Sunday, August 21, 2011

Be Confident

It was the week of try outs that were held for JV soccer at our school. I was an upcoming freshman, good but not a star on the field, and to be honest, I was a little bit nervous. Our JV consists of both 9th and 10th graders, and though I was friendly with most of the sophomores, I knew most of them were still stronger and faster than me. Try outs went pretty smoothly- passing, foundations, keep away, I held my own and was even looking pretty good. But I wanted to impress the coach during the scrimmage. We moved the goals in and divided into three teams that rotated in and out. My team went in first. I played pretty well, especially in front of the other team and our coach that was watching, but then came the defining moment. All I remember was that I beat a defender, cut to the right, was within shooting range of the goal... and then passed it to a teammate.

Whistle. Play stopped and everyone froze. (You ever get that moment of plummeting dread because you know you're in trouble? Yup, that was it right there.)

"Mr. Lee, why didn't you shoot the ball?" I was trying to think of an answer while everyone was looking on. I said something about my teammate having a better chance of scoring than I did.

"I asked you why you didn't shoot the ball." I said I didn't know.

 "You do want to score?" Yes, I mumbled.

 "So why didn't you shoot?" I was probably turning bright red but I tried to remain stone-faced- I thought of the most reasonable and honest answer I could. I told him I didn't shoot because I wasn't confident enough.

"You weren't confident enough," my coach repeated. "Then get off the field," he promptly said. I walked to the sideline and sat out for the rest of the scrimmage.

That's still the story I remember to this day. A lot of things in life take confidence- taking a standardized test under time pressure, competing in any sort of sport, playing music at a concert, performing a solo, going to an interview... the list goes on and on. It's another "skill" that has to be trained because most people, like me, aren't born with it. Being a striker with a lot of skill but no confidence doesn't lead to goals. Likewise, a striker with confidence but no skill to back it up just comes across as arrogant. My JV coach made me a better player- harsh on me during try outs, but teaching me a lot throughout the season. He taught me how to be aggressive but not nasty. Confident on the ball but not cocky. And as a striker, I learned, it was okay to take chances. Be risky and mess up a few times. I started to shoot more, from farther away, and at every chance that I got. Some were terrible, going way over the crossbar or driveling on the ground for an easy save. But some were good- I scored goals. "The shot that you never take has a 0% chance of going in," my coach told me. "So have confidence and shoot the ball."

I'm remembering all this because soccer season officially starts tomorrow for me. Sure, I'm still a bit nervous about going through tryouts (even though it's my returning year for Varsity), but being able to hang out with my teammates again makes it a lot better. For anyone else out there who's starting a Fall sport, or even if you're daunted by another year of school, just remember to have confidence. In soccer, it's the one thing I have to work most on. It's something to remember on- and off- the field.

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