About a week ago, my mom was asked by one of her readers if I would write guest post on her blog about how to achieve the success that I have in soccer. My first thought was, “why me?” Then I thought about the year I’ve had and I realized that I’ve become a role model to young players. That’s a very cool, very scary feeling. So here it is: the keys to my success in soccer so far.
I’ve played soccer since I could walk, kicked anything and everything I came across that resembles a ball and I’ve watched countless games. I don’t remember choosing soccer, but rather it seems to have always been part of me. To this day, about twice a year, my dad asks me flat out, “Do you want to play soccer anymore?” My response has always been "yes" and I can’t see myself not playing any time soon. That brings me to my first key to success: I love to play.
When I started my soccer career at age 4, playing for the under-6 “Blue Devils,” I couldn’t wait for Saturdays because it was another chance to “make the other team cry.” Yes you read that right, I loved to make other kids cry. Today as I sit here I have (almost) the same thoughts going through my head. Only a few more days until I get the chance to win. The phrase that comes out of the mouth of youth sports coaches that annoys me most is, “It’s not about winning.” For me, its a little bit about winning; winning on the soccer field, winning in basement hockey, winning in backyard soccer, and even this past year, winning in the classroom. Now I realize that is not the perfect attitude for youth sports and I probably shouldn’t have that mentality; but I do and that is the second key to my success: I’m a competitor.
The third key is something that has always been totally out of my control. I was born with a tremendous amount of God-given talent. Raw talent can take you a long way; I’ve seen it. However, you will most definitely hit a brick wall if you rely on talent alone. In my very first years of travel soccer, I played with a kid who had even more talent than I did (although I would have never admitted it). We were the ultimate duo-- we won every tournament there is the win in the Washington, D.C. area. It wasn’t so much the winning though; it was how we were winning- nobody could play with our team and we won almost every game by 5 goals or more. That was from U-9 to about U-12. Right now he is a high-school dropout and doesn’t play soccer anymore. So what was the difference between the two of us? I had a huge support system behind me. He didn’t. That may be the most important part of my success. I have parents, siblings, coaches, friends, and one special priest who have pushed me to my limits and told me that if I worked hard I could achieve my dreams. This was the most important part of my success. Without people who have your back you have no chance at being successful.
My dream has always been to play in a World Cup and I had a chance to do that this year. I left my family and moved to Bradenton, Florida to train with the under-17 National Team all year in preparation for the U-17 World Cup in Mexico this summer. Last week, they cut the preliminary roster of 28 players down to the 21, who will represent the United States in Mexico in a few weeks. That’s where I was let go. I trained hard all year and in the end, I was told I wasn’t good enough. Bummer. I sat in Bradenton and thought about what to do. I didn’t sit there very long. Reason one: I love to play. Reason two: I am a competitor.