Chapter 47: BASS PLAYER WANTED – ROOKIE: Surviving Your Freshman Year of College Soccer
Do you know who Adam Clayton is? No? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard his music. He’s the bass player for U2. You’re probably more familiar with his bandmate, Bono.
Every band has its front man. He’s the lead singer. His face is on the album covers. He’s the one doing all the media interviews. He’s the one the fans really want to see when they pay money to go to a concert. Bono is U2’s front man, and since the late 1970s the band has been selling millions of records and making millions and millions of dollars. U2 has cemented its reputation as one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. And yet you’ve never heard of Adam Clayton. Strange, right?
Soccer teams operate with a similar dynamic. Each team has one or two or three stars. These are the players who create and score goals. These are the players that pay your coach’s mortgage, so he gives them a little more freedom to freelance when the ball is at their feet. He lets them dribble more and shoot from odd angles and do some other things that he doesn’t accept from the other players on the team. It’s important to note that they were given these freedoms because they’ve proven themselves as stars; they didn’t become stars because they were given these freedoms. Remember that.
To be good at your job, you have to know how you fit into the team. If you’re a star, trust me, you’ll know. If you’re not (and 99% of us are not), it’s okay. You can still be a great player and a vital part of the team’s success without being in the spotlight. But you have to make peace with who you are and what your role is within your team. When you confuse who you are with what is expected of you, you’re going to have problems.
Generally speaking, we ask our stars to win games for us. We ask everyone else to take the ball from the other team and then not to lose it. We ask that our non-stars play quickly and simply because when they don’t, the other team takes the ball back. We ask that our non-stars pass to our team and not to our opponents. We ask them to defend like their lives depend on it. We want them to be ball-winners and distributors and to do the grunt work. We want them to do their job well enough that we have a chance to win the game.
If you’re having trouble following me, watch some college or professional basketball games. The star is the guy who has the ball in his hands when his team is down by a point and there are three seconds left on the clock. The reason he has the ball is because he is the guy who is most likely to win the game for his team, and his coaches and teammates know that. So they give him the ball and get out of his way and let him do what he does best.
Imagine if by some miracle you ended up playing for the Miami Heat and your team was down a point and there were ten seconds left and you had the ball in your hands. At the top of the key, there is LeBron James with his hands out, begging for you to pass him the ball. But instead of passing to LeBron, you drive to the basket and your shot gets swatted down to the other end of the floor. Now, doesn’t that seem idiotic? Of course it does! Why? Because LeBron is already surrounded by players who are much better than you – legitimate superstars – and even they know to get him the ball when the game is on the line.
Who you are right now is who you are. You have physical and technical limitations. Over time you will improve on those areas and maybe one day you’ll become the star, but for now, who you are is who you are. And who you are today should dictate your role within the team.
Since you’re not a star just yet, don’t worry about playing like one. Right now your objective is to stay on the field. You do that by earning the trust of your coach. You earn his trust by playing your role, by executing your defensive duties, and by being responsible with the ball. I cannot overstate how important that last one is. You’ll never stay on the field if you consistently give the ball to the other team. You need to show the coach that you’re playing for his team, not the opponent’s.
As you are fighting to make a case for yourself, let me give you some advice: When the ball is at your feet, do the simplest thing as quickly as you possibly can. The longer you have the ball, the more likely you are to lose it. Don’t worry too much about impacting the score-line just yet; you’ll have plenty of chances to do that when you’re an established presence. For now, just worry about proving that you can be trusted with the ball. Keep it simple. Get the ball safely to your teammates on a consistent basis and your stock will rise.
That doesn’t sound very glamorous, does it? No, it surely doesn’t. But until you are a fixture in the line-up, you need to build your case one safe pass at a time. You won’t ever be a star if you can’t stay on the field. Right now just focus on doing your part to help the team win games.
What I’m trying to say is this: Don’t be afraid to be the bass player. Not everyone gets to be the lead singer. Adam Clayton’s net worth is roughly $150 million. Why? Because when the band sells records, the bass player gets paid too.
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