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The Joy of Playing Sports

Grant Wahl has a good read about U.S. Soccer player Michael Bradley (son of US National Team Head Coach Bob Bradley, not the former Villanova University basketball player).

Bradley epitomizes the mindset of a successful athlete. While he trains hard and studies the game, the game remains fun. Sure, it is his livelihood, but the business-side does not interfere with the play side of sport.

“I didn’t want a vacation on the beach or whatever,” Bradley says. “When you’re a soccer player and this is your profession, this is what you want to do every day. So you pay attention to things. You watch games. You talk about games.”

I see this in one player I train, which is why I am confident recommending him to colleges. He wants to play every day. He enjoys it. And, consequently, he is going to continue to improve when others plateau.

The rest of the article exudes Bradley’s enthusiasm for his sport. He obviously has a passion for soccer, which is the most basic requirement for eventual success. While parents and coaches push and push in an effort to help their son or daughter improve, unless they develop the passion for the sport first, the pushing usually has a negative consequence, causing the player to dislike the sport.

Once the player has Bradley’s passion, no pushing is needed as he wants to play, practice, perform, etc. He wants to study other players and watch tape of his performance. But, it is his motivation, his desire, his decision, his pushing, and it derives from his passion to play the game and maximize his talent.

As coaches and parents, we must not lose focus of the importance of the passion in the talent development process. Without a joy for playing the game, what’s the point of working to get better?

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