A year and a half ago, I knew what I had to do and where my heart was leading me. I had come to a cross road in my life. During that time I reflected on my future and decided to pursue a life-long dream of becoming an author.
As long as I can remember I wrote books in my head and would read everything I got my hands on. My biggest question was what book to write as I had several ideas and book concepts started. I choose to focus on the mental game of soccer as a starting point. Today I stand here at the book launch of the soccer series with ten books completed but more importantly vibrantly healthy. Some times in order to achieve our dreams whatever they may be we need to walk through our fears, we need to put everything we have and know on the line.
Previously I had worked over thirty years in mental health and health care at a variety of senior levels attempting to make change and contribute to the good fight. During my work in mental health and addictions my positions were mainly on the treatment side although I did design a traditional healing program for Aboriginal Youth which was focused on prevention. The mental health and health system was focused on trying to assist people, mostly ill people, to change. Throughout my career I often asked the question what is the best way to facilitate change? After years of pursuing this subject I came to realize that the best way to facilitate change is that the individual themselves desires a different life. So I came to believe that books that helped individuals change themselves were a valuable contribution towards my goals of helping others. I also wanted to focus on people who were successful in life.
I have always needed exercise in my life to maintain a stable emotional life and my health. I was concerned when I learned that up to 70% of youth quit soccer by the age of 13. Exploring this issue more I became familiar with long-term player development and wondered if I could make a contribution to the development of the mental game. As a coach, manager, parent, and participant of sports I knew that mental attitude was a key factor in winning a game and top coaches believe it accounts for 50% of a win. Looking around for resources to help youth with their mental game I found there were books but they were mainly directed to adults.
I began to review the lives of my favourite soccer players and those mentioned by my son or listed as top players and look at their interviews and life stories, begining with David Beckham. I was specifically looking at things they said which illustrated a positive attitude. Their stories were so inspiring I didn’t want to stop researching. I began to believe that the stories were helpful not only to youth who aspired to achieve a soccer career or continue their involvement in soccer but were helpful to understand how to pursue any goal. Even with myself I began to say everything I learned about becoming an author I learned from soccer players.
So what did I learn?
Successful soccer players believe in themselves; they follow their dreams, many believing that God or a power greater than themselves has given them talent and it is their duty to do justice with it. They are optimistic of creating their own destiny. They keep striving for perfection, learn from their losses, and persevere in the face of challenges. Wanting to be the best they can be, they are not afraid to look deeply within themselves and identify where they need to improve; they train harder, discipline their emotions and make sacrifices. Successful soccer players believe in themselves. They have a passion and love for football, which helps them overcome obstacles. They believe they can do it and to achieve their goal, they train harder and never give up.
Most of the football players I mentioned stated that they were following childhood dreams. At a young age, they wanted to be soccer players and pursued that goal. A dream often presents itself as a repetitive thought. And when we are following our dreams, we feel most alive and happy. The books One Day A Story About Positive Attitude and Get Your Head in the Game: the Power of Positive Mental Attitude focuses on soccer players who made it to the highest level.
The footballers outlined in these book stand out; they are people who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles and went on to achieve their goals. In the field I worked in previously mental health, addictions, homelessness, criminal justice, health care, these difficult life circumstances were used as a reason for failure. But all the professional soccer players succeeded despite these barriers. What I described in the books are the mental attitude, which helped professional soccer players accomplish what many just dream of. Throughout the books I use quotes from the players’ themselves. These are individuals who had both a combination of talent and the mental attitude.
What I found was that they had a dream and they believed in their dream. I feel that most of us are born with dreams however, often we let other people interfere in our belief that we can obtain these goals. I loved the stories of people like Pele who had no shoes, not even regular shoes, let alone soccer cleats, no ball, no organized teams, and was often hungry. He did not own a $300 dollar pair of cleats. What he did have was a dream and as a young boy he told his father he was going to play in the World Cup. He found a way, initially making a ball, and playing bare foot with his friends, then as a child he organized a team, found a way to make money and bought a ball, the team played barefoot. Over time with his father’s help and his drive he became known as one of the greatest players of all time.
It’s not enough to have a dream of being a football player; talent and mental attitude are also equally important. Many people have dreams, but they don’t believe that they can achieve them. Professional soccer players not only had those dreams, but they also believed that they would one day realize them. While they might have faced obstacles along the way, they also had a sense of optimism or faith in their abilities.
Commitment is a promise you make to yourself to do something, like chasing a dream. Professional soccer players are committed to achieving their goals, and research suggests that their commitment is greater than those who had a similar level of skill, opportunity, and geography but who could not make it to that level. Researchers have also found that players who were intrinsically motivated by things like pleasure or fun were more likely to make a commitment to themselves than those who were extrinsically motivated by things like public regard, reward, or money.
Not only were professional soccer players committed to their dreams but they felt a sense of purpose they often used the goal as a means to help other young people or their countries. Research suggests that having a sense of purpose boosts your motivation to attain your goals. In Pele’s situation he is said to have temporarily stopped a civil war during a game. Can you imagine? Even prime ministers and presidents have a hard time stopping wars.
