Soccer to many people is a game of intensity where winning is everything. Somepeople have what it takes and others don't. To me soccer is intense, but winningis not everything. Enjoying the game and playing the way that makes you feel goodis truly soccer. Confidence is a key element in the game. You can't play yourbest if you have low self-esteem. This is one thing I have unfortunatelyencountered.
Last year my coach felt lowering each player's self-esteemwould make us winners. Instead it left a bunch of girls who once loved the game,struggling to finish the season.
Without self-confidence, our team wasnothing. Our coach was only satisfied with winning. I had one of the worst yearsof all the time I had played soccer. It was definitely a low-point in my soccercareer. It not only influenced my soccer life, it also played a big role in mysocial and home life. I always felt like nothing I did was good enough. Theparents of our team couldn't wait until the season was over. My coach ended theseason with another critique of what we had done wrong. As I walked off thatsoccer field with my shoulders down, I had to face a tough decision. Do Icontinue with soccer and take the chance of another degrading year? Or, do I giveup something that once meant the world to me?
When tryouts came around, Ihesitantly approached the fields. I went through three tryouts hoping I wouldmake a different team. The call from the coach came, congratulating me on makingthe team. He started by expressing his excitement for the upcoming year. Afterthat phone call I somehow knew this year would be different. As this year comesto an end, I have more confidence and skill than ever. I play the game intenselyand enjoy every minute of it. My coach lets us make important decisions on thefield and does not yell or put us down if we are wrong. He simply tells us calmlyhow we can improve next time. We all come off the fields with our heads held highand smiles on our faces. We may not win every game, but we try our hardest andenjoy ourselves. The parents and players laugh and have fun, as everyone shouldwhen playing soccer.
I hope next year that I am as fortunate to be a partof a team with not only a great coach, but a great group of friends. We have allbecome the best of pals through our teamwork and effort. Everyone deserves tofeel good about what they've achieved under any circumstances. I've achieved thatfeeling this year. l
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.
Competing in soccer teaches you more than the rules of play; it provides you with tools that translate into other aspects of your life. Soccer requires quick thinking, fast action and the ability to work as part of a team, and these skills can help you stay focused and productive in your personal and professional life.
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In soccer, you win and lose as a team; no one person carries the team by himself, although one person might score the winning goal or miss a critical shot that leads to a loss. In life, you become part of many teams, from family units to groups of co-workers. These people rely on you, and you on them, to meet certain goals, such as financial savings or finishing a project on time. These relationships require collaboration, just like you work with your soccer teammates by passing the ball or blocking an opponent so he can't steal the ball from a teammate. Soccer helps you understand that win or lose, you do it as a team -- you don't get to take all the credit when a group project surpasses expectations, nor do you take all the blame if the project fails. This requires building other skills such as strong communication, so your teammates -- or co-workers -- know what you're doing and what's expected of them.
Taking risks, such as shooting for the goal from midfield, can lead to failure, but it also can end in an amazing victory. This is true in life as well. Learning to take risks means you open the door to new ideas and interesting ventures, even though they might fail. Taking risks that don't work out -- on the field and off -- helps you learn to handle mistakes, learning from them and making changes to improve future decisions instead of wallowing in despair when things don't work out they way you want. This also means learning to deal with other people's mistakes, whether that person is a referee who makes an incorrect call or a family member who uses poor judgment in a financial investment.
Even the best soccer teams lose occasionally, which is an important lesson to apply to your life. You might have the best game you've ever played, but the team still loses. This helps you survive job interviews that end up with you getting the dreaded "thank you but no thank you" letter, or being passed over for promotion. A loss in soccer can energize the team, making you and your teammates call for extra practices to work on skills that need improvement such as dribbling, passing or scoring. The same is true in life -- use the loss to help you refocus your energies on how to win that promotion next time, for example.
Soccer helps you build other valuable skills as well. It teaches you the importance of attitude, and how a good attitude can invigorate others as well as yourself. It lets you see you can always be better -- practice is key, and the more you practice, study or work on a project, the better you, or it, can be. Soccer teaches you dignity when you win and after a loss, which helps you live and work with others as social and work roles continually change.
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