The task of this soccer drill was simple. You play the ball in the air 40 yards to your teammate and they try to control it as best they can. My teammate played a ball to me and in one touch I kept it close to my body. In my eyes it was good, and in most other’s they would have thought the same. However, this was my first year with the Columbus Crew Soccer Academy program. I recall my coach telling me that I let the ball bounce to the ground, rather than taking another touch out of the air to transition it to the pitch faster. He didn’t think it was good enough. I remember scoffing at the miniscule difference that would really make. I thought to myself, I’m already an elite performer and I’m doing way better than most soccer players I know. I had a soccer coach who believed in pushing each player to their challenge zone.
I will forever remember that coach and the many lessons I learned from that year with the Crew. In hindsight my experience with the Crew showed me what attention to detail was, and how we all never arrive. I thought in many ways I had arrived already as a soccer player. I was in the comfort zone, but I had a coach who pushed me to my challenge zone. I mostly didn’t like it in the challenge zone, but I remember liking the results of being in the challenge zone. I became a 10 times better soccer player that year. I did the work. At the highest level I saw how much it matters to save just 1 or 2 seconds controlling a ball from far away. And more importantly, I had someone around me to push me to compete at a higher level. Looking back I am now much more thankful than I was at the time for having a coach like that.
The cycle rinse and repeats itself funnily enough. Fast forward 5-6 years later I became a soccer coach at Dublin Jerome High School. I met many players who scoffed and did nothing with the challenges I gave them. I also found a few who embraced the challenge zone and I fell in love watching them grow as soccer players. As a builder, I see this as part of my purpose to challenge others to do more than they think they can.
Who do you have in your life to push you to the challenge zone?
Are you sitting in the comfort zone?