My son, Eric, plays soccer since he was little. He used to have scored the most in his first year travel team. He later moved on to a more competitive team and his position has been moved backwards and he now is the team’s “center back”. Although the coach has been giving him the opportunities to play forward positions, but he seems to struggle and always falls back to a defense position. Make no mistakes, he did well in this position and has been given the most “game time” among his teammates.
But I know his personality plays a key role in how he behaves in a soccer game, which in a way limits his choices in a team. Specifically, he worries more about losing than is excited about winning. That’s for the team. How about for himself, personally?
His team just had a last game of the season yesterday. They were behind by three goals in the first 15 minutes, but eventually came back and won by 6:4. Everyone fought hard, including Eric. After the game, I congratulated him and also explained to him where I think he could have done better.
I used one specific example. I asked “why you didn’t want to move forward and support your teammates to attack?” I drew a graph to explain the situation.
“When your team had a corner kick and all your teammates were in the box to receive the corner kick, including all the players of the other team to defend it. How come you stayed far back and left all the space in between?”
“I am afraid of their counter attack”.
“If you left this much of space, the other team would actually be easier to receive the ball and organize a counter-attack. Rather, you can help move your team’s defense line more forward.”
“You do not like to play forward. Is it also because you are afraid of something?”.
The second question is what I have been pursuing all along, actually.
“I don’t want to miss while it was wide open, and then other people blame me for the miss”.
Aha! I knew it, and I knew it all along. I just wanted Eric to speak this out by himself. After a full season of repeated conversations like this, he finally said it, and finally understood what I have been going after.
He wants to be SAFE.
I said to him. See (by pointing to the graph), this space between where you stood and where the other players did is your “space of safety”. You kept asking yourself “what ifs” for all the possible bad situations, which prevented you from doing the best of yourself. I am totally fine that you play in a defense position in a soccer team, but I want you to understand that you can do much greater things once you understand better how your mind works and how it can work against you.
My son goes, “yeah, I understand you want me to TAKE MORE RISK.”
What a relief that I heard my son to speak out this three words all by himself. I asked, “if I tell you to take more risk in the future. You now know what I mean, right?”
“Yah”, answered my son.
What else can I wish for more after a conversation like this? As a dad, it took me all his soccer season to teach the meaning of this three words.