As a player, and sometimes a coach, it is very obvious what you want from the goalkeeper. Let's be honest here, there are going to be some ups and there are going to be some downs. However, the challenge is to stay consistent in this entire process. I don't mean consistent as far as letting in goals, or results. I mean consistent as far as your attitude and training habits.
My career has been blessed with so many great memories. I have played with some incredible players and been on some great teams. For most of my career, I've been a starter in MLS rather than a backup goalkeeper. However, a few times in the past few years, I have found myself on the outside looking in.
"Cream rises to the top", my former goalkeeper coach Tim Hanley would tell me. Keep doing the right things and in time, all will develop as it should.
My biggest learning experience with this came from my recent days with the San Jose Earthquakes. I started out the season in great form and then in a matter of three games, we had let in six or seven goals. We had a break, and the next game I found myself on the bench.
Why? Who? What happened? I was so bitter and I wanted to blame so many people. The next four weeks that followed were probably the lowest of my career. I was so focused on being bitter and thinking I was wronged, that I stopped focusing on what was important: my passion, my job, my position, my team, being a goalkeeper.
Meanwhile, I made it difficult for the other goalkeeper. The natural tension that arises between two goalkeepers will always be there, but I was not a good teammate. In practice, I would be ultra competitive and not do the things I should to help the other guy. I was so focused on being angry that I was hurting my team by focusing on myself.
After a few games, I got the job back, and then played a good game on my return. I was still bitter and I didn't care. I didn't care about my teammates as much as I should, my organization, or even the coaches. I was too good to fail now and I had proved all these people wrong.
Well what happened next is a true event of karma, or maybe even chance, but provided the lesson. Being bitter and now the starter, I was over it. I was better than this and that, and I came to training with a chip on my shoulder. Why should I care about people who treated me so "bad"?? As fate had it, a freak broken ankle is what happened next. I couldn't believe it, I was devastated.
With a broken limb healing and traded to a new team, I had months and months to reflect about what happened.
The first reflection, is that I tarnished my brand, and who I was and what I was about. Rather than focusing on my passion for my team, I was focusing on myself. It was wrong. I had falsely imagined obstacles and wrong-doings. In my pride, I was convinced by the story I had created. I was too focused on trying to find blame for my situation. The lesson was simple: there was no one to blame but myself......NOBODY.
The same scenario came again last year and I used my experience to cope with the challenge. I made a love for my new team, new city and new country a top priority. Although not content with being a back-up again, I had enough faith to know that my chance would come.
I was blessed to come to a team with an amazing medical staff that could get me back to my best. I worked to get fit, trained on my reactions, and became a vocal cheerleader for the team. I supported and worked with the other goalies, stayed after practice to refine my own game, and did everything I could to be ready for that next opportunity.
The result has not only been better play, but a stronger determination and dedication to training that I hadn't had in years.
By focusing my energies on things that I could control, I got back to the things which have helped me maintain my decade and a half career in MLS: passion, desire, committment, and team before individual.
For players of all ages, I hope you can learn from this lesson. There will be times when you are faced with "politics", injury, or just plain bad luck. However, your response to these situations will define you as a player and a person, even more so than your abilities on the field.
It's important to focus on everything that YOU can control. Your attitude about yourself and the team, habits on and off the field, work ethic, working on the weaknesses in your game, rehabbing, whatever it takes to bring your passion to the next level. These moments and personal decisions will carry you to lofty heights.
In the end, every athlete knows that it is not just the battle with opponents that make us proud and overjoyed. It is the challenges we face inside our own heads and the challenges that we have personally overcome which makes the reward that much sweeter.
These lessons apply no matter where you are in life. A soccer field, work, school, or even at home. Improve your brand through your positive attitude and unrivaled will and dedication to your cause. When this happens, no matter what the world says, you are a true winner.
May the posts be with you.......