After lacing up my soccer boots I took my headphones off to get focused for the match. We were playing our rivals and one thing was on my mind: Winning!
It was time to step onto the pitch. It was a big day. I needed to get the best warm up possible and my teammates had better be as focused as me.
I made sure I stretched properly and warmed up with the ball, all the while thinking about what I was going to do in the game. Picturing the saves I was going to make, the plays I was going to be highlighted in, and how the fans would roar afterwards.
I wanted to show my coach that I was his guy, and that he did not make a mistake choosing me to be captain. I needed to prove to my teammates that I was their leader, and the right man to be protecting the goal.
Most of all I wanted everyone in attendance that day to realize how great I was, and that the next level for me was professional.
Match starts, and 90 minutes later the match ends. The result? Four to Zero. In soccer they say the word nil instead of zero, signifying nothing, nada, zilch, zip. The result was four to zero in favor of our rivals. We lost, and on top of that the ball went past me four times… into the goal!
Why was I only one working? Why did my teammates let me down? And how dare they make me look so bad out there?
These were all the things running through my mind as I walked off the field angry and alone. No way was I going to shake anybody’s hand—not my teammates, not my coaches, and most definitely not the opposing team!
As the goalkeeper I now looked like the villain of the game, letting four goals slip by. How embarrassing and unfair that is to me! What about all the good things I had done, all the great saves I had made during the match, and the fact I was the hardest worker out there?
None of it mattered anymore as I made my way to the locker room and eventually home.
A rude awakening
A couple of days later, still bitter and frustrated about the previous game, I was cleaning up my desk at home. As I grabbed papers from here and there to dispose of, I found underneath a stack of scratch paper a book: The Anatomy of Peace. This is a book I had read for a class over a year prior. A book that at the time of reading was so impactful it changed many of my relationships.
As I saw this book lying on my desk I paused, like someone who sees himself pass by a mirror and is surprised by what he sees. I remembered the concepts I had learned reading that book and how they applied to relationships I had at the time. I thought of the game I had played just two days before. I realized for the first time in my soccer career that the main focus before all of my games wasn’t to win.
The focus was me! Everything was about me; every game we ever won was because of me, and every game we every lost was lost in spite of me.
And the win…
This awakening changed everything for me as an athlete. As I laced up and stepped on the field the next time, something happened to our team. There was cohesion and chemistry that hadn’t been there before. Most surprisingly, we started to win, and went on to break every record at that university.
What was missing was the simple realization that I was the problem. That changed everything.
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