It’s easy to get wrapped up in soccer wins and losses, making a team (or not), college recruiting, and all the other aspects of the game that consume players, coaches, and their families. But have you considered the larger impact that soccer has on your life, or the life of your players? With everything you are able to develop in the game, it’s also good to examine the wonderful “life lessons” it provides.
Recently, Techne Founder Yael Averbuch West joined the Vision of a Champion podcast with renowned University of North Carolina (UNC) women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance to discuss just this. The topic of the podcast episode is “Enriching Your Life Through Soccer,” from chapter four of the bestselling book The Vision of a Champion, co-authored by Coach Dorrance and Yael’s mother, Gloria Averbuch.
The UNC program is largely known for its winning record and dominance within the soccer landscape, which makes it especially interesting that Coach Dorrance emphasizes character development above all else. Like all players, Averbuch West learned a lot about soccer, but even more about life, during her four years as a UNC player.
Learning Life Through the Game
Soccer informs life. Although the soccer/life connection may seem secondary, it is part of everything players and their families experience. Think of pre- and post-game talks, either from coaches, team captains, or parents with their players. Or consider the seemingly random examples--in which players are praised for showing grit, becoming more confident, helping out a teammate, or performing the universal ritual of shaking opponents’ hands after a game. These acts are all based on topics and concepts that instill life skills and strengthen personal character.
Coach Dorrance expands on how he connects soccer to character development for his players: “The thing I love about the challenges that these kids face when they jump in with us at the University of North Carolina is that by the end of their four years we know absolutely everything about them. Because our game is a contact sport, so there is physical risk, there is injury, there is disappointment, there is loss. But the other things we get to see on a consistent basis are grit, perseverance, commitment to being the best.”
Life Lessons for Players
The challenges offered through the game--commitment, discipline, focus, hard work, overcoming adversity--help players develop universal values. What players are learning is more than a game, and these life lessons take place both on and off the field. They are values that transcend the sport, and sustain athletes for life.
But like the game itself, learning these values can be challenging. Soccer is competitive, and not just with an opponent. Players are often challenged to be competitive within themselves, pushing to get better, as well as competitive with teammates to earn playing time. As Coach Dorrance discusses the importance for developing the competitive skill, he concludes that the competitive instinct helps prepare the players for the game, but also helps them in life, “to stand up to the chaos of the universe.”
The Techne app’s key features stem from this focus on competition, and Yael Averbuch West’s UNC experience: the Techne Leaderboards, tracking time, self-competition and competition with others are all rooted in the UNC women’s soccer’s Competitive Cauldron. Those features are important and enjoyable. Many Techne subscribers among the thousands worldwide mention how motivating that is, and how much they enjoy the competitive aspect of the Leaderboards and the app.
The Techne theme: “own your development“ is also exemplified in a note Coach Dorrance wrote to soccer legend and UNC player Mia Hamm. One day, he saw her from a distance, practicing by herself. His note to her reads: "The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when nobody else is watching.” As he concludes in the podcast, “It is what you do on your own that is the margin of victory and the critical character piece.”
For Soccer Parents and Coaches
Gloria Averbuch, Yael’s mother and Coach Dorrance’s co-author, also joined the podcast. She was asked how parents can complement the life teachings of the game by serving as role models. “You can teach as a parent by example. That means that all the values and requirements to succeed at UNC are universal. They’re about discipline, commitment, focus, hard work, overcoming adversity, so whatever it is you’re doing in your life, whether it’s your job, your career, your hobby, cooking a meal, all of those things serve to teach your children.”
The same is true for coaches, whose commitment and attitudes become clear to their players. Both parents and coaches continually communicate to their players the same personal character attributes that are stressed in the game: commitment, dedication, perseverance, and the ability to face challenges and overcome adversity. Parents and coaches model themselves to their players in everything they do and say.
The Bottom Line
Life values are present in almost every aspect of sports, specifically soccer. They show that while a player may eventually hang up their cleats, the values--and joy!--they have learned through the game will never be retired. Those values are ingrained for life.
To hear more about the soccer/life connection, listen to the The Vision of a Champion podcast episode featuring Anson Dorrance, Yael Averbuch West and Gloria Averbuch: Enriching Your Life Through Soccer.
This podcast episode is based on Chapter 4: Enriching Your Life Through Soccer from the bestselling book The Vision of a Champion. Check out the book, by Anson Dorrance and Gloria Averbuch, for a deeper dive into the UNC culture, including training information and inspiration.