiet genius like Steve Wozniak.
Understanding and embracing your TRUE role will yield dividends for life, should you accept it.
2. Good enough NEVER wins championships
It's no secret that society is easier than ever.
We live in the extra credit, participation medals era. Not everyone is meant to be great, just get the job done. You don't need an A, just get a C and pass the class That's "good enough".
Sports are a different animal:
You may be the king of the hill at your school. Hell, your school might easily dominate your local conference. You might have half the team party before the game and still get some wins. You are "good enough." However, you are merely being the C student who settled for passing the class.
As you move past your little pond, the reality hits you:
GOOD ENOUGH IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH
The teams who go for the win, the "A student", did not settle for dominating their local conference, they set out to stuff that trophy room with state titles and invitationals EVERY YEAR. Their practice is intense, strategic and built around that goal.
Not surprisingly, they have no trouble SWEEPING you and your team's mediocre play.
That plays out EVERYDAY in the world.
We all have our "checklist items":
-Get a job
Achieving that means you are "good enough" and you are "making it". At least that's what society will tell you.
Don't get me wrong, celebrate your graduations, new jobs, etc. Champions celebrate every win leading up to the championship.
The second point is very important.
You are stable in life, however, If you want to make it to the top, YOU ARE JUST GETTING STARTED. It will be tempting to lay down and celebrate, but that would be a mistake.
Once you make it into the world cup, your job isn't done, it JUST BEGAN.
-Seize your goals
-Become a top performer
-Work to continually get to the next level
Your job is done when that trophy is on your shelf.
3. Mental strength
As mentioned above, life is easier than ever. However, sports continue to be a place where champions can't fake their way to the top.
You can't ask your dad to buy you a 4.5 40 yard dash.
You can't merely talk your way into scoring 50 goals/season as Messi did.
You have to put in the footwork.
However, EVEN IF YOU DO EVERYTHING RIGHT, heartbreak is inevitable:
-Championship games losses
It doesn't matter how good or committed you are. What matters is your response to those events.
Do you quit?
Do you blame others?
Do you lash out?
Do you pick yourself up and learn from the pain?
Tom Brady said it best:
"Ignore the score; worry about the next play."
I would argue that this is often the biggest differentiator between the successful and the masses.
Even people born in advantaged positions are not shielded from life's punishments:
-Death in family
Those things happen to everyone and HURT. The difference is the mentality you take when they hit you.
Will you be a VICTIM? Will you lay down and die years before you are buried?
Will you be a VICTOR? Rising up and help your loved ones find the strength to do the same?
That decision might be the most important decision in your life.
4. The importance of taking care of yourself
I recently posted on Twitter regarding how the most dangerous habits are those that allow short-term "victories" before everything comes CRASHING down.
Those habits are like a quietly growing tumor. Only causing pain when it's too late.
Sports are great because they typically don't allow that to happen.
Your performance is often a direct result of how you treat your body:
-Your sleep habits
-Your fitness regime
You cannot go on a bender every day of the week, eating trash, not sleeping well and expect your body to perform at peak level when game day arrives. You will be slower, your footwork will be rusty, etc.
The opposite is true as well though. As you make improvements to your daily routine, you will tend to see your performance on the field grow exponentially.
This concept was very important in transitioning through school and my career. Even though the effects of poor decision-making and not taking care of myself are not immediate, I know the consequences will eventually come down on me like a hammer.
Things like skipping workouts, slacking off on Fridays at 3, skipping daily self-development time, may not carry immediate consequences but are putting me on a straight track towards mediocrity.
On the other hand, taking immediate, small, consistent action steps will set you on the right path. Make 10 extra calls after you are "done" and watch your numbers go up, add 15 minutes of exercise to your day and watch your health gradually improve, dedicate AT LEAST 1 hour a day of uninterrupted quality time to your family.
The biggest takeaway you will find through the piece is this:
If you want to be the best, you have to get shit done and put results ahead of your ego. We all have the best version of ourselves inside of us, and it's our job to unearth it.
It will look different for each person. Part of the process is not just finding that inner strength and ability, but having the wit and intelligence to leverage it in an effective way per the current situation.
This is is it for this week. Sorry about my extended absence. I will go back to my normal Friday post schedule (Unless Saturday is better, feel free to comment below.)
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