Kids soccer can be a funny game.
Soccer Parenting even funnier.
We all want the best for our children.
Make no mistakes about it!
But at what cost?
Our default setting has become one of lack.
If I can…then I’ll be happy.
If my son achieves… then I’ll be happy.
What you don’t realise is that pushing happiness over the cognitive horizon means you’ll never be happy.
Setting unrealistic goals for your children creates the same operating model for them.
There’s still time to break the Curse
As a society we are the most addicted, distracted, obese, in debt, medicated, anxious, depressed and messed up group of adults history has ever known.
Who better to instruct and guide the youth of today…
Pushing away happiness until you’ve reached a goal becomes habitual. What tends to happen is that your soccer experience becomes one of lack and disappointment. It’s a daily reminder that potentially, you are not good enough.
So how do we change the soccer experience?
How do we motivate our kids to play their hearts out without creating and manifesting the pit of despair?
How do we protect their self-esteem and ensure they are developing a growth mindset, one packed with resilience?
Remove the Bitterness & Rage from the Game
Supercoach Dan Sullivan and organisational Psychologist Dr Benjamin Hardy wrote a brilliant book called the “The Gap and the Gain”.
In the book, they talk about the Gap and the Gain continuum as illustrated below.
Every child, parent and even soccer coach has an ideal version of themselves.
What they strive to become, achieve and what success looks like.
Unfortunately, this version always exists in the future.
Always out of reach.
When we measure our current selves against our ideal, we’re focusing on the gap.
This frame of reference always creates a negative mindset. It focuses on falling short and moving targets that if not reached, results in frustration and scarcity.
After all, you did miss the target!
More Willpower is not the Answer
Reflecting on your soccer journey through this lens can become extremely negative because the player you want to become is always out of reach.
Focusing on the gap puts us back into the vicious cycle of the cognitive horizon.
I need to….
I need this…
I’ll be happy when…
Continue to focus on what you haven’t achieved, and this will inevitably move our ideal version of ourselves further away into the distance.
You feel inadequate…frustrated, not to mention unhappy. You start to lose soccer motivation and diminish the grit required to pursue a soccer career.
Not only that…
…referencing the gap makes your self-worth dependent on external validation.
Making the squad…
Playing in the starting eleven…
Getting more than 5 minutes game time and the list continues.
A New Frame of Reference
The best way to stay motivated is to concentrate on the gain section of the continuum- how much you’ve improved.
This is where you measure yourself against yourself.
Changing the focus from “gap” (scarcity/ lack) to gain has enormous psychological effects.
One talks about failure (the gap), what you haven’t achieved whilst the other talks about gains, progress that you’ve made.
Although it sounds counterintuitive, both Dan and Dr Benjamin recommend measuring backwards.
The way to measure your progress is backwards against where you started, not against your ideal. – Dan Sullivan
Define Your Own Success
Focusing on the Gain means you measure yourself against yourself. You identify and highlight all your growth and development from the start of your playing career.
Any success or failure to achieve an outcome becomes a motivating experience because you are conditioning yourself to focus on the progress made.
This simple change in mindset and frame of reference makes you unstoppable…it builds momentum and last but not least, makes you happy because you are competing with yourself.
The future isn’t a reality- it’s a projection. And because it’s not reality, it can’t be part of any real measurement of your progress. The only way to measure goals is backward, against the past. Use the reality of where you currently are and measure backward from there to the reality of where you started- Dan Sullivan
Even goals are meant to provide direction, motivation and meaning in our lives.
They are not the measuring stick.
Unless of course you want to quit the game.
The Last Player Standing
What most parents don’t realise is the player that fails the most will win.
In order to keep failing, you’ve got to be good enough to keep playing.
Next time you’re discussing or reviewing your soccer performance remember this, you’re either in the GAP or the GAIN, but you can’t be in both at the same time.
Measuring performance from the Gap will result in frustration, disappointment, low self-esteem, guilt and the dreaded victim mentality. Not to mention an empty tank of soccer motivation.
The alternative is to review your progress backwards and play the long game. Always remember your happiness is dependent on what you measure yourself against.
I’ll finish up with a quote from Greg McKeown,
If you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. If you focus on what you have, you gain what you lack.
“May the winds of destiny blow you to the stars.”