Being Putty

As we all know, if you want to be good at something, it’s always a good idea to model yourself after someone who is already good at it.

A number of years ago I got bit by the soccer bug. I hadn’t played growing up as soccer in Michigan during the late 70s just did not have the draw it has today. My first real exposure to soccer was while coaching downhill ski racing when I learned that it was a great pre-snow exercise that developed the same muscles needed for skiing. After that, my son got started in a youth soccer league and I wanted to be involved and ended up his team’s coach. My son really got into the game and the more I coached and played with the boys during practice, the more I got into it as well.

About this time, the parent of one of the boys on the team asked me if I wanted to play with his friends, so I joined what turned out to be a young bunch of Europeans who played inspiring, fast-paced, effortless soccer (what they call futbol). It looked like a different game when they played. We started playing pick-up games and I was known as “the American” – the only player born in the US – until I was able to score a goal and they learned my name! Eventually as they fielded a league team for the next season they asked me to play. I enjoyed myself, got great exercise and learned a lot.

At first, I was outmatched by my teammates and the competition in this more competitive league. With a lot of help from my teammates I zeroed in on what the top players did – their drills, footwork and positioning. Even though I was older and did not grow up playing soccer, I still got better and did so pretty fast.

It wasn’t obvious though (I still thought of myself as being a rookie) until I would mix it up and play with guys from the recreation league. Instead of being the player new to soccer, I was a contender and consistent scorer.

You know where I’m going with this. The superior level of competition raised my game, and by modeling myself after better players it made me much better.

The bottom line is this – if you are getting ready to start something new and you are in that fresh putty stage – what better way to get proficient at it then to associate yourself with those that have “been there, done that” and can help mold you toward success in a much more efficient manner. I learned a long time ago that it is better to follow proven patterns for success whenever possible instead of trying to reinvent it all from scratch. GOAL!

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