I just finished the book Shine: How to Survive and Thrive at Work by Chris Barez-Brown and have some thoughts. As always. For those looking for a quick, easy read, it's perfect. It talks about upping your 'Elvis factor', which is what I'm all about. I'm always looking for ways to improve. But sometimes it's easy to get stuck and not every situation in life can be fixed with Shout pen or a beer.
For me, my work is mostly on a field. Sometimes it's in a gym or looking at a white board, but mostly on a field. The one place my work always is though, is my head. And that's something that goes with me everywhere I go (fortunately and unfortunately). The game is more mental than anything.
So, my career has had high highs and low lows. You can probably see that by my Wiki page. That's just the type of player and person I have been. Lately, and yes the book helped me think through this even more, I've realized that for a long ass time, I was stuck. I wasn't the player I wanted to be. But most of it was in my head. Not my ability.
Ultimately what it came down to was me losing my confidence. Never in a million years did I think that was possible. I didn't even believe it when it was happening. I was in total denial. Because that's the one thing I could always count on. It wasn't until this season that I realized how badly I had lost it.
I look back and think how ridiculous I was. I believed the coaches that said I couldn't play at the highest level. I considered it when people said maybe I should stop playing and I even questioned how good I was in the past. Like, really?
The hardest part was I didn't recognize the problem early enough. I just thought I was playing bad and kept training and training. The training helped, but it didn't fix the problem.
For the first time in almost three years, I can honestly say I'm on the road to recovery.
And I can tell you, I did not get here alone.
This year we've had the luxury (yes, this is quite a luxury) of having two coaches who are willing to do anything for their players. I have never really had this in a professional environment. Our coaches literally stay out on the field all day doing individual sessions and then go to our team training at night. They are at all of our team lifts, pool workouts, come to team dinners and even drive us to the grocery store if we need it. We have individual meetings and watch video and talk about nutrition (I have given up Coke) and even, yes, joke around from time to time.
THIS is how you show players you care. This was the first step on my road to recovery. I knew our coaches cared. And they believed in us. They put time into us. I have been doing individual sessions 2-3 times a week on top of our team training and lifting. And the training is so specific. I now understand my role as an outside midfielder. And I have embraced it. We work on taking players on 1v1 and shooting. Receiving the ball under pressure. Long balls. You name it. We do it.
And this is how I have been able to get it back. If I had to compare it to something, I guess I could use dating. When someone has a tough breakup they're out of the game for a while. They don't really go out, they don't think anyone is interesting and they just kinda go through the motions. It's not until you get a taste of that dating life again, that you realize how fun it could be.
Well, that's how I am with megging people. I didn't try for a while. I stopped thinking about it. It was too risky and I didn't want to make a mistake or look stupid. I didn't want to feel that rejected feeling when the ball hits off someone's shinguards, and they turn up with it in the end.
But now I feel that excitement with the ball again. Nutmegging people is my thing. And I stopped doing my thing. I forgot how amazing it is to have the ball at your feet and how endless the possibilities are.
There's no script. It's complete freedom. And I'm getting it back.
As with all sports, the metaphors for life are incredible. I can't say that I'd have the confidence I have in life without having played soccer. But now that I have lost it in one aspect of my life, I am pretty sure I know how to get back in all aspects.
I'm glad this happened. Because I feel like I'm playing some of my best soccer and enjoying it more than I have in a long time.
So here's my advice to anyone who feels like they've lost it:
1. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and think you're great
2. Put in the extra hours of deliberate training and thinking to be better
3. Don't be afraid to make mistakes
4. Tell yourself the things you need to hear in order to start believing it again
5. Finally, once you get it back, make sure you give your time to help someone else get theirs back-you won't regret it