My assumption is that some of us are discouraged, disheartened, “done” because this wasn’t a winning season.
I know it’s hard to lose a lot of games, especially after you’ve had so many winning seasons.
But that’s sports. Especially with youth sports, players quit and find other teams or other activities. Players get hurt. Other teams get better. It’s the way of sports: stuff happens. We’re not
the first team to go without a win in a season, and trust me, we won’t be the last.
But that’s not important.
Here’s why: in life, stuff happens too. There will always been disappointment, discouragement and failure. We will all have “winning seasons” and plenty of “losing seasons.”
Most often, we are not in control of the stuff that causes winning or losing (ask your parents). Look at us. Players leave a team, players get hurt, a dufus coach (that would be me) screws up at game time.
What we are in control of is how we choose to respond to those things. Here it gets pretty simple. How do you respond to “adversity”? How do you respond to tough times, to losing seasons?
Answer: You can either quit or work harder. When you work harder you are still not guaranteed success. But if you quit, you are guaranteed failure.
I grew up with a dad who would rarely let me quit. Until the day he died, he worked. Even when doctors told to him to rest, it wasn’t in his nature.
A story: We lived in rural Minnesota where we had a pasture and boarded horses. We would also flood part of the field to make a hockey rink every winter. One February, when it was way below zero, the water line (that was six feet underground) froze and then burst. We had to fix it or the horses would be without water.
My dad and I talked and I volunteered to dig up the line. (It sorta sounded like fun; a teenage boy thing). Well, it was so much harder than I had imagined. I had to build a fire on the ground to melt the one foot of snow and frost before I could dig. I thought it would take an hour at most to finish. Four hours later, as it started to get dark, I’d only dug a few feet. I went back to the house and told my dad it was too hard. (I had already learned that we were not to use the word “impossible.”) He told me to get some hot chocolate, warm up, go back and he would join me to help.
It was a school night, but we dug together until we found the pipe and fixed it at 2:00 a.m. His lesson was simple: when you commit to something, you finish. Sometimes the only way out is to work, to dig, shovelful by shovelful. I’ve never forgotten that.
So, soccer. You’ve had a losing season. Guess what? This is the universe asking you what are you made of? Can you handle adversity? Are you going to stop digging? Or are you going to work?
I play and coach soccer because I love the game. I work at it because I love it. Not just winning; I love the game. I love every part of the game: the touch of the ball, passing, running, grass, talking about technique, tactics and shape and coaching. Coaching is such a blessing! Then there all the other fanatics — from dozens and dozens of countries — that I’ve become friends with over the decades. Winning is fun, but the game is the most beautiful, unimportant thing in the world.
Finally, if you’re lucky and you’re paying attention, you will find something to do in your life that you love. Then you will learn if you love something— truly love it — you still have to work. You will learn that you cannot give up, even after a losing season or two, or three. Most days you will wake up and know you still have to dig. If I could wish you anything, it’s that you enjoy the digging.
“The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when no one else is watching.”
–Anson Dorrance, UNC women’s Soccer Coach