My thought for this post was to give you guys a little bit of a closer look inside the soccer world and help you understand what goes through our minds as professional athletes. While this is based around soccer, it is likely applicable for most sports and their athletes. I opened it up to your guys’ suggestions and you all impressed me once again with your thoughtful questions. Here is a great tweet I received:
1.) @johanSF3 said “Talk about your motivation (who and what) and how you recoup mentally and emotionally after a hard loss.”
This is a great question. Motivation is a tricky thing. I think it’s safe to say that, no matter how much you love your job, there are days where you just really don’t want to be working. In sports, this is particularly true when things aren’t going well. Our profession is more results-oriented than just about any other profession on earth and that puts heavy pressure on athletes and coaches. We can all accept losing because it’s a part of what we do but there are certain losses that really sting for one reason or another. Sometimes waking up and driving to the stadium seems like a miserable proposition. After a tough loss, it’s hard to look your teammates and coaches in the eye, especially when you are the captain of a team. The funny thing about a team sport is that you can prepare properly, work as hard as you can, play your best game and still end up losing. Those moments are still somewhat bearable because you can look yourself in the mirror and be proud of your individual effort. The moments that eat at you forever are the big games where you didn’t prepare properly, didn’t work hard enough, didn’t play well. For me, that happened in the 2006 World Cup. The team played poorly, I was awful and I was embarrassed by what happened. I just couldn’t get motivated to play and I had trouble figuring out why. The 2 weeks after the World Cup were incredibly difficult for me and I fell into a period of depression. One morning I woke up and realized that I had 2 choices: Allow what had happened to ruin the rest of my career OR learn from it and become a better person/player. Now, it’s easy to say that to yourself but it’s an entirely different thing to actually do it. It’s been over 4 years since that day and, although I’ve made progress, I’m still not exactly where I want to be. But that’s not the point. The point is to make the effort, have the awareness, continue learning and try to get better.
One last thing on motivation. I used to look outside myself for motivation. I would think about someone special in my life. Maybe a song would inspire me on a given day. Perhaps a coach would say something that got me fired up. But I realized that all of that was beyond my control. There are only so many truly special people in my life and I couldn’t keep going to that well over and over because it stopped working. The same held true with inspirational music. And what if the coach didn’t have anything insightful or motivating to say??? I was screwed. I wanted something more, something real that I could depend on. I was blessed to be given a wonderful book by my ex-wife entitled “Letters to a Young Poet” and one sentence really hit home when it came to motivation:
“You could greatly interfere with the process if you look outward and expect to obtain answers from the outside—answers which only your innermost feeling in your quietest hour can perhaps give you.”
I believe that we all have the answers inside us but we fail to trust ourselves and merely listen to what our soul is trying to tell us. When I listen to my heart I am never wrong. And that’s how I stay motivated.
Until next time,