What I Learned about Reinvention From Switching Positions in Soccer
For most of my life, I have been playing soccer (or football as it’s known around the world). My journey began once upon a time ago in 1994 when the World Cup came to the United States. Two brothers from Spain had moved in across the street earlier that year. We became friends right away and one day they asked me where they could go to join a soccer team. I told them about a local youth league in the next town where they could sign up to play. They asked me when we all wanted to go to sign up and I told them, I didn’t play soccer.
After a lot of arm twisting and guilt tossing, they convinced me to join with them. I didn’t know how to play so they suggested we go play pick up soccer at the local park. Antonio, the oldest of the two brothers, was a defender and a couple of years older than Javi and me. He invited me to stay back with him and he would teach me to play defense.
Over the years, as everyone got bigger and taller than me and I didn’t grow as much, I became the smaller and faster right back (defender on the far right that can run up more often than central defenders).
Fast Forward to 2006
I’m living in St. Louis, Missouri and looking for a men’s league to join. I find a great group of guys looking for one more player. They asked me what position I played and I told them I was a defender. With that, I joined their team and played about 6 years as a right back with those guys. I absolutely loved that position and over the years trained to become even better.
However, I would be only partially honest if I didn’t admit that I was curious about being a forward. While I loved my journey as a defender and any chance I got to play, a part of me was curious about playing as a forward and scoring goals.
It’s 2012 and I found myself back in my home state of New Jersey. Once again looking for a new team or group of guys to play with. A good friend from high school introduced me to a group that played every weekend at a local park. Once I got there, they asked me what position I played, I said defender and then took my spot on the field. I played with that group for about a year before we joined another group in another town.
My Reinvention Breakthrough Moment
Once again, we joined the team, and they asked me what position I played.
At this point I suddenly realized that if I say defender, then I’ll have to play that position all of the time. It’ll be obvious I’m good in that position and it won’t make sense for me to switch roles later.
I’ll never know what came over me that day, but for some reason, before I could change my mind, I responded, “I’m a forward.” So without questioning me, after all, why would I lie about this, they put me on the field. Turns out someone was missing and they needed a forward.
I’ll never forget standing there, looking back at the right defender and thinking how happy he looks. If there was a literal zone of comfort, that guy was standing in it and I was far away standing in discomfort. Before I could come up with a way to back out of this, the whistle blew and the game started.
After a couple of hours, the game was done. No surprises here, I was terrible. While I could run fast, as a forward, running fast, receiving a pass, dribbling past a defender and shooting were all the movements I needed to trip on myself a couple of times. I missed passes, took off-balance shots, it was bad. When we all sat by the bench to take off our cleats, they guys didn’t really say anything. But I could imagine they must have thought, “this guy is a terrible forward!”
And that’s where it hit me, I was finally a forward. Had I not stepped out of my literal comfort zone on the field and taken a new position, I would not be a forward.
“I was finally a forward!”
Getting to Work on a New Role
Wanting to improve, I looked up training drills for forwards and practicing those during early weekday mornings. I started working on a lot of things including:
- Practiced shooting on goal, running and shooting, dribbling, etc.
- Watched great videos and tutorials on different ways to train.
- Figured out how to leverage my speed to make an impact sooner rather than later.
- Put in extra time on the soccer field in the mornings.
Each week, I got a little bit better. After about a month I started contributing to the offense with some good passing since I already possessed that skill. About 2 months into being a forward, I started getting some assists on goals. And it wasn’t until about 6 months later that I finally scored my first goal! I couldn’t believe it, after 18 years as a defender, I reinvented myself into a forward!
This experience has empowered me to pursue new opportunities and reinventions with a radically different mindset.
What I Learned From That Reinvention
- I learned that sometimes you just have to put yourself where you want to be whether you are ready or not. If you don’t, you can’t start to figure out how to get good at that position. If there is something you really want to do, find a way to put yourself in that position. Offer to do it as an intern, for free, apply for those jobs, or volunteer to perform that role. Whatever it takes, get into that role, because…
- Once you are in that position, you have no choice by to start looking for solutions to learn more. Those YouTube tutorials and articles I found on the internet were always there. However, it wasn’t until I needed them that I actually went looking for them. That led me to create the time and space to practice so that I could be a little better each weekend.
- Don’t make being great the goal when you just get started. I didn’t have to be a good forward to be a forward. Turns out a bad forward is still a forward! And you know what, that was enough for me. There was something so incredible about identifying as a forward for the first time in my life. It was so amazing that I didn’t even care about the fact that the word “bad” preceded it.
- Reinvention doesn’t start from scratch. We always bring something to the new role or position. In my case I brought speed and accurate passing. I made the most of those in order to give me a head start on my transformation. Consider what skills, experiences, and superpowers you might bring to a new role or career.
- Reinvention, pivots, and transformations take time. It took me about 6 months to score a goal and semi-regular goals didn’t come for about a year. That was ok, I was enjoying EVERY minute as a forward!