We learn from our successes and our failures. Sometimes the lesson is subtle, and sometimes it’s glaringly obvious.
A few weeks ago I found myself all alone on a breakaway. I’d worked my butt off the whole game, strafing the sideline and running box to box; as a result, the players guarding me were tiring towards the end of the match. It was also 2-0 for us at that point, and with only a few minutes left our opponents probably weren’t giving it their all. Anyway, the intermediate result is that I made a run, our opposite winger sent in a perfect ball, and I was all alone. And I mean all alone. So alone that only one or two people are following, and they were doing so at a jog and at a distance. So alone that I had plenty of time to think about what to do. Unfortunately, I didn’t really come up with much. Our captain summed it up succinctly in the game write-up:
“The Preds goaltender made some great saves in the second half… and another in the closing minutes off of Lee who was all alone on a breakaway.”
So what happened (I mean beyond the keeper making a solid save)? In retrospect, I realize I did a few things wrong. First, I ran in a direct line from where I received the ball to the net, not changing my angle of approach at all. Second, I made a conscious decision to wait for the keeper to make a mistake. I’m by no means a pro, but I play in a skilled league with skilled players, and failing to make the keeper move his feet was foolish on my part. Similarly, expecting him to make a mistake, especially when I wasn’t in any way making him move, was foolish and ignorant.
When I ran out of time, I took a powerful shot across the net, and the keeper read it perfectly (again, no misdirection on my part) and made what looked like a spectacular save. I expect, however, that it was really a fairly standard save for someone of his skills.
What should I have done? Particularly since I was so alone, I should’ve started cutting across the net, changing the angle to both increase my shooting options and make the keeper move (thereby increasing the chances that he’d get his angles wrong). This one change, moving a bit laterally, might have resulted in a goal rather than my teammates ribbing me for my miss (particularly when earlier in the game I’d advised our forwards to “just place the ball” rather than blasting it, as we’d missed a few opportunities).
Can this soccer-related lesson apply to life? I believe so. We are often faced with circumstances over which we have some degree of control or influence, and by exerting some of that control or influence, we can tilt the odds in our favour. It’s rare that we can guarantee success, especially against strong competition (in whatever its form), but we can increase our odds significantly. So the next time you find yourself waiting for something to fall in your favour, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to increase your chances.
[left out of the game report is that I corralled the rebound, held off a defender who’d finally joined the play, heard the yell from our striker making a far-post run (although I’m insulted that he anticipated the miss!), and set it on a platter for him to ice the game]