A view from my side.
And just like that, we begin a new season. Actually, we don’t officially start training until August 30, but when have I ever waited for official start dates? I have most of the team off at a Team Camp up in North Carolina. It’s a residential camp so the boys will not only be training together, but spending a lot of time together as well. They are each sharing a dorm room with another player and we’ll be here through Thursday afternoon. I spoke with the Head Coach of the university hosting the camp about being able to keeping the boys together and training certain aspects of the game I want them to learn. He was very supportive and understanding and the boys are all looking forward to it.
This group did well last fall. We had a rocky start, getting hammered in the opening season tournament, but it was a first time team, so I sorta/kinda expected there to be some early season crushings. But we rallied, we trained, we bought in to the system and we started winning. Once we started, we didn’t stop. These boys were undefeated in their State League play last fall. They came in 2nd in a mid level tournament, going undefeated to the Final and losing to a much better side than ours. Whew…
We also had injuries late in the season that put 4 starters out as we went into the State Cup Tournament. Then, another starter was sick, running a 102° fever. So, even down 5 starters out off a 17 man roster, we came up short by 1 goal. Had we scored 1 goal in our opening match, we would have progressed into the Final Four. Not too shabby for a bunch up up-starts.
The expectations this season are high for these boys and they know it. They have put much of this pressure on themselves. And, truth be told, it will be a good experience for them. Let’s see how well they handle pressure. We had a target on our back from mid way through the season last year and it is still there, big as day. We lost a few players, picked up a few new ones, but we are the team to beat in our Division.
Learning how to deal with the pressure of everyone “gunning” for you can be difficult. That is one of the reasons competitive athletes are different from everyone else. Especially successful competitive athletes. Teams will be training specifically to beat us this year. One coach told me at the end of the season last November that his team had talked about measuring their success this year by how well they end up doing against us. They were able to compete with the rest of the division last year just fine. But they lost to us 4-0 and half of our starters were on the bench probably half of that match. How they play against us this year will be their benchmark for improvement.
When teams do that, when they train to play you, it puts incredible pressure on your team. I’ve had a handful of teams in that situation. Their opponents are trying to play really well in ONE match…the match against us. When every team you play trains to beat you, specifically, you cannot let yourself slip. You can take nothing for granted. You have to bear down and bring your best game with every single time you play. Our opponents are looking to win a single match. That’s what we are up against. A season of matches like that.
The boys and I have discussed this some, but we will have a real heart to heart soon about it. They have to train with intensity. They have to play with intensity. They have to work harder, run longer, and play better every time they step across the stripe onto the field. This is what champions are made of. This is the mind-set that results.
If they can learn these lessons now, in athletics, think how well prepared they will be for other events in life after they hang up their boots. This is not something they will learn in the classroom. This is not something they will learn any place else on campus. These lessons can only be learned in world of competitive athletics. These lessons will make them better salesmen, better managers, better leaders, better doctors, better lawyers, better engineers, and hopefully, better people. These lessons will prepare them to compete in whatever world they find themselves in when they leave school.
Yes, Let the Training Begin.