The Pursuit of Excellence

Too often we hear goalkeepers express their worries on the field by saying things such as; “The pressure, it’s a lot. I am afraid to make a mistake and let my team down.  I don’t want to lose my starting spot to the other goalkeeper.”  We hear fear. Anxiety. Doubt. We often hear goalkeepers state the tremendous expectations they put on themselves to be perfect, and to make every decision correctly.  Suddenly, they’re held back by fear, indecision, and hesitation.

 Of course it is essential that we all set high bars for ourselves, putting our best foot forward to continue to succeed everyday. We dedicate countless hours of our precious time, sacrificing things important to us, all in our best efforts to work hard in maintaining our high personal standards. Continuous hard work is expected, yet the problem arises when we chase perfection. Being perfect is an impossible standard that continually leaves us unsatisfied, disappointed, and often defeated.  If we expect perfection every time we step on the field, then we should also plan to spend a lot of time battling frustration.

 So how can we chase being the best possible goalkeepers and people that we can be without chasing perfection in the process?  The solution is simple: abandon the idea of perfection, and sustain pride in the pursuit of excellence.  If we can shift our mindset from the impossible expectations of perfection and set our sights on pursuing excellence daily, we can free ourselves to make mistakes, to learn, and to grow. 

 Here are three mindsets that we can choose daily to pursue excellence and not perfection.

1.  Mistakes are Necessary.

Be okay with making mistakes. The more we can open our minds to making mistakes, the faster we can learn, and in turn the quicker we can grow. Goalkeeping is essentially all about experience, so the more experience we are able to have in game situations, the more seasoned we become. If as goalkeepers we can adopt the mindset of learning from each decision we make, we will inevitable be more prepared the next time we face that same situation.  Approaching each situation as an opportunity to learn and grow allows us to continually pursue excellence.  Reaching your personal high standards will be attained while experiencing, and overcoming mistakes along the way.

2. Stack the Deck.

Ultimately as goalkeepers we do not control whether we win or lose a game. Sure, as the final line of defense and the greatest leaders on the field we play a large role in each game, but every outcome is not solely up to us. So stack the deck. Define success in a way that you can’t lose by setting goals that are attainable each game. It is imperative to have a confident mindset focusing on thoughts such as: “I WILL control the area in behind my backs. I WILL be organized on set pieces. I WILL be brave on crosses.  I WILL not get down on myself if I make a mistake.” Set your game day goals on aspects of the match that you can control.  At the end of each day, if you go to bed a better goalkeeper and a better person then each day was a success. Stack the deck and then choose success. Success is found in our daily decisions. 


3. Stay in the present.

Applying focus to the task at hand is amongst the most important attributes of finding success. As goalkeepers with  ‘go-getter’ mentalities it is very common that we get caught up in looking into the future. However, the future can often be overwhelming, compiled with uncertainty and many ‘what ifs’. Although it is essential to have long-term goals, it is crucial that we sustain patience, and focus on each individual task that we encounter. We encourage our students to stay focused on present tasks within games by having them break games into 15-minute increments. Keeping a stern focus on each 15-minute section of the game allows for us as goalkeepers to stay concentrated on solely the tasks at hand within that small time period. Along with game day focuses, keeping a close eye on our tasks at hand is essential in training sessions, and off the field endeavors as well. By focusing on what we are able to control within the moment, we will achieve many small successes ultimately leading to our long-term goals. 

 Perfectionists strive for impossible goals, while pursuers of excellence seek to achieve high standards that are in reach.  Perfectionists are thwarted by failure, while pursuers of excellence learn and grow from mistakes. Perfectionists feel frustrated with criticism, while pursuers of excellence view criticism as a way to learn. Be a pursuer of excellence in each and every task you endure. Allow your passion for excellence to drive you to run the extra mile, never stopping, never relenting. Enjoy the process and delight in the progress that you WILL make daily