May 19th, 2014
I played in my first W-League reserve game this weekend (yay!). We won 4-1 (double yay!).
It was 4-0 until about the 88th minute when our team got a little bit casual, and a forward picked off a ball that was being passed between our two center backs. The forward took a couple of touches and shot it to my left, I dove, got a couple of fingertips on it, but it hit the post and went in.
I was Pissed. With a capital P.
Not at my defenders or myself or anyone really (okay maybe a little). I was just pissed. It was completely unnecessary, and looking up at the scoreboard, a 1 just looks so much sh*ttier than a 0.
I’ve replayed that goal a thousand times in my head (just like every other goal that has ever been scored on me). I wrote down what happened, and all the ways I could have fixed it, starting with recognizing that my team had become a little bit casual after scoring the 4th goal, and ending with following the ball with my eyes until it is out of play (I can’t remember if I did…which means I probably didn’t).
I’m a perfectionist.
I think all goalkeepers have perfectionism beaten into them. If you play enough games where you do 30 things right, 2 things wrong, and your team loses, you’re bound to develop a zero tolerance policy for mistakes.
That’s why half of my experiences training young goalkeepers end up sounding more like therapy sessions than coaching.
Being a perfectionist can paralyze you. You become so afraid of doing the wrong thing, that you do nothing at all, or you wait a second too long second-guessing yourself. And doing nothing is much worse than doing the “wrong” thing. At least if you’re doing something, you could get lucky, or freak the forward out, or hit somebody, who hits somebody else, who then trips and creates a four man domino series ending with the ball going out of play.
This is, of course, easier said than done. I struggle with it all thetime. Nobody wants to look stupid, and believe it or not, watching the ball go in your goal looks less stupid than sprinting 30 yards up the field, taking a big wind up, and missing the ball.
In college we were asked to come up with “affirmations” and “mantras” in one of our leadership meetings. Mine was a quote by General Patton:
"A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week."
I didn’t have much of a choice. We played a flat back three, our defensive line was held very high. I had to make a lot of decisions to come for balls played through our back line that were really tough judgment calls. Don’t come and they have a flat out breakaway on me, come and don’t get the ball and they have an open goal (plus I look really stupid).
The only way, I found, to play that system is completely fearlessly. Make a decision, execute violently, triage the damage you’ve done. (this led one announcer in the Final Four to call me “adventurous”…goodness knows I heard it enough when my parents were rewatching that game everyday for several months…)
The example I give most kids I train when they tell me they are afraid to make a mistake is from my senior year at UNC. If you followed that season, you may remember this as the day Brooke Elby saved my life.
We were playing BYU in the Elite Eight. We were in double overtime and I made a bad decision. A BYU girl was played in for a breakaway, I thought I could get to the ball first but I misestimated her speed (or my speed) and I didn’t get there.
I came running out hard and she took a long touch past me. So long, that I thought it might go out of play. But she got to it, and the ball would have gone in the goal if Brooke hadn’t made an 80 yard sprint from the other half of the field and slid to clear it off the line.
As much as it pains me to relive this moment, here it is
(SHE'S MY HERO)
I tell kids this story first to point out that no one is perfect, and you may make a mistake at the worst possible moment. That’s life.
Second, I like to point out that if I had made the “correct” decision and taken the breakaway, as I should have, she might have scored. But because I came flying out like a mad woman, she took a giant touch, which bought some (not much) time for my defense to bail me out. I looked stupid, and I know it was the wrong decision, but it worked out.
Doing something is better than doing nothing.
For all you non-soccer junkies out there, I will leave you with one muggle example (sorry I called you a muggle…but you are).
I hate doing laundry.
I hate it so freaking much. I could try to explain to you how much I hate it, but the attempt would be futile because I hate it so unbelievably much. I would rather run 10 120s, rest, then and run 10 more, than do my laundry.
The biggest reason I hate laundry is because it is un-effing-finishable. You cannot complete it – because no one washes their laundry naked (I mean maybe some people do, in which case they would have several minutes of relief from the never-ending agony that is trying to keep all your clothes clean…but eventually they would need to get dressed and the vicious cycle would begin again).
So now that you realize how insane I really am, let me just say, that like every normal healthy adult out there I do wash my clothes...all the freaking time (although I am not above taking something out of the hamper and wearing it again provided it that it passes an extensive smell test).
I wash all my clothes together – in one load – in cold water. I do not measure out how much detergent I put in. And sometimes I don’t use dryer sheets. (I know, I’m a monster).
But the clothes get washed.
What’s the other option? Drown in a sea of my own filth because I don’t want to participate in something that I cannot complete perfectly? I tried that, and it’s worse (I mean, it’s a close call…).
Not going for a run is worse than going for a run that wasn’t as hard as it should have been. Wearing no clothes is worse than wearing last season’s Prada. And cutting your nails a bit too short is better than letting them grow forever (I mean unless you're this lady).
(I know hawt, right?)
Having standards is good – great even. But perfectionism…maybe not so much.