“That team does things the right way.”
A statement that every soccer player has heard about a team. Most likely one they have said themselves. Everyone wants to be that team that does things the right way. But, it is much easier pointing it out than actually doing it.
A player who needs no introduction, David Beckham does things the right way. In his autobiography Beckham: Both Feet on the Ground, he talks about a club that does things the right way too. Ridgeway Rovers. A childhood club that influenced him as a player. He speaks about the club at great length.
Two things stuck out that made the club tick: standards and commitment.
Standards speak about the club. While, commitment speaks about the players.
Both are required of a team to do things the right way.
“If you didn’t turn up to training…then you didn’t play”
A club’s standards include both on and off the field interactions. Maryland soccer is no different. There are standards set for players and coaches. For instance, every player knows that before receiving a ball you must always check away.
A training session starts with technical work usually involving one and two touch passing. Prior to receiving a pass, Coach Sasho trains players to make a movement of deception before checking for the ball. He does this for two reasons: to make the drill game-like and to build habits of off-the-ball movement.
Off-the-ball movement becomes instinctual. Soccer simply put is: passing and moving. The standard of movement is set daily at Maryland. And if you aren’t doing it, you are going to hear about it. Sash has never been shy about keeping the program’s standards high.
Maryland has standards, and so did Ridgeway Rovers. Beckham talks in his book about the club’s emphasis on timeliness:
“One important rule was that if you didn’t turn up to training in the week, then you didn’t play on the weekend; it was as simple as that. It was a good habit to learn: I always made sure I was there and that I was there on time.” – Beckham: Both Feet on the Ground
Standards the club did not budge on. You miss practice. You don’t play. Simple as that. Many clubs set this standard, yet they don’t follow through with it. Rovers players saw the benefits of standards turning into good habits. Beckham is a clear example of that.
He admired the club’s willingness to set a standard and stick to it. A kid, who loved playing soccer (football), knew if he wasn’t at training on time he wasn’t going to play. It is easy to see how he learned and maintained habits of professionalism, even at such an early age.
The club set the standards. He bought in. He benefited.
Check out some of Beckham’s goals at Manchester United (Video Courtesy of CR9MercurialSpeed):
Commitment: A Matter of Choice
To Beckham’s credit, he had commitment. It took his willingness to embrace and act on standards. A willingness to buy into a club and their way of doing things. Sometimes, things you may not want to do.
As a forward, defending was never something I wanted to do. That is until I became a Maryland forward. I quickly learned that defending starts from the front. Defending isn’t just bypassed by the forwards. It starts with the forwards.
This was an adjustment for me. It was uncomfortable. But I knew if I wanted to be a contributing forward, I needed to raise my level of defending. I began to look at it as the quickest way to start attacking again.
I bought in. I brought a commitment to get better, and I did. My defending is anything but perfect. But, it has improved.
Commitment is the one thing I could control. Every player has those days where their touch isn’t where we want it, or we miss more chances than we convert. Even if we are not at our best, our commitment can be.
Accepting a Challenge of Commitment
Beckham brings commitment. As a young boy, he brought commitment to never be late for a practice. As a man, he brought commitment to the top clubs in the world like Manchester United and Real Madrid.
He is a person that seems to always do things the right way. This didn’t happen by chance. He surrounded himself with a good environment that upheld standards.
But, most importantly he had commitment.
Every player challenges themselves to bring commitment. It is a challenge. But, those that do reap the benefits. Whether, it is becoming a better defender or an international soccer superstar.
We can’t always control our surroundings, but we can control our commitment.
Be a player that does things the right way.