The 12 Lessons Learned While Chasing My Dreams
The past year has been a wild ride. I have learned a lot during this awkward and challenging transition from playing collegiate soccer to the world of professional sports.
Some players get drafted, others secure contracts in various leagues, many end up taking a full-time job, thus abandoning their dreams of the game. And then there is me…
I moved from the comforting structure of a NCAA Division I soccer program where practice and games are fully scheduled and time away from the pitch is occupied by coursework to a realm of unknowns. Where would I be training the next day? Where would I be sleeping? Would a fresh opportunity emerge?
That’s a whirlwind of chance and risk, but it is also one that generates lessons for players who share my dreams to play professional soccer. As it turns out, these lessons also apply to my life, and these can be applied to yours, too.
1. Be able to take criticism: Friends, coaches, agents, teammates, other players and fans all will comment on your performance. It seems many of the remarks are meant to undermine your dreams and sow confusion and doubt about your dreams. Interpret the words as advice to get better. Listen, apply and move on.
2. You’ll get told no: Resiliency and positive reactions are crucial in response to the ever-present no. Embrace it and let it power your motivation to prove them wrong.
3. You will have doubts: It’s easy to lose confidence under the glare of pro sports — and life. Understand that doubts are natural but can be overcome by faith in yourself and the path you have created to your goal.
4. You will want to give up: There will be times where all you want to do is pack your things into the suitcase you have been living out of and getting on the next flight home. Pros don’t quit. Neither should you.
5. Learning is the most important: The capacity to learn from every experience both good and bad must be cultivated and practiced for use in the future.
6. It’s good to know people: Connections matter. People want to help, so make sure to treat everybody with kindness and fairness. That impression will stay with the people you meet. They may reciprocate when you need help the most.
7. There’s a cost: Nothing is free, and everything worth pursuing has a price. Are you willing to pay it to chase your dreams? Ask yourself that as your experience deepens and the price becomes higher. If you are unwilling to pay it, it may be time to rethink the plan.
8. Be prepared to travel: Opportunities are rare. Say yes and take that leap of faith to take a flight to meet opportunity on its home turf.
9. Training and preparing never stops: If you think you’ve spent enough time training, think again. You can never be prepared enough. Putting in the hours of work never stops, especially on aspects of your game you think you have mastered.
10. Professional sports are a professional business: People have no duty or responsibility to care about you or your feelings. This is a business and their only responsibility is to ascertain whether or not you can help make their team win. It’s no longer like college where the staff are responsible to look out for your best interests and guide you. You’re on your own now.
11. Continue good habits: Correct diet for workload, appropriate hydration, and adequate sleep. Live a healthy lifestyle to allow your body to perform at optimum level and recover appropriately each day.
12. Don’t make comparisons: Every player is unique, so don’t compare yourself to former teammates or opponents. Keep your focus on what makes you better and will help you on the journey.
As you pursue your dream on this extraordinary journey, remember that it is your dream to follow and no one else’s. Strive to shape your own destiny with perseverance tempered with wisdom.
Go forth with confidence and belief on your journey.
Erik C. Panzer
*I graduated from Quinnipiac University in May, 2016. Since then I have spent time trialing in Northern Ireland with Cliftonville FC and Derry City FC, played for Truro City FC in Lower League England, trialed in the U.S.A. and trained with random local teams at neglected parks in the U.S.A. I have finally settled with a training program that assists players with bridging the gap to professional football, culminating in a recruitment trip to Europe in July.
You can learn more about the author at: www.erikcpanzer.wordpress.com