When I was little, my parents claimed I never stopped moving. From the time I was three I was involved in athletics. By the time I was four I had discovered soccer. From there on out, I was addicted.
As I grew up, I immersed myself in sports. From track and field to soccer to softball, if it was “in season,” I was playing it. Even at a young age, I had the intensity and dedication that would make me a top performer in my teens. I contribute part of it to being a corps brat-until I was 8, my father was in the Marines. As long as I could remember, the military life had influenced my approach to athletics.
The one thing that seemed to stand in between me and reaching my peak was my temper. I easily got upset or frustrated, and as a result, I was never quite able to do my best. None of my coaches questioned it, always preferring to look the other way when I had a temper tantrum. As a result, I became rather arrogant, and accustomed to getting away with virtually anything on the playing field.
Enter Coach Hankins.
Coach Hankins took over my middle school traveling team. He was a collegiate soccer player, who was looking for ways to play during the summer. Unlike my other coaches, he was also a goalie, so he instantly took me under his wing.
The first time he saw me back talk an official, he pulled me off the field immediately. Even though the call WAS incorrect, he did NOT care. All he saw was one of his players being disrespectful. Boy, what a way to make my temper flare even higher. I ended up arguing with him about being pulled.
So, I got pulled AND benched … for three games.
That incident was the first of many. He refused to allow me to get temperamental. He saw how it was affecting my game, and as a result, my performance levels were low. After a temper tantrum, I’d lose my focus, and make obvious mistakes. No matter HOW good an athlete you are, losing your focus WILL drag your game down.
Over the next six months, he worked with me on my attitude. I was taught to respect everyone, from officials to fellow players. As my temper got cooler, my game got hotter. I was playing at a totally new level, surpassing my own expectations.
I found that one of the key factors in being a top athlete is staying cool and calm at all times. If you focus entirely on your game, you aren’t allowing your self to get side tracked. Every time I got upset over a bad call, I was taking a piece of my mind off the game. Not only was this affecting me, it was affecting my teammates, since they relied on me to do my best.
The next time you feel like tearing into someone after a bad play … STOP! Take a deep breath; say a few choice words under your breath, and GET OVER IT! Everyone makes mistakes … even top athletes. Don’t allow these mistakes to take you away from your game. Realize you made one and move on. By doing this, you keep your self in peak form.
To this day, I still remember getting benched for the first time. And, I am extremely grateful to my coach for doing so. His humiliating me taught me a valuable lesson:
A cool head will always prevail.