Chapter 25: YOUR BEST SELF – ROOKIE: Surviving Your Freshman Year of College Soccer
The first season of the television show Survivor was won by a corporate consultant named Richard Hatch. Among his many claims to fame (or infamy), Hatch was the mastermind of Survivor’s very first contestant alliance. He was reviled by the television audience for his willingness to manipulate the other contestants, but in the end, his deviousness was proven to be quite practical and it won him the million-dollar grand prize.
There was one clear difference that separated Hatch from the other contestants: Hatch went into Survivor with a plan. As a matter of fact, Hatch himself said he was amazed that, with a million dollars on the line, no one else had bothered to devise a strategy to win the game. While the other contestants were trying to figure things out on the fly, Hatch’s plan kept him two steps ahead of them from start to finish.
If preseason is going to be your showcase, then you obviously need to showcase your very best self. It is my firm belief that, much like Richard Hatch, you are far better served by making a plan for preseason than by just showing up and trying to make adjustments on the fly.
Incidentally, I am not suggesting that you employ the same types of under-handed tactics that Richard Hatch utilized. As a matter of fact, I strongly advise you against tactics of manipulation because they will be counterproductive and your membership in your team will be short-lived. You are part of a team, whereas Survivor was the essence of every man for himself. That’s a big, big difference. I only mention the Survivor reference because of its parallels to a college preseason, namely, a lot of people competing in a game, under difficult conditions, for a big prize and almost none of them having any clear cut plan.
Since preseason is going to have such a big impact on your soccer life, it’s worth taking the time to formulate a plan. My advice is that you enter into a contract with yourself. If your preseason is ten days long, then that is the duration of your contract. Write out this contract several days before preseason begins. This contract is your plan and your commitment to showcasing your best self. I’m even going to provide you with the clauses of your contract.
- Train like a pro.
As we’ve discussed, preseason can be exhausting. Doesn’t matter. Remember this line from Alistair Cooke: A professional does her best even when she doesn’t feel like it. You get to choose how you will approach each segment of each training session. Choose a great attitude
- Under-promise and over-deliver.
Don’t burden yourself with additional expectations by announcing what you’re going to do. Be humble. Be modest. Then go out and shock everyone.
- Outwork everyone, every day.
This is the closest thing I can offer to a magic formula for earning playing time. If you are genuinely the hardest worker on a daily basis, your coach is going to find a spot for you. Like anything else, this won’t happen by accident. If you want to be the hardest worker, then plan to be the hardest worker.
- Don’t complain.
Preseason is a wonderful breeding ground for complaints. It’s hot. Of course it is. It’s August. What did you expect? Your legs hurt. Of course they do. You’re running yourself into the ground. What did you expect? When you focus on the things that bother you, you begin to lose focus on the things that matter most. Don’t waste your energy focusing on the things you can’t control. The more you focus on them, the more they will consume you. Let your teammates do the complaining. The coaches will notice that you’re staying above it.
- Be durable.
There’s a difference between pain and injury and your ability to tell them apart can keep you on the field. Coaches know that preseason is painful for everyone. They notice and appreciate the players with the intestinal fortitude to tough it out. You will notice that many of your teammates will sit out some preseason sessions with injuries. Don’t worry too much about them. You see, there’s a great healing miracle that occurs every preseason: On the day before the first game or scrimmage, everyone is magically healthy again. Use preseason to show off your toughness and durability. You won’t win a position by sitting on the trainer’s table.
- Touch the line.
Be the type of athlete that you would admire. Whatever misery you must endure, attack it! Don’t cut corners because that will just devalue your investment. Preseason only lasts for about a week, so you will survive. Give your best to it every step of the way. When the coach calls for a water break, jog off the field. When the water break is over, jog back on. When the coach calls everyone together in the middle of the field, don’t walk to him; run. And when you are running suicides, touch the line with every single repetition. Why? Because that’s what your best self would do.
- Use the fatigue of your teammates.
All of your teammates will be fatigued. There will be at least one session where the team moves about as well as zombie herd. This is a tremendous opportunity for you. When everyone else’s level is going down, make yours go up. No matter how bad it hurts, force yourself to raise your level and you’ll shine brighter than a diamond.
- Be low-maintenance.
Don’t reveal yourself as someone who needs to have a babysitter. Remember your equipment. Turn off your phone before team meetings. Get to everything on time. And for heaven’s sake, take care of your injuries! When you get to college, treatment is not optional.
- Don’t Coach.
No one wants to be corrected by a rookie. There is nothing more annoying than a rookie who wants to coach her teammates. Your job is to do your best, not to worry about the shooting technique of your teammates. Communicate and compete, but don’t coach.
Okay, so now you have some solid and practical ideas that you can use to establish your contract. If you polled all of the college soccer coaches in the country, I would bet that every one of them would tell you that what you just read is excellent advice.
Don’t let preseason just happen to you. Have a plan in place and attack it!
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