First, let me get this out of the way.
My first touch is strong…..strong as in a cement brick hitting a supercharged super-ball that is. My high school school coach used to say to me, “Matt….you’d be All-County….if you had a foot.”
Had to put my soccer skills in perspective first.
I’m lucky enough–and longtime readers know this–to play on a rec league team with a fair bit of talent. I’m a complementary player, a pretty selfless (I pride myself on that) player and I don’t give up on defense. On the attack, I’m a decent passer–those skills honed through years of getting rid of the ball quickly because my offensive moves are about as creative as a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich.
There’s a common axiom in business–and in sports too.
“Act As If”
Act as if….you’ve been there before.
If you’ve just become a CEO, act if you’ve been one before.
Sales guys preach this as well. That BMW a sales guy is driving? Well, it’s true many of them are going for the big spender-big ego-compensate thing, but another more meticulous and success-minded group wants to ooze that success when you meet them off-site. Act as if.
Act as if carries over to sports as well.
Larry Fitzgerald embodies it when he scores a touchdown. Minimal celebration.
Emmitt Smith, #2 on the all-time touchdown list, used to score and just flip the ball to the ref. Asked about his low-key post-touchdown routine, Smith once said, “I just take more of a business approach.”
Plenty of players embody it in soccer as well. I remember Dean Ashton–unfortunately now relegated to spectator by injuries–starting the 2008 season en fuego. He’d score, little celebration. This was a guy that was good, not great….but he was playing great so he acted as if he expected himself to be great. (Don’t ask me where the Dean Ashton reference came from.)
This past Sunday, our FC Black Sox team played a friendly against a top SF team. We’re a very solid team that predominantly plays in an 8-by-8 league. We decided, through a mutual player, to play an 11-by-11 friendly today–a chance to play “legitimate soccer.”
It was a good effort from our team and there was some good play on the field, on both sides.
But the game, as rec league matches often are, was over-shadowed by some physical play, trash talk and cheap shots, none of which was more ludicrous than the opponnent’s striker’s antics.
Upon notching a rather ho-hum goal, the striker paused, remembered he wanted to taunt (or celebrate if you will), went leaping, prancing and gesticulating, unleashing three Tiger Woods’ fist pumps, on his way back to the center circle.
It was in poor class and frankly it was childish. Beyond being merely a friendly and a rec league game, that type of celebration has an impact on the visage of the person and, perhaps more importantly, forthcoming actions against the team.
First, for the player–who had some ability–the action signals that this is the pinnacle of who they can be as an athlete, as a soccer player. Juxtapose that with the situation (rec league friendly) and you the player are saying your aspirations are minimal, that you don’t expect to score in a friendly against an undermanned, underpracticed side…..so that when you do it’s a big deal.
Next the reflection on the team is poor. It’s obviously poor sportsmanship, but beyond that, nothing incites an opposing team, to play well or unfortunately to play physically, than to be shown on or after a goal.
Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that all celebration is poor. Karim Benzema this past week choose not to celebrate when he scored for Real Madrid against his former team Lyon in the Champion’s League. Marik Hamsik choose to celebrate wildy when Napoli scored on the road early in their Europe League loss at Villarrel. It was in front of the Napoli fans and it was done in attempt to sustain momentum and the advantage on the road at the Madrigal.
The point is, be prudent and recognize that your goal celebration or whatever celebration on the field says less about revelry in many cases and much more about what you think you, or your team, is capable of.