The Law of “Averages” is as follows:
1. Simply tell people what you are going to do — do NOT use action to spark change.
2. Opt for motivation over dedication at any and all given tasks. Merely surrounding yourself with powerful motivational posters and pictures instead of actually working will make you a better soccer player.
3. When you reach your threshold of discomfort, quit. No good can come of existing in the uncomfortable zones of training, mental preparation, or challenging yourself unnecessarily — especially on your own time.
4. Listen to the people who are far from the action for their acumen in all things regarding the game should be praised, listened to, and used to guide your future [in]action. This includes people on social media, prominent “journalists”, and those who “support” no fewer than five professional soccer teams.
5. Point out all obstacles, view molehills as mountains — ignore the guy next to you who carries a sledgehammer with him, smashing his problems to bits. What does he know? Ignore his progress.
6. Be upset at the result you don’t like with the work you didn’t do. It’s not your fault you didn’t put the time in.
7. Make sure you care about what other people think of you. That way, when you all end your playing days with “senior night” on the football field, you can spend a lifetime reminiscing about being average.
8. Blame the coach. It’s not your job to perform, but it is the coach’s job to win.
9. Don’t train in the rain, cold, heat, or on pavement. This is the United States — we have all these comforts for a reason. Pfft.
10. Pretend to be a hardass by punching holes in walls, kicking your gear, yelling at your parents and teammates, and of course, blaming everyone else. How dare the world not conform to your “standards”…
Bonus: Listen to fans over coaches, read your social media timeline over books, spend more time viewing the game on a screen than in real life.
Look at the list.
Print it out.
Staple it to your forehead, or at the very least, tape it somewhere you’ll see it daily.
Why? Well, to be quite honest, this is what most people sound like, this is what most of the American soccer world subscribes to. I once wrote an entry titled Rule or Be Ruled and it sparked some heavy debate. I used choice words that some considered “unnecessary” and “rude”. Instead of absorbing the true message of the post, many chose to whine and bitch about my language. Typical of a casual soccer audience.
That was nearly seven months ago. Not much has changed.
I haven’t written anything for some time, but I’ve noticed a trend — when I write about [North] American soccer, the clowns come out of the woodwork to condemn the message. Here’s the thing with that audience, they remind me of cockroaches. They enjoy crawling around in the dark, infesting areas and feeding off filth. Shine a spotlight on them — watch them scatter off to their cesspools of comfort (visit the online forums or comment sections of articles) they call home.
But this entry isn’t about them. This about the culture of average aiming to steal the game. It’s time to reclaim the game from the ignorant masses. Sure, nobody “owns” the game, but messages of insanity keep entering the conversation at-large. Words like “world-class” and “elite” have NO business in the American game. I know I sound like a pessimist and a broken record, but the fact of the matter is simple: we live in a place where valid criticism is seen as an attack.
One cannot question the the powers that be, the status quo, or see alternatives to the narrative. Such action makes you a “zealot” or “conspiracy theorist”.
Anyone with something resembling a spine can see that criticism is a necessary element on the journey to improvement. And let’s get one thing straight, improvement is a journey, not a destination — so when someone tells you that American soccer has arrived, laugh in their face. Anyone who’s played, coached, or been around the game at a high level knows that a nation of cheerleaders pandering to perpetual mediocrity is simply ensuring that the current and future generations of the game cannot and do not raise their standards.
I often wonder what I would be like if I celebrated