Sunday, June 3, 2012

Three Life Lessons I Learned From Soccer

1. L.I.G.

My soccer coach was a little obsessed with acronyms, and he liked to make up his own. This one meant Let It Go. He probably sounded crazy pacing up and down the field yelling, "Lig! LIG!" to one player or another when she made a mistake on the field. He told us time and again that we were all going to make mistakes, but if we kicked ourselves and dwelled on it and let it get to us, we were going to waste time and allow our opponents to get the best of us. "Just let it go," coach would say. This isn't to say we shouldn't try to learn from our mistakes. But we definitely should not wallow in them, punish ourselves for them, or allow them to distract us from the important work we have ahead of us.

2. If you're not dead tired after every game, you didn't do your job.

I was a midfielder for most of the time I played soccer, so generally I spent 90 minutes running up and down the field without really stopping. It was an art trying to conserve energy throughout the game so I didn't run out before the end of the game, but I also didn't want to get to the end of the game and still feel like I could run a few more miles. I feel like it's the same way with just about everything in life. When it comes to school, I don't want to work so hard that I literally never sleep or do anything except study (which I've done from time to time), but I don't want to get to the end of a class and realize I haven't learned anything or given it my best shot. In fact, my goal is to never come to the end of a day and realize I could have done better.

3. Failure can be a wonderful thing.

I first went to school in seventh grade, and I played on the junior high soccer team. I played on that team in eighth grade, too, which was fine for the time. But I thought of little else other than playing on the varsity soccer team my freshman year. They had so many games, and they had cool jackets, and they were all really good at soccer. I was obsessed with the idea. The summer before my freshman year, when I had about three months before tryouts, I ran and practiced some to try to get in shape. But I didn't go all out, and I really didn't try as hard as I could have. When tryouts rolled around, not surprisingly, I didn't make the team. I wasn't in shape, and frankly I wasn't good enough.

However, not making the team the first time I tried only increased my resolve. I played on the junior varsity team instead and worked double hard. I played indoor all year long. And then that summer for the three months before tryouts before my sophomore year, I practiced every single day. I ran miles, did sit-ups and pushups, sprinted, practiced shooting, dribbling, passing—and anything else I could think of.

When tryouts rolled around, I made the varsity team. Not only did I reach my goal by making the team, but I also became a much better soccer player than I ever would have if I had made the team my freshman year. There's no way I would have worked that hard that summer if I hadn't failed once. And after that, I realized what a privilege it was to be on the team, so I ran until I could run no more, practiced until I could practice no more, and played each game as if it were my last. I learned an important lesson:

Failure isn't the end of a chapter. It's the beginning of a new one.

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