How badly do you want it? In sport as in life, this will be a question that you must confront when pursuing your quest for excellence.
I remember thinking this when I watched the University men’s soccer teams play in the national championships in Victoria, BC, recently.
Picture this: it is the semi-finals round of a major national sports tournament. There are two teams in this round of the competition. Both teams have worked really hard to get here. Both have practised hard and won their important games. The players have most likely been playing for many years and have practiced daily. Each team has also grown really tight as a unit. But, watching the teams recently, I was reminded that it doesn’t matter how well you have played in the past or how much you practice; in the semi-finals, it is about this moment. Each player must be totally “present” in the game.
For the ninety minutes of play, you and your team need to want to win. You must perform your best in order to get the win. No excuses. None. Regardless of how well you or your team have played during the season, your team must have goals for this game alone. Otherwise, your team’s chances of winning the game are dim.
In this tournament, there are only eight teams. There will only be one winner of every game. The team I watched will have to win the first game to advance to the semi-finals. If they don’t win this game, they will not move on.
All the practices, all the games, all the workouts, all season have come down to this moment.
Watching from the stands, I was really excited to see the teams compete. I knew how much work it took to get there. The teams knew the games were super important, so I expected them to make it count.
I share these lessons that I learned watching a men’s soccer game recently. I was proud to watch my alma mater.
I watched them play their quarter-final game against another strong team. It was clear that there was a deficiency on the team I was rooting for. While I was watching the soccer game, there were four or five main players who really wanted to win and become National champions.
However, the other players on the team did not appear to have the drive to sustain themselves for the whole game. As well, they were not playing as intensely as they could have. As a result, they lost. They were very sad and disappointed about their performance. We, the fans, were also sad for their loss. You guys had an amazing season!
This example shows you that to achieve greatness in sport, you need more than just athletic talent.
Here are some important lessons I learned from the soccer game about excelling in sport and in life:
1) Every member on the team has an important role. Each has a different role, but everyone is needed. How could an eagle fly well without all of its feathers?
2) Mental strength is just as important as physical strength. The team consists of players who are selected for their physical strength and capabilities, but how do you measure their mental strength or drive? The soccer game is ninety minutes (tenacity). You need to keep that will to win for the whole time. It’s a long game.
3) Since it is a team sport, all players need to maintain the same strong drive and will to win. There was one team and the first game I watched where a few of the key players wanted to win and their performance showcased that. However, most of the players didn’t appear to have that drive. It showed in their performance as they lost the game. How does the coach get all players to have that same drive and will to win?
4) Mistakes will happen, and the other team will score points but that doesn’t mean you have lost the game so stop acting like it. This became clear when one team scored a goal during the middle of the first half. The other team after this happened felt defeated and it showed in their performance. So, the other team scored a goal – it shouldn’t be an excuse to lose, it should be a reason to show how skilled you are (physically and MENTALLY) by overcoming that.
5) Keep your A-GAME on from the start to the finish. It’s hard to do but after its done you can never look back and say I didn’t give my best effort.
6) Since it is a team sport, if you see that you’re teammates are feeling low, find ways – maybe even at half time to cheer them up. Or before their tournament even starts.
7) If a mistake happens which they will, don’t blame one person and make them feel bad about it. Just encourage them to persist.
8) If you are in a powerful role, do not be afraid of your talent, go after it!
9) Lastly, the teams have many supporters – family, friends, significant others, classmates, and fellow alumni – make sure you thank them and show them for all the help and support they have shown to get you where you are. You couldn’t have done this ALONE!
Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.
See you at the beach!