5 Life Lessons I Learned From Watching Youth Soccer Games.
Written by Herb Meadows for Goombay Tally | goombaytally.com| Life Lessons and Humor Section | Send your feedback or advertisement submissions to [email protected]
Like thousands of parents throughout the country, I slowly (sometimes begrudgingly) wake up on Saturday morning, shake off the cumulative weight of the work week, walk into my 4-year-old son’s room and get him ready for a quick breakfast and out the door for his YMCA-sponsored youth soccer league game. All while balancing a cup of hot coffee in one hand and a half-eaten, strawberry Pop Tart in the other.
Mind you, my son is still attempting to run upstairs and jump back into bed — except now, in his soccer uniform, half-exposed shine guards, and untied Nike cleats
Week after week, I drive my son to the local soccer fields to not only learn the value of healthy competition, but also to appreciate the bedrock concepts of teamwork, hard work, and good sportsmanship. The act of graciously lining up in a neat and organized row after a joyous victory or painful loss, and slapping the hands of the opposing team, regardless of the final score.
Also, the act of not taking the ball away from your team mates, even though you may be faster, more skillful, and generally know which direction to dribble the ball.
Yes, all parents of youth soccer are probably chuckling right now because they recognize all of these dynamics in basically every game.
The “bee-hive smarm” as we call it. The tendency for young kids to all run to the soccer ball, without regard for assigned positions, passing the ball to teammates, or basic offensive strategy.
However, this morning was different. Well, sort of.
No, don’t get me wrong, the kids still chased that stupid soccer ball around the field in a slow circular motion like a stubborn hurricane stuck in the Gulf of Mexico … determined to eventually hit the Florida panhandle.
What I mean is … I observed what was happening on the field and attempted to extract life lessons from what I saw. Yes, weird and pathetic in some aspects, but if you are still reading this post, then I at least have your attention.
So … this is what I came up with:
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5 Life Lessons I Learned From Watching Youth Soccer Games.
1. In Life and On The Field … Play Your Position.
Youth soccer will remind you that not everyone is meant to be a center forward, a defender, or a goalie. For example, successful forwards are typically fast, agile, skilled dribblers, elegant passers, and possess a powerful kick.
Not all of us are built that way.
But guess what? A soccer team won’t win a single game if every member plays offense. A balanced and successful team also needs tenacious defenders and a stingy goalie to prevent the other team from running up the scoreboard on them. Without these important players, you just have a good offense that still loses every game.
Similarly, in life, we aren’t all meant to play the more noticeable, flashier roles in society or in business. But we ARE skilled in the jobs or positions that ensure that the team successfully achieves its objectives, meets its goals, and remains successful. The company or organization wouldn’t have hired you if they didn’t think you were a valued employee.
Whatever your life path, play your position and play it well. This often means using your unique talents and skills to the advantage of everyone, even if it means that you don’t show up on the front page of Sports Illustrated. Remember, the success of the team will depend on it.
2. Never Judge a Book By Its Cover … Or A Team By Its Size.
Have you ever watched a youth soccer game and immediately predicted the winning and losing team purely based on the average size of the team members? You know, some teams have that proverbial five-year-old kid who looks like he attends middle school. That one kid who has all the parents of the opposing team demanding that the coaches and referee double-check his or her birth certificate.
I’ve watched more than a few games that indeed had that particular kid on their team, along with a few defenders who basically towered over the smaller team in stature — but only to lose the game because the smaller team was quicker, vastly more skilled, and significantly more savvy with their footwork.
In life, judging a person or team’s ability, purely based on prejudice or outward appearances, can be a costly miscalculation.
Just think how many coaches or teams (initially) overlooked NBA superstar, Stephen Curry because he didn’t necessarily have the physical attributes of a Lebron James, Chris Paul, or Dwyane Wade. Instead, all of his critics and naysayers quickly realized that Curry was crafting and developing his own brand of greatness that didn’t require permission from anyone else to succeed and certainly didn’t follow the established and predicted paradigm for success. Greatness comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
3. Teammates and Friends Always Tell Each Other When They’re Going The Wrong Direction.
In four-year-old youth soccer, you often have to remind the young players when they’re about to score a goal on their own team. It’s a fact of life and a part of learning the game. Young players often get confused, and so preoccupied with kicking at the soccer ball, they forget which side of the field they’re supposed to attack and which side of the field to defend.
In life, we can certainly use family, friends, mentors, or clergy to ensure that we are headed in the right direction. Life is filled with so many distractions that we can temporary lose our direction and potentially harm ourselves, family, friends, or co-workers. We easily forget what our goals and objectives are in life.
Always have at least one person in your life who will “give it to you straight,” doesn’t mince words, and is willing to risk (even) the loss of your friendship, as long as you know the truth and don’t put yourself in harm’s way.
4. Four-Year-Old Soccer Players Are Easily Distracted On The Field. Life is Full of Life-Changing Distractions.
Have you ever watched a youth soccer game and noticed the defender or goalie who gets caught playing with dandelions or watching a squirrel playing in the nearby trees as the opposing team quickly attacks his or her side of the field?
Life is full of even more complicated distractions that cause us to lose focus and forget about our purpose, goals, and priorities in life. On the soccer field, you will often hear coaches, parents, or other players (loudly) remind the distracted players to stay alert, look alive, or pay attention when they lose focus on the game.
In life, we often need family, co-workers, friends, or supervisors to shake us out of our cranial fog and stay focused on the key objectives in front of us.
5. Four-Year-Old Soccer Players All Try To Score A Goal At The Same Time. Maturing Players Make Sure The Teammates With The Best Chance to Score, Get The Ball At The Right Time.
Four-year old soccer players generally don’t have a collective, game winning strategy on the field to speak of — absent every player kicking at the ball and attempting to score a goal on their own. But as players age and begin developing their individual and team-building skills, they begin to realize that there are offensive players that have the best vantage point and opportunity to impact team success.
Players then begin to think in terms of collective success and collaborative teamwork by ensuring that the offense is put in the best possible position to score goals for the team.
In life, business, military organizations, the academic world, and political teams, leaders deliberately exploit the individual talents and skills of their members to advance and ensure the success of the entire organization. One team member may be a whiz with numbers, another team member may speak three languages, while the other team member is great at writing code that will improve the company’s software.
As coaches, managers, and leaders, the constant challenge is to both recognize and effectively utilize individual talents in the most strategic way that benefits the team as a collective, not just single players.
Written by Herb Meadows for Goombay Tally | www.goombaytally.com
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