I had a great conversation a few weeks ago with one of my mentors. We talked about ourselves compared to many other players who we've come across in our time. One of the biggest differences we noticed was how people approached the game of soccer. We split them up in two categories: people who play to get something out of it and people who play for the love of the game.
This sparked my interest quite a bit.
If the sole purpose of playing is to get something out of it, I feel as though there's always a chance that the game can fail you. You might not get to the college of your dreams or play professionally or travel the world with a national team. The shoe deals, commercials and ESPY award nomination just might fall through. Then what? Do you walk away from the game with a bitter taste in your mouth because you didn't get out of it what you expected?
Then there are the people who play for the love of it. The pickup game is just as enticing as the World Cup final and really, the game doesn't ever let you down, because it is always there. It can't let you down. The cool thing I've found by having this attitude is that you realize how much more you can get out of it when you don't expect it. Kind of the theme of this blog. All the great things that can come from playing usually aren't the reasons people play for.
My worry for the people who play to get something out of it is that bitter feeling they have toward soccer. They hated their college experience. Or the professional level wasn't what they expected. Then they're the parent that lives vicariously through their child playing. Or the coach that takes it out on their players because they weren't all they expected to be. I've actually seen this all too often.
I'm not sure exactly how to change this behavior pattern. Is it even something you can change? I mean I know there will always be the player who plays to get something out of it. But it's my hope that there can be less.
It's like gift-giving right? You don't give to receive. You give because you want to. Because you enjoy it. Not because you will get something in return. If you play or do something because you simply love doing it, you don't expect anything.
If soccer, or anything else you've done in your life has been a disappointment, think about the reasons why it was disappointing to you. What did you expect to get out of it? And what actually happened? After you get that out of your mind, think of all the good things that came as a result.
I might not ever get to play in the Olympics or the World Cup. But then I think back to all the times I've been on a field with a ball. From being in my front yard at 10 years old to kicking against the wall at Oakwood when I was 15 or knocking it around in racquet ball courts with Carmelina Moscato at Penn State when I was 21 and finally playing pickup with the boys now at 27. I don't do it for any reason except I love doing it.
So the question for you is..
Why is it you do whatever it is you do?
Soccer has taught me to do things for the right reasons. And for that, I have gotten more out of it than I ever could have imagined.