A New Years reflection has become something of a ritual since 2010. In 365 days you have millions of different thoughts, speak millions of words and make thousands of decisions. Summarising the year in one page makes light of what is relevant in your life and the sorts of things that really mattered. New Years was over a month ago, but I’ve been adding to this post from time to time the past 6 weeks. Better late than never.
The year begun with the mindset every recent year has: Striving for your goals but not knowing what to expect, where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing.
After spending January in Australia, it was time again to continue my European adventure. In truth, the next few months that passed were nothing out of the ordinary. I was regularly training with my club in Amsterdam, going to school and making a few trips back and forth to Switzerland to see my girlfriend. In Switzerland I trained a few times with a club in the third division, FC Breitenrain, although it was just for fun. The onset of summer came quickly and so did the end of season. In late May, I I played one of my best matches in the final of the national cup for all non-professional reserve teams in the Netherlands. I scored after coming on in extra time to make it 1-0. Unfortunately the other team equalised and we went to penalties. I scored my penalty and we won the competition!
As a footballer trying to make it, I can’t emphasize my frustration and anger enough when it comes to waiting for opportunities and how much that can interfere with your everyday life. The other day on the way home, I had a conversation with a teammate friend who was feeling a bit down because he was being rolled around by a scout on a possible trial in Scotland for months (similar to what happened to me back in 2011). “Why is it always me that’s following up with him. I’m sick of this.” he said. Worse is that he’s being left on the bench of my team when he’s clearly better than many others that start. Not being able to transfer to another comparable team in the area further makes it into a no-win situation. No matter how much things suck and how much I felt for him, we shrugged off the shared disappointment with a phrase you’ve probably heard before “that’s football”.
The chat I had is relatable to pretty much every player trying to make it. My friends situation is just one example why I haven’t pursued many opportunities this year. Other reasons below:
1. I’ve learnt to be more selective and critical towards opportunities.
2. I was sick of the chaos waiting for opportunities was causing to my life. (Imagine constantly thinking you’re going to be somewhere else in a few weeks. For example, I would never buy food that would last more than two weeks from the grocery store, because I would think “well there’s talk of this trial in Italy, so I better not buy too much or it will be wasted when I get signed”). I explain that in more detail here.
3. There are lots of exciting things happening off the field. Whilst I never planned on going to university, somehow with bare minimum effort I passed 2.5 years of my degree. The last half of my degree is most interesting because you can go on exchange, do an internship and write a thesis, anywhere you like in the world.
So I made the conscious commitment in June to bring some more stability in my life to make sure I wouldn’t be missing out on anything waiting around for opportunities because of the chaos football was creating.
It was a good decision and for the first time in years, I learnt again how it feels to be excited towards a particular event happening, rather than being ridiculously spontaneous all the time, anxious and doing everything at the last minute.
The season ended in June, and with a new freshness and greater stability in my life, I could relax, take a quick holiday and look forward to the new season. I started training with more quality and effectiveness than ever. In July I prepared for the pre-season with a one week training camp run by my mentor Moses. Then it was into the new season. Despite good preparation, a strong start and some good performances, it was the decisions of the coaching staff which led to the ultimate demoralization early on. So I was left stuck in the reserves once again. I ended up playing around 30-35 games for JOS throughout the year, but most of those appearances were off the bench.
Off the field I got to do some really amazing things. My fifth semester at university was really cool and I took a course focused on the Business of Sports and Events. The course was something I was genuinely interested in and I managed to complete almost two semesters of classes in one (with good time management, anything is possible!).
Through the course, I got the chance to visit London. I watched a match at the Emirates stadium, as well as tour around Wembley which was quite spectacular. The big highlight of the year was a once in a lifetime experience: Visiting Qatar on an all-expenses paid trip (courtesy of the Sheik) to attend the Doha Goals Forum.
My time in Qatar was amazing and it was really interesting to see how much the country is investing into sport. It was there I also made some connections for the individual soccer training platform I launched. Effective Soccer Training is a project I’ve worked on throughout the whole year and spent a lot of time and my own money on. It’s my mission with Effective to create the best soccer resource in the world. After years of trying, I finally aligned my passion with a business idea. I am seriously buzzing for this site and what it can do to players, coaches and parents lives! I hope all of you reading this are too!
Time flew and by December it was back where I started the year, at home.
