I Learned The Most From My Toughest Coach

I Learned The Most From My Toughest Coach

He might have given me some of the hardest days of my life, but in the end, he really was a good coach.

Well, this looks... interesting, I thought to myself as I surveyed the turf. Boys, all around the same age as me, were scattered around the field, like toys in a toddler's messy room. It was my first practice as a select soccer player. I had played soccer for a while before then but had played at the rec level before deciding to take the step up into select soccer that year. As I finished tying up my shoes and warming up, a man emerged from the training rooms.

He stomped up the hill and announced in a deep, thick African accent, "Ok everyone, line up! 10 laps around the field, let's go! Do it quickly!" Little did I know that I would spend the next two years hating that man, who I would call my coach for my next four seasons. Every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday I would wake up and immediately feel anxious about the upcoming practice or game. However, my coach taught me many valuable life lessons that have helped me mature and become the person and player I am today.

My coach taught me to persevere through the tough times.

And trust me, there were a lot of those during my time with him. There were days when I would go there, and it would just be one strenuous drill after another, with him yelling at us the entire time. Those days had an immense physical toll on me, too. I would come home without a single iota of energy left in me. All I wanted to do is collapse on my bed and lay there for hours. But I had to get up, push through the pain and continue to work. I learned that to see results, you must fight through the lowest of the lows. Time and time again, I had to persevere, push away thoughts of quitting and keep working to get better. Now, I have gained that mentality of never giving up and fighting until the end, and I can thank my coach for that.

My coach taught me is leadership.

I learned very quickly that being the quiet, calm kid will get me nowhere. Instead, I had to step up and learn how to lead. And trust me, with a group of rowdy soccer players my age, learning was not easy at all. But over time, with the (harsh) guidance of my coach, I learned proper leadership skills and methods that I use almost every day now. I may have complained endlessly about his yelling and strictness, but my first coach gave me one of my most valuable skills, and I am grateful to him for that.

My first soccer coach also taught something else important, but this one is unlike the other two. During practice, he would always be criticizing, yelling and glaring at one player or another. That set all the players on edge. As a result, there were many disagreements and sometimes even fights among players.Through the disagreements, I learned to find the positives in everyone and that I should always stay optimistic. Over the seasons, I used those two skills to get on the good side of all of my teammates and soon, I was on good terms with almost all of the team. I implemented those two skills into my daily life, and the results have been phenomenal.

Four seasons of Coach S. led to lots of frustration, anger and pain in the beginning. It was really hard to endure the mental and physical toll of his intense practices, training and games. However, I learned many life lessons from my time with him that I can use both in my future soccer career and my personal life. So, I guess he was a good coach after all.

Thank you, Coach S.

Cover Image Credit: Abdullah Chandasir

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The Difference Between A High School and College Athlete

Nothing comes easy.

High school sports are some of the greatest times in a young athlete’s life. You begin to play with a group of people that you will surround yourself with for your high school career, if you play all four years.

This is a great experience for anyone in any sport, but it has no comparison to being a student athlete for your college. When you get to college everything you thought you knew about your sport changes and you have to start over.

Participating in a college sport is a very humbling experience for a student athlete, you have to adjust to a college schedule and manage all your classes, along with your sport. This is an experience that changes who you are as a person.

High school sports teams are filled with many different types of players. For example there is the kid that doesn’t enjoy playing the sport, but they love the game so they play in high school to keep it in their life.

Then you have the kids who aren’t actually fans of the sport, but they were put into it at a young age and it’s the only thing they have ever known, so they continue to play to feel comfortable. Then there are the kids who do not care about winning or losing, they are just happy to be there and they have fun playing regardless of the outcome.

As far as talent goes, whichever category you fall into does not dictate the talent you possess, these categories are mainly about mindset. Whether you are the best or the worst on your high school team you are still a part of a team and you work together with your team to reach your goal.

Now regarding the members of the team, some are better than others and then there are some who go on to continue their athletic career in college. These are the dedicated athletes; the ones who eat, breathe, and sleep their sport. Everything they do revolves around making themselves better in their sport.

When you have one of these kids on your team everyone knows who they are. When visiting teams come to your school to play your team the visiting team fears this player. Rumors begin to spread that this player has committed to play at a big time division one school in college and everyone wants to watch them perform.

Whether it’s on your team or another when that person steps into the spotlight everyone stops to watch, because they know something special is happening. Once their senior season comes to an end, they go down as one of the best to ever play it at their school.

Even years after they are done, this player is still talked about because of their high school accomplishment,; but after high school everyone stops following this player to focus on the next potential big shot that rolls through and that players college career may go unnoticed.

Once you get to college, you face new challenges every day and the simple adjustment of becoming a college student is not an easy one. You begin to live on your own away from home and you are becoming an adult with your own responsibilities.

You set your own priorities and have the freedom to do what you want. That’s as a regular college student, but not for the student athlete. As a student athlete, you have two main priorities, class and sports.

When you get to college as a student athlete you begin to realize how “next-level” college sports really is. The two hour practices after school don’t exist anymore, your life revolves around your sport and you spend all of your time either in class or with your team.

It becomes clear very quickly that the only focus you should have is school and sports, and if you feel you need more time to hang out with your friends and sports are consuming your time, then college sports isn’t for you.

