Entirely Different

I coach. It is something I do. I look at an athlete and find discrepancies. I tweak the discrepancies towards the ceiling of each athlete I work with. My hope is to break them through their personal ceilings towards the potential I see in them.

I am intrigued with the game of soccer in a way that has captured me. I can honestly say the game of soccer has changed my life. Yet, I have found something entirely different.

Coaching soccer players and teams and programs has allowed me to see the many diverse sides of the game. It always brings me back to the fact that it is a game. You know, like in the school yard. Like duck-duck-goose, or hide-and-go-seek…a game.

This game has given me a platform to connect with many players over the years. I have been able to see athletes go from 10 year old snotty-nosed, technically challenged children that have developed into highly-skilled, aggressive, quick-thinking soccer athletes. It is quite a picture of something entirely different.

Being connected to the many soccer information sources that come through my inbox, I like to read about the youth of the day. They have the world in front of them, calling them to claim their stake in the prize that the world has to offer.

Kids work so hard to please their environment or parents or team or themselves. They want to know that they have arrived, that they have made it. So they put in hours of training and hours of fitness to get to where no one else they know has been.

One of the articles I read recently was interviewing a 15 year old who may have a chance to play in Europe for one of the largest, most expensive clubs in the world. The kid gets a trial with the club and has the opportunity to train and play with the club’s under-16 team. The kid said this about his experience:

The difference between Europe and American soccer is enormous. The training, physicality, and intensity of what they do is eye-opening. In Europe, soccer is life or death . . . and to be a part of that makes you see the game entirely different.

Life or Death

One of my favorite quotes while I have been in the soccer world is this: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” – Bill Shankly

The game has been placed in high regard. It is entirely different.

This American kid has seen the European soccer eye. The game of soccer is the most attended religion on the planet. Besides, many soccer fans agree with Bill Shankly. They believe there is nothing more important than soccer.

And there is a bit of truth to the quote from Bill Shankly. Perhaps the focus of soccer for him was a picture of how we need to see our current situations and circumstances. Perhaps we shouldn’t see our situations and circumstances as a matter of life or death. Perhaps our situations and circumstances are something entirely different. Perhaps they are influenced by our training, physicality, and intensity.


This is the most important part of development for an athlete. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success”, provides the world with the “10,000-Hour Rule.” Basically, if you want to master something, you need to spend 10,000 hours in that line of thought or that technical track.

So for athletes at the professional level, guess what? They have spent numerous hours training different techniques, hitting balls, making catches, running plays, and in soccer, touching the ball.

10,000 hours. The clock is ticking!


One thing that separates “the men from the boys” or “the women from the girls” is the physicality an athlete brings to the game. In American football we all know Ray Lewis for his physicality. In basketball, Dennis Rodman fills those shoes. If you are a soccer fan and the name Roy Keane or Patrick Viera or Michelle Akers is mentioned, you will know them to be in the same light.

Physical. Tangible. Game-changers.

If you are not willing to get into a physical battle for the ball that everyone is looking to attain, don’t even step on the playing field. Because if you do, you might get hurt by the physicality of the game.


Monday morning quarterbacks, or weekend warriors are typically not intense athletes. Perhaps they were at one point in their lives, but intensity tends to drop off as an athlete sees they do not need to be as focused as they once needed.

People who lack focus and desire will not rise to the occasion. Massive amounts of energy with extreme concentration and focus. That is intensity. That is what is needed to compete at the highest levels.

Bring It

You have either a game in front of you, or something much more important. Like this 15 year old soccer player has discovered, the game of Life is something entirely different.

You need training :: Get to it.

You need physicality :: Flex it.

You need intensity :: Bring it.

The coaches, evaluators, and judges who matter will measure you. Remember though, if you train hard, with aggression and intensity, things seem to take care of themselves.

And your goals in Life tend to get accomplished without focusing too much on them.

Because your Life will come from a Source that is entirely different.


  1. Trevor Honeycutt · November 14, 2012

    Good stuff Mark. Reminds me a little of the parable of the talents. The rewarded people had to exercise diligence to achieve the highest that they were capable of.

  2. Susanna Nickell · November 14, 2012

    Great work and wonderful insight. Your passion for both soccer and life are contagious. I truly enjoyed every minute of learning from you as a ‘soccer student.’

  3. Pingback: Essence « marklchampion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s