Machiavelli was Italian. Italians love to talk about soccer. Therefore, Machiavelli talks about soccer.
Whether, he knew it or not at the time.
In his book The Prince,the Italian philosopher spoke about leadership. The leadership required of a Prince to govern. He created a philosophy that as a leader there are certain situations where “the ends justify the means.” A philosophy still discussed in political terms today.
The philosophy’s actual interpretation is still under debate. I immediately related the principle to soccer terms. After all, players have goals (an end). We all strive to achieve these goals. However, contrary to Machiavelli’s principle, soccer players must focus on the process of achieving goals.
Goals are achieved by doing the right things during the process.
The process is the work put in by players to achieve a goal. Goals aren’t achieved by cheating the process. Players must view the process in terms of daily preparation. The preparation involves sharpening the mind, heart and body to be ready for competition.
During my college career, I have seen players exceed by respecting the process. Players that bring a mindset everyday to get better. Each one of them had their own unique way of bringing that mindset day-in and day-out.
Many players talk about putting in the work everyday, but few actually do it. Jason Herrick is one of the few.
Herrick was a senior captain during my freshman year at Maryland. He was a prolific goal-scoring machine. Every team he had ever been on, he scored goals. The scoring continued during that season as well as he recorded 11 goals.
But, that is not what is most impressive about Herrick. He has the best work rate I’ve ever seen. Many players have high work rates, but I have never seen a player bring it every day. Herrick does.
He didn’t care if it was a walk-through or an 11v11 scrimmage. He approached it the same. Every shot he took, every challenge he entered and every run he made, he did so with maximum effort.
I took notice. He provided an example to me of how I wanted to perform on a daily basis. Although, I wasn’t the only one who noticed. His dedication to a high work rate was contagious to the rest of the team.
Endless Energy All Day, Every Day
A high work rate is often a part of those players who bring an enthusiasm to the game. Another Maryland teammate proves these qualities go hand-in-hand. Jake Pace.
Playing a sport at a high level means countless days of training. Bringing the same attitude each day is a challenge for any player. Jake Pace is no different. He faces this same challenge. But, similar to most challenges he faces, he overcomes it.
I’ve played along Pace for almost four years. Every day, he brings energy. Energy to score goals, energy to win small-sided games and energy to help his teammates get better. An energy that is easy to see.
The energy doesn’t end after training. His energy translates into results on the field as well. Pace scored key goals last year on our run to the Final Four. (Check out his best goal, which is No. 3 on our Top 10 Goal List) Beyond his stats, he always provided our team with energy, and made our team better.
Pace respects the process of achieving a goal by bringing enthusiasm day-in and day-out. The attitude he brings on a daily basis makes our team better. We would not be the same without his presence. Ultimately, that’s what leadership is.
Keeping It Fun
Countless workouts and training sessions make many players just want to get to the games already. But, Jordan Cyrus embraces the daily grind by making it fun. He always has a smile on his face. From the moment he enters the locker room, the smile rarely leaves his face.
The senior defender doesn’t see coming to training as a chore. He enjoys coming to training. He isn’t the only one smiling when he enters the locker room either. Every players’ mood is lifted with his entrance. Probably because they eagerly await their handshake with Jordan.
Hard to imagine a day in the locker room without a Jordan Cyrus handshake. Jordan has a special handshake with each player on our team. Every time he greets one of us, a handshake is performed. From the fist pounding to the imaginary pot-stirring, they are some of the most elaborate handshakes I’ve ever seen.
Cyrus’ strong relationship with each of his teammates translates to the field. Everyone enjoys playing with him. It’s inevitable not to. He brings a joy to playing that makes everyone enjoy coming to train.
He respects the process by enjoying the work he puts in every day. Without even realizing it, he makes it easier for us to embrace the daily grind by just remembering what we do is fun.
Set A Goal and Work Toward It
Although, Machiavelli’s philosophy of “the ends justify the means” may apply at times in the political world. It does not in the soccer world. As players, we must concentrate on the process of improving our skills to achieve our goal.
I have played with successful players that have valued the process along the way. They each had their own way of going about it. But, they all respected the process.
This is not easy. But these three players provide examples of dedicated players respecting the work and time it takes to get better. Every player has the potential to do the same. The challenge is finding ways to turn potential into performance.
We can turn our potential into performance by mastering the process. Once we master that, all of our goals are at our fingertips. No goal is beyond reach.