When I was approximately 12 years old I trialled for the ACT state team in Canberra, I made it to the last round and then I was ceremoniously dumped. I was shattered, I went home and cried myself to sleep that night. That could have been the end of my dreams and aspirations, the disappointment may have led me to say that it wasn’t fair that I should just quit, give up but instead I got up the next morning grabbed my ball and started kicking it against the wall before heading off to school. I vowed that I would never let it happen to me again. That was my turning point in life, my lift off moment, thanks to the support of my family I realised that if I wanted something bad enough I would need to put in a lot more time and effort into what I wanted. My personal circumstances at the time also placed me in an environment where kicking a ball against a wall was really my only free time option as I lived a long way from my high school, having moved midway through my high school. Most of my friends lived too far for me to be able to hang out with them after school. There were no other distractions, there was no internet, pay TV, just my ball, my bike and my dog! This was my practice area, this is where I honed my skills!
The following year I finally got picked in the state team, practically walked it in because I had become so advanced in my skill level. Subsequently, I also played up a year. I was then scouted by the ACT technical director Les Bee and asked to join the ACT academy on Wednesday nights. The following year the same happened this time I played at U 15 level and was selected to attend the last 25 players at a camp for the first ever U16 World Cup. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it but by this time I had realised that this was not going to stop me from getting what I wanted. I had realised that every time I had failed at something I could either decide to quit or work harder to get to my goal.
Ironically out of those 25 players only 5 had gone on to play in the NSL, I was one of them.
If we go back to that fateful day and instead of getting cut and I would have made the team, there is no way that it would have spurred me to work harder, I would have gone home proud of myself with the thought that I was already good enough to play for my state. From there I would have plateaued. Instead, it lit a fire in me that will inevitably still shine to this very day. Every time I am faced with some sort of disappointment, every time I make a mistake I just go back and find another way, I have learned that if you want success you have to understand and learn how to use disappointment in your favour. This is something that we must all try to instil in our children. We have a rule at our school, you are not allowed to say I can’t do it. I encourage the kids to use positive language. To delete self-deprecating negativity or pessimism from their vocabulary. To practice controlling one’s emotion in their favour.
Football much like any other profession is a sport where the top 1% are those that have the right mindset. I would go as far to say that mindset is more important than any of the other factors which bring one success in this sport. In today’s world, our kids are growing up in very different environments to those of yesteryear. Today every company, every social media platform and every news network is clamouring to have and shape your attention and in doing so shape our thoughts and beliefs, mindfulness (quiet time) is a way to teach your kids to switch off the attention grabbers, to learn to focus and concentrate on the tasks at hand.
Within our training environment, there are distractions aplenty and the kids have got to learn that once training starts they need to focus on what they are doing and the goals they wish to accomplish for that training session. They must practice listening because listening does not come naturally. For this to occur they need to train with the right attitude. There is always a time and a place for different types of behaviours. I quite often allow them to enjoy themselves in the last 20 minutes but throughout the session, it is important that they focus and concentrate on the objectives.
What I am finding after all these years of coaching kids is that today more and more kids struggle with this aspect, I find myself constantly cracking down on irresponsible behaviours and attitudes more often than not. Unfortunately no matter how much I enforce the environment if it isn’t followed through at home and in their school environments then the chances of success in any field diminish because children are being allowed to behave in ways which it becomes habitual, therefore if a child’s level of discipline and structure is not a constant parameter, it will be hard for them to practice self-discipline and have a proper work ethic when they are older, in fact, conductive habits are by far the hardest subconscious programs to rewire.
By far the act of responsibility is most important. Responsibility means being response-able, or being able to respond with your emotions in a productive way that empowers us to take control of ourselves and our environment without the need to resort to unduly and unjust actions and behaviours. Responsibility comes from discipline and structure. Taking responsibility comes with a mindset of 100% ownership. In arguments each party must accept 100% ownership of the situation if within the context of the argument no matter whose fault it is or it isn’t the moment each party wants to take 200% in a win-lose situation the problem will not be resolved and will eventually escalate emotions into deteriorated states that will disempower both individuals and lead nowhere.
Adversity is the key to success! Teach your kids how to deal with disappointment in a positive manner. Let them learn to feel emotions holistically by making them understand that life is not an even game it is quite often unfair and you can choose to either be a victim or a competitor. Therefore the key is to teach kids to be proactive with their emotions, Being proactive means being able to control one’s emotions. I am living testament that this is not a final destination its a constant practice which have different levels and differ in different situations. The one thing I remember about my childhood is that my parents gave me every opportunity to succeed. There were times when I didn’t want to go to training but my parents taught me that if you make a commitment to something you stick to it no matter what. It was this level of self-sacrifice that my parents had that taught me to persevere. The rest was my hunger to succeed. To be pro-active, to have the end in mind and most important to put first things first.