When I was in First Grade, a friend who always seemed to be next to me when trouble was around, started playing soccer in the spring. I didn’t have a clue what soccer was, but I wanted to try it out. I assumed we would be playing on the same team.
In 1980, soccer was just starting to be popular in cities across the country.
The next Spring, my parents had signed me up.
My First Coach, Ross, who spoke very broken English and his father, who also helped, spoke almost NO English. This was my first experience with FUTBOL. They made it seem so special, having a chance to play a game from a faraway land.
I quickly fell in love with the game, the main reason, I was good at it… well really not good, but I was successful at this level. I was Bigger, and I was Stronger than most kids my age.
For the next few years, I continued to play in the developmental soccer league, AYSO. While I was playing and learning the game, I rose to the top of my team, and division.
Before long, my parents were approached about me leaving the developmental league and joining “club” soccer. Already registered for the following season, I finished my commitment in the developmental league.
Immediately after the developmental season was over, ‘tryouts’ for the fall season started.
Tryouts were an experience in themselves, the same game, soccer, but at a whole new level. Most of the kids trying out had been playing together for a season or two. They knew what to do, what came next, the expectations. I was clueless.
I made the team, but I was by far the worst player on the team. I was slower, less skilled and didn’t know the details of the game. I was the kid that made mistakes in the games that cost points, that cost the team games.
In just a few weeks’ time, I went from being the best player on one team to being the worst player on another team.
Looking back now, It was daunting, and I never thought about quitting. My first-grade friend was on the team… maybe that kept me going. The competition of it.
The coaches still liked my size, I just needed to bring my skill level up. My coaches saw something beneath the surface, they knew I could succeed. During the first season with the club, I remember one of the coaches telling my dad that I needed to PRACTICE more than just during team practice times. Play wall Ball, and work on the weak foot. And that players will have to tryout every season to make the team.
This was so different from the old team, where I would just show up goof around and I was pretty good.
Over the next few years, I literally had a soccer ball at my feet every second that I could… watching TV, eating dinner, anywhere in and outside the house. I would spend most of my free time outside in the yard practicing with my ‘weak foot’.
An amazing thing started to happen. My ‘weak foot, slowly become stronger and more powerful than my dominant foot.
I also became a student of the game. I was never good with professional players names or stats. I watched the strategy, I watched the players movements, trying to analyze the game!
As our team continued to win tournaments and championships, I continued to develop in my skills, I remember helping the new kids at tryouts
As our numbers grew, and the team eventually split into two teams.
Once the teams were assigned, I quickly took over the leader role on and off the field for my team. I lead by example, I worked hard every practice and harder every game. I would leave it all on the field.
Over the years, we had our share of success and failures in different divisions, leagues, and tournaments. Being in the driver’s seat, helping steer the team, I learned how to lead a team.
The evolution from Student to Leader has been a pattern in my life in sports, in business and parenting. I just need to remember to be the student more often!
PS. That friend I wanted to follow playing soccer, his dad was the genius behind the club we grew up in, and eventually, we co-captained a team together. If it wasn’t for him playing the game, I may have never discovered something that eventually became my passion. The Power of Peer Pressure can be Positive too.