‘Ta det lugnt och le, för helvete.’ – Take it easy and smile, damn it. That’s what I recently have been writing on the piece of tape I wrap around my left wrist before every game. Do I want a piece of white tape around on my arm because that’s what they do on TV and it makes me feel a little bit more like a professional? Well, my answer to that is rather short. But to be able to look at the handwritten message on it during the game has helped me these last few weeks. ‘Smile, damn it!’
Twenty thousand in the stands and Chandler Bing
I often get told that I’m too nervous, too rushed, and too stressed out on the pitch. And what can be read in my body language is only a tiny reflection of what’s going on in my head during those times. Do you know the scene in Friends, where Chandler has to be photographed and his face freezes every single time someone points a camera at him? That’s pretty much how I feel from time to time. When I go out and train some stuff by myself before team practice, I only feel the pressure of the twenty thousand people that I imagine sit in the stands next to the pitch and scream my name. The pressure of the ten teammates and two trainers that are actually on the pitch with me a little later weighs down on my shoudlers much heavier.
‘Try to enjoy it!’, ‘Stop being so nervous!’, ‘When you have fun, you always play so much better!’: the most frustrating thing about these well-meant pieces of advice that I hear week after week is that I know they are completely true. See, the situation is like this: if you are terrible at playing a pass with your left foot, the solution is simple. You take a ball, and kick it against a wall with that foot a thousand times, until you master the technique. When the problem is between your ears, it’s a vicious circle, that reinforces itself time and time again. When I’m at my worst, I can play terrible for 90 minutes, because of one bad pass I gave during the warm-ups that I can’t get out of my head.
Stressing about exams as my saviour
Last Saturday, because of a whole string of injuries and absences, I got to join Moldavo’s first team for the first time in quite a while. Because I spent the 2,5 hour bus trip trying to study Multimedia Design as if my life depended on it, my head was everywhere but with soccer when we arrived in Pittem. And I could feel that it was working. When I was subbed on in the 63d minute, I didn’t enter the field with shaking knees and sweaty palms, repeating my usual mantra ‘This is gonna be a disaster’. Right before I crossed the white line I took a quick look at my wrist. ‘Take it easy and smile, damn it.’ Relaxed, I jogged to my position on the left side of the midfield. ‘Maybe I won’t be the best on the field today. Maybe I’ll even be the worst. But that doesn’t matter. I’m gonna give it my all and do my very best. Calm down. Try to enjoy it.’
Everything I had
Okay, I won’t say that I was the World’s Greatest in my half our with Moldavo A. But for the first time in very, very long, that didn’t even matter all that much. I had taken yet another small step towards my goals. I had given it everything I had. And did I enjoy? Absolutely. What more can a person do?
While I was considering this in the car trip from Mol back home, I realised this might be a lesson that can be applied in other areas of life as well, so that’s why I’m sharing it with you today. Rushing, stressing and overthinking: no one has ever performed better doing any of these. Whether it’s in a soccer game, an exam at school or if you’re baking a cake. Take it easy and smile, damn it. You’ll be surprised to see how effortless some things are suddenly gonna go if you apply this technique.
Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