SETGK | SUMMER READS
WITH JONO VISCOSI OF DALKURD (SWEDEN)
The best part of being a #1 is the momentum you build week to week by going out and challenging yourself to be the best you can be. It’s an amazing mental journey that starts with doubt, because you are not sure if you can perform at the level, but with every outing you’re building evidence that you are good enough and this creates a base of confidence that becomes a platform to build off. You then start experiencing moments that become significant like a big save early in a game to keep your team in it, or an important take at the end of the game to secure the result. These become markers of growth, as you are now transferring your technical abilities from training into game settings and before you know it you are going out every week performing at your highest level, which at the beginning seemed like an intimidating task, has now become an easy enjoyable one. I experienced this over 2.5 seasons where I played 80 consecutive games and despite the odd hick-up, it seemed like everything was going in the right direction and with every game my performance levels grew. I got used to everything going my way, and I rode the wave as long as I could, until it was time to move to a new club where I found myself as the managers second choice. This was really hard to take and it forced me to take a step back and learn about myself. While being made to watch from the side for weeks, I became aware of how much I love playing and all I wanted to do is get back at it, playing better than ever before. So I created a mental process of what I needed to do to get back to it, and I was fueled by the belief that my opportunity was coming. I dialed in on this process focusing on what was in my control and remained patient.
After what felt like a long period of waiting, the opportunity finally came. The manger pulled me aside to let me know I was playing and said, “Here’s your chance, make sure to take your opportunity”. Instantly the feeling of excitement, shifted to anxiousness. What if I don’t do enough to ‘take’ the opportunity? This is not the first time that phrase comes out a manager’s mouth, nor is it the first time I’ve been told it directly. With all the work I did leading up to this, I knew better then to allow this phrase to get in my way of enjoying the game to the fullest.
I don’t think there is a problem with the phrase itself, but often there is a problem with how it is intended/perceived. When we are told to ‘take’ the opportunity that is being given, it can be perceived as an opportunity to do more, and instills the fear of not doing enough. This just takes us out of the mental harmony we’ve developed over the process leading up to it. To counter that phrase, I reminded myself that opportunities are never given they are earned; and in this instance I earned my opportunity through many weeks of consistently putting my best forth in training.
While being made to watch from the side for weeks, I became aware of how much I love playing and that I rather be out there going for it, and possibly get it wrong, then not go out at all. It’s during these times that we realize; all we need is a game of football to get us up for it. We don’t need any other external motivation that will disconnect us from the pure desire to just go out and play. It’s that desire that led us to put our gloves on in the first place, and it is the most reliable source of motivation for us to fuel our performances. So rather than feeling the need to ‘take’ your opportunity by doing more, frame it as a reward for the work you’ve put in to earn this opportunity and ‘take’ it by enjoying it to the fullest and making the most of the game you’re given.
So when my chance finally came I made sure to go out and enjoy it. It felt like I never stepped out the goal. I didn’t feel any lack of sharpness, everything felt natural to me, I trusted in my experience and allowed myself to use it. So when called upon, I answered by putting my best forth and took the opportunities within the game to make contributions. Which was exactly how I trained throughout the week. This experience brought me confidence in knowing, that the output in a game is a direct translation of the work that’s done in training. There is nothing I did in this game that I hadn’t done in training leading up to it. By training with a game like focus, when the game actually comes, you can use the heightened focus to raise the level of your execution on the things you’ve been doing day in and day out on the training ground. Now that puts you in a position to experience some special moments that only a game can bring.
I want to clarify that the preparation in training isn’t just with the GK coach, and being technically clean. It’s training with purpose and clear intent. Fully committing to making your saves, to being well positioned to claim a low cross. Putting your body in front of the ball to make a block. I now realise how we sometimes go through the motions in training when we are #1, because we are thinking about the game on the weekend. When you are #2, your level of intensity is much higher in training and that’s where you can get the execution right, to then step in a game and put it forward. My process leading up this game was much more focused then previous weeks of trainings leading up to a game where I knew I was playing. Because I had a clear vision, and understanding of the inner hindrances that were holding me back, and then setting out a process to let go of them and build a reliable consistent mindset that allows me to put my best forth on my own accord. I then fully committed to embodying this mindset every day, and take the opportunities that came to me in training to put my best forth. So when it came to the game itself, it was just about channeling the energy of the occasion into excitement and desire, maintaining the mindset I’ve been applying everyday, seeing it as a reward to the work I’ve done, rather than an opportunity to do more, and finally dialing in on those directed thoughts, in the present moment and enjoying myself out there.
This is how you can bring meaning to being in the dreaded position of #2. It is bound to happen at some point in your career, especially if you are pushing your boundaries to play at the highest level you can. When it happens, embrace it, put your head down and go to work on a process that is unique to you and enjoy the journey as you chip away at it. So that when your opportunity does come, you can celebrate it by going out with freedom and lightness and playing without the pressure of having to do more. That’s how you take your opportunity and have an optimal experience.