Dear 7-year-old Janak,
It was 8 a.m., 5 minutes before you had to leave for your 7v7 soccer game. Your mom just yelled at you for marking up the walls with the soccer ball, but you, being the frivolous little boy that you were, kept on kicking as you pretended to imitate the soccer moves that you saw on YouTube the night before. While strapping on your F-50 cleats, you eagerly waited for your father to take you to the game.
Arriving at the soccer field, you looked out and saw what seemed to be hundreds of children and parents. You couldn’t help but ask yourself whether or not the adults that stood there, watching their children with sparkling eyes, did so as a way to remind themselves of their own childhood from the days when, they too, had played the beautiful game.
After taking in the pitch and all of its glory, you came back to being fixated on yourself. Remember, you had a goal in mind. It was one word, and it was also everything to you in that moment -- donuts. You always loved those donuts: chocolate, strawberry, vanilla. Three goals for one, six goals for two, and nine goals for three your dad would tell you. Of course, you never got 3 donuts, but that didn’t stop you from trying.
At the time, your coach had always told you that you were a good soccer player, but never a great one. While you were fast, quick, and light on your feet, you made poor decisions, bad passes, and were inattentive -- something that still happens today. But, the one thing you lacked far more than anything else was the willingness to learn from your elders -- the coaches who’s soccer wisdom far eclipsed your own understanding of the game at even the most basic level.
Do you remember the time during the ‘box drill’ when your coach told you to pass the ball to your teammates, and you responded by dismissively shaking your head? Do you remember after your response, he told you to dribble as fast as you could towards the sideline while he passed the ball in the same direction, giving you a five second head start? Do you remember desperately trying to beat his pass from one sideline to the other? Who won the race when it was all said and done -- you or the ball? The ball of course. The ball will always outrun a person, but instead of listening to your coach, you decided to tell him that you would become a faster dribbler and to that, he chuckled.
Though you were younger, less disciplined, and immature, I wished you listened more to those around you. To the coaches who sought to help you achieve your full potential in soccer, and to your parents who sought to help you achieve your full potential in life. There is no shame in accepting advice and there is no cost to pay for it. Part of being a great soccer player is to be one that is coachable. Being coachable isn’t just a valuable skill to have in soccer though, as it is also a valuable skill to have in life. If nobody were coachable then it would be impossible for us to objectively learn from our mistakes and that, Janak, would be quite a shame.
Good luck Janak and never stop learning!
Your future self
* To see more of Janak, check out his highlight tape HERE