Before, I never understood it when people talked about a soccer player and said that he or she was ‘out of form’. I would think ‘Either you can play soccer or you can’t, how can you be good one day and terrible the next?’. Unfortunately, these last couple of weeks I’ve experienced first hand what being out of form feels like.
I dreaded going to practice, wasn’t hitting any balls the way I was supposed to and I could almost hear my teammates think ‘what the heck happened to her?’. So yes, definitely out of form. Fortunately, I knew almost immediately how this came to be.
When it comes to soccer, I want to improve. I really, really want to. Sometimes, I want it so bad that I’m sort of become my own worst enemy. I start thinking about every single pass, which leads to none of them ending up at their intended destination.
The Lolo Jones story
In his book ‘Focus’, Daniel Goleman talks about the Olympic athlete Lolo Jones, who was one of the favourites in the 2008 final of the 100 meter hurdles race. With only two hurdles to go, and being comfortably ahead of the rest, something goes wrong in Jones’ head. In spite of all the hours, weeks and years of training she has dedicated to becoming the world-class athlete she is, she suddenly starts thinking about how to exactly jump over the hurdles. Because she stopped trusting her autopilot, and starts rethinking every single movement, almost like a beginner, she loses all of her speed in the final meters and eventually gives the gold medal away.
This is a little bit like what has happened to me. I want to improve só badly, that I feel like every pass, every battle for the ball and every shot at goal should always be perfect. Which makes me think about it so hard that everything ends up going wrong. This thought process is a vicious circle: the worse you play, the more you start doubting yourself, and then you end up playing even worse. When I was on the field, I started to feel like someone that had just put on a pair of cleats for the very first time in her life.
It’s everybody’s problem
At this point, the fact that soccer is a team sport also becomes an issue. See, if I were to get a red card, miss all the balls I tried to shoot and/or would score an own goal, I could deal with that. The sun would rise again the next day, and bread would have to be baked at my work as usual, so life goes on. The downside of playing a team sport is that not only you are affected by your terrible performances, but your teammates as well. Letting myself down is something I can handle, but if my teammates have to suffer from how poorly I’m playing, that’s a lot harder to deal with.
Fortunately, a solution arose from an unexpected corner a few weeks ago. Love. If there’s one single thing that can make everything else lose importance, even just for a short while, it’s that. Without going into too much detail (you know, privacy and all), I can tell you that I’m currently occupied by things completely unrelated to soccer. And it may sound crazy, but last Saturday that actually led me to thinking ‘Oh yes, this is what it felt like to release a decent pass!’ during the warm-ups for our match. I immediately knew why that was. I wasn’t continuously thinking about it anymore. So, if you see me playing the best games of my life these following weeks, now you’ll know why that is 😉
Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