Once you finally meet your team, you begin to realize the difference between college and high school. All those kids that don’t enjoy playing the sport, or the ones that don’t care about winning and losing all disappear, they simply don’t exist.

Everyone is there for the same reason as you and the sooner you realize that the better off you will be. There are no slackers and lollygaggers, and everyone is a hard worker. These are some things you realize before you even begin to compete with them, once you get ready for your first practice your eyes will truly be opened.

Your first college practice puts a lot of pressure on you as a college freshman. You want to make a good impression on the players and the coaches and all the returning players are personally evaluating you as well to see how you stack up against college level athletes.

When you begin, you realize all the automatic success you saw in high school isn’t so automatic anymore. Every player was the superstar at their high school and you immediately feel out of place. You have always been a top tier player, one of the best and now you feel as if you are just in the middle of the pack. It isn’t something you are very used to and it takes some adjustment.

This is why I previously mentioned college sports are a humbling experience; because no matter how good you think you are your college team is filled with players just as good or better than you are. Nobody on your college team is a bad player, they have all put in the time and effort to get to the college level and now you have to compete for a spot and it’s a battle.

The early stages are a tough time for a newcomer like yourself and in some cases struggling players begin to question themselves; they begin to wonder if they are good enough to play at this level. In some cases fear settles in and you even question your abilities.

This is when the time comes that you need to work harder than ever to prove to not only yourself but your team that you belong there.

Getting to this stage wasn’t easy, it was a grind, but a rewarding one. Once you gain this confidnece, it will be easier than ever to perform at your highest level. Once you prove to yourself that you are where you should be, the rest will take care of itself and things become easier than ever.

Achieve this confidence in yourself, work hard, and you will be able to reach your full potential and become the complete college athlete you know you can be.

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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Important World Cup Analysis And Predictions

Is it June 14th yet?

Being that there are officially 44 days until the World Cup kicks off, I think it is the appropriate time to give my analysis and predictions for this summer's biggest tournament. I will break down the top four teams that I think has the best shot to win the World Cup and then give a final prediction on who will be the last team standing when it's all said and done.

Belgium: Under coach Roberto Martinez, Belgium has been steadily improving for the past few years into an extremely formidable side and a world powerhouse. Belgium scored a record 43 goals in World Cup qualifying and look to show they have improved their team chemistry. With an offense that includes star players such as Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, it is hard to not be impressed with the potential for sheer free-flowing, attacking football. Not to mention, many of the players on Belgium's squad play in the Premier League which has proved to help chemistry. The combination of a highly improved defense, backed by world class goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, and the firepower on offense, Belgium should be a top contender in this year's tournament.

France: Everyone knows the French national team has the star players and talent to go all the way this summer. Still, the question remains, will France have the experience and attitude to back up their tremendous skill? The focal points of the French squad include N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Laurent Koscielny and Hugo Lloris. France will look to boss the midfield against any opponent and rely on their pacey attack to do the rest. With depth on defense that nearly no other team can boast, France will look to capitalize on their amazing talent.

Brazil: Similar to France, Brazil has one of the most daunting rosters of any team, maybe of all time. Brazil is known to have produced some of most skillful players the world has ever seen and this year's squad is full of insanely talented players. Spearheading the team is the controversial but undeniably amazing, Neymar. Through his stints with Barcelona and PSG, Neymar has proved that he has the starpower to lead Brazil to victory. Then, looking at the Brazilian defense which includes players such as Thiago Silva, Marcelo, Dani Alves and Alex Sandro, any team must be scared to face that kind of talent. On offense and in the midfield, you have even more world class players such as Phillipe Coutinho, Casemiro, Douglas Costa, Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Jesus. On top of all that, Brazil has two goalkeepers in Alisson Becker and Ederson who would be more than capable in net. You can count on Brazil to pressure opposing team's back line with their skill and pace and be rock solid on defense.

Germany: The reigning World Cup champs will look to repeat their success.. and they have the squad to do it. Germany is a ruthless team who will make teams pay for any mistakes they give up. Building from the back and controlling possession is Germany's game and they run their system like a machine. In the middle of the park, the orchestrator who controls the tempo is Toni Kroos. Alongside him in the midfield are players such as Julian Draxler, Ilkay Gundogan and Mesut Ozil. In terms of forwards, Germany will feature Marco Reus, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner, who are all capable of pouring in goals from the playmakers in midfield. The defense, which Germany prides itself on, has a back line that will include Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Joshua Kimmich. With experience, skill and pace, I would bet Germany goes far once again in the 2018 World Cup.

Prediction: Now, drum roll please...... the winner of this year's world cup will be Brazil. Whatever starting 11 Tite, Brazil's coach, decides to put on the field will be absolutely packed with pace and skill that no team will be able to match. Brazil will relentlessly press every defense they play for 90 straight minutes and every player on the field will have the ability to score wonder goals. Neymar will come off his recent injury and do what he does best: terrorize opposing defenses with skill and finishing ability that is out of this world. On defense, Brazil has improved in a huge way and arguably has the best back line depth on paper. Basically, I simply cannot see any other team that will match the firepower and prowess of the Brazil squad.

Teams to watch out for: Croatia, Spain, England, Nigeria

Golden Boot: Roberto Firmino

Despite my teams (United States, Italy, Greece) not making the World Cup this year, I am extremely excited to see how this summer's big tournament will unfold.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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