In terms of my football performance, this is my #1 learning of the year:
Rest is something I didn’t take very seriously before. That motto “rest is for pussies” couldn’t be further from the truth. But after having one of my best matches in May, I asked myself why. I found that in the week prior to the match, I didn’t train that much due to injury. You would think that it would have the opposite effect! Not with me. I kept reviewing my performance the weeks where I rested more and when I didn’t to make absolutely sure. This was the result. So that’s why I’ve recently decided to take one extra rest day per week (2 total) has added a tremendous amount to my performance in training and on the field. Nowadays I hardly have an issue with lack of focus, concentration or energy (something I had real problems with) because I use an extra day to properly recover and go harder and do more on the other days.
Every player is different and has to test and find what makes them perform the best. But after 5 years of not properly resting between training sessions and matches, resting just one extra day/or light training day, has significantly changed my performance. Cliche phrase, but it’s the small things that make all the difference.
If I had to tell you how I really feel now, I’m so freaking lucky and appreciative. Life really feels like it couldn’t be better.
Whilst many of you reading this may not have the kind of opportunity or resources to do what I’ve been doing in Europe, I know you’re on your own journey to reach your goals whatever they may be. It’s true that some are more lucky than others, but it’s what you do with your luck that counts. I for instance am lucky to have an amazing family and relationships that support my dreams and help me when times get tough. Every one of us are lucky in someway shape or form and in the end, we all share the same ups and downs in life as human beings. Make the most of your luck!
I have this weird and wonderful feeling that 2015 is going to be a fantastic year.
I’ve just moved to Switzerland and for at least the next six months I’m going to be based just outside the biggest city, Zurich. What will happen after the summer is unclear. I’m supposed to grab an internship at a company to finish off my degree, but the company could be located anywhere in the world. A football opportunity could pop out of nowhere and Effective training is growing. Time will tell on what will happen, but living in Switzerland will be a new start. A new football club and a chance to live a different life again.
The reality is that I’m going to be turning 22 in July. When I was 17,18,19 and playing with guys 5-15 years older than me, you could base your mistakes on your age and have the mindset that you will always have a few years ahead of you to get to a certain level. That mindset is not the case for me anymore. I’m now a full fledged senior player that is approaching the peak of his career.
I could just stop and remain happy playing at the semi-pro level I’m at now and forget about my ambitions to play as a full-professional. After all, people tell me either consciously or sub-consciously to give up and move on like all the time. But I have just too much desire and motivation not to keep going with this dream I started 5 and a half years ago. It sounds crazy, but I still believe I can make it professionally.
I know a lot of you reading this are in the same situation. Most of you would have also read my late bloomers post. You’re getting to a certain age and beginning to think that it’s too late to make it. Things start happening in your life and your thoughts on football drift away. For me, I keep going on with my life as usual and do all the things any normal person would. I study, work, hang out with friends, travel, etc. BUT, and this is a big BUT! I treat football just like a job. I train/learn the game 1-3 hours a day and on the weekends longer. That’s component A of the ‘job’. Component B is promoting yourself and finding opportunities which is just as important of a skill and something you can write a whole book on.
What I’ve learnt is this: First of all, if you’re pursuing your dreams, congratulate yourself. You will forever thank yourself for pursuing them.
You will ask if it’s worth it to continue from time to time. Sometimes after a bad training or game, a failed tryout, or when it seems that the whole world is against you. Things may not work out the way you hoped or planned, or you might realize along the way on this journey, you want to go in a different direction with your life. I myself considered if football was worth continuing. But after some serious thinking from time to time, I decided that continuing to strive for professional is the best thing. Why? Because I love living life like a professional athlete. I love having a professional training regime, I love treating my body like an athlete, eating clean and healthy, learning, challenging myself and feeling great everyday.
You might feel differently about this. Maybe along the way you realise that you actually just wanted to play professional football to earn lots of money or become famous. If that’s the case, now you know that you actually want to work in a big bank, or maybe it’s time to read a guide on how to get thousands of followers on Instagram.
Or maybe you love the sport, but you don’t have that extra grit and motivation to grind out all the physical hard work and hours to get better. In that case, you could use those extra hours in making a career in the sports industry.
Deep down you know the answer. What I tell you is not to get caught up with these thoughts and enjoy the struggle. It’s hard to do at first, but soon enough you change and you adapt.