Professional soccer players were also more likely to have an internal locus of control they believes they control their destiny through hard work, personal characteristics, and choices. There were many soccer players who demonstrated this principle like Zlatan and Cristiano Ronaldo who overcame difficult childhood experiences and environments. They took control of their destiny and said why not me? When people have an internal locus of control, they are more likely to participate in actions that they believe will change their situation and they will work hard to attain what is needed to reach a particular goal. Such people work harder and persevere longer in order to achieve their objectives. Many of the players, as well as their families, believed they were born to play football or that it was their destiny.
These players worked hard and strived to improve. They want to be triumphant with a strong inner desire to be successful. These players expect that they will be successful through hard work and they believe they can overcome any challenge given to them.
To achieve success optimism was a key factor. Optimistic players tended to play consistently regardless of their team’s performance. People with optimistic mindsets not only try harder, but also perform better in adverse situations. Optimistic individuals are resilient; they perceive opportunities that pessimistic people do not. If you are not naturally optimistic one way to change your view from pessimistic to optimistic is to pay attention to your internal voices and replace the negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, instead of saying, ‘I can’t pass,’ tell yourself, ‘I am great at passing and every day, my passing accuracy improves.’ One Day: A Story About Positive Attitude is partially an affirmation book designed to be read repeatedly to ingrain positive attitude in a child or youth.
Self-confidence is the athlete’s perception that he or she has the ability to compete at a certain level. Research suggests that using imaging may enhance confidence and performance. Visioning or imaging is when the players see themselves achieving a goal such as winning against another team before it happens; it can be helpful towards one’s performance and the development of confidence and mental toughness. Research has shown that the more confident the players were, the more likely they were to use this type of visioning.
The confidence of both the individual and the team is necessary to be successful at soccer. To face challenges, you must feel confident in your ability to overcome them. Losses and criticism from others are a constant assault on player and team confidence. There are two voices within us: the “can do” voice and the “can’t do” voice; we choose which one we listen to; thus, the “can do” voice needs to be stronger.
When setbacks occur, the players who can look at themselves assess the situation, take responsibility for it, and work towards correcting it; this builds their confidence. They face their fears, negative perceptions of others, and their mistakes or losses. Setbacks are viewed as obstacles to be overcome. Your reaction to a situation or setback is more important than the obstacle or situation itself. Surround yourself with people who promote your sense of confidence. If you are feeling a lack of confidence in your position, assess the components of that position; it will often give you perspective that while one particular part may be challenging right now, you are doing well in other areas. Players can work on developing their own confidence.
Don’t let other people’s limiting belief in your abilities decide your future. Follow you heart. You have a purpose be it to raise a family, pursue a sport, be nice to someone when they need it, or follow a particular career path you were born with a purpose. You know your desires.
Sun Wen is one of my favourite examples; she was told by her coach that she lacked the ability to play soccer. However, she never let this opinion of her impact on her dreams and she continued and went on to play three FIFA World Cups and was recognized as one of the greatest female players of the century.
At times, there may be a lot of adversities to overcome. It is important to find a way to stay motivated don’t be discouraged at these times the stories of others who have overcome the obstacle you are facing may help. For example when financial hardship seems to present a challenge look at look at Pele, Ronaldo, and George Weah. George Weah was born in the slums of Africa. If physical limitations seem insurmountable looks at Nico Calabria who was born with one leg but went on to play soccer on a regular team and later was chose to represent the US in the National Amputee team. Lionel Messi is also a well know example he overcame a growth hormone issue. Also Ronaldo had several knee surgeries and his passion and love of soccer made him determined to endure the pain and recover to play again.
Public judgment can also be hard to take. Many players have had to face negative perceptions due to their mistakes Look at David Beckham who kicked out at an opponent and was blamed for losing the chance at winning the 1998 World Cup. He had to be escorted to some games by police fans left doll images of him in a noose. He continued moving forward and in 2002, four years later he scored a goal in the World Cup to help England win and won back the support of fans. You can achieve success and while maintaining integrity and good values. David Alaba is an example of a defender who for two years never received a red or yellow card
Find your passion be it soccer or some other dream, have fun and don’t give up.
I would like to thank the models and people who lend their names to my books Some of the models are here from the books Josh, Phillip, Ryan, Lahaina, Millie, Brennan and Shannon were models upon which the characters were developed or they were on the cover.
As Lynda mentioned Get Your Head in the Game Success Journal will be released by Colin and I later this year. I’m also working on Oh My Gosh Josh Loves Hockey.
I would like to thank Lynda for agreeing to MC the evening I have many fond memories of Ainsley, Everton, Lynda and the boys from the All Star team, it was one of my all time favourite teams. I would also like to thank Franck for his opening remarks and sharing his personal story of the value of soccer in a child’s life. Additionally, I want to thank Colin for talking about injury prevention. As parents we invest a lot in our children’s sports and the youth themselves invest years and hours of training. Many injuries can be prevented. For those who have supported me in any way by sharing a post, word of encouragement or purchasing a book those little things mean a lot, thank you. It is surprising how little it takes to help one hope. Lastly thank you for coming out and joining me in this celebration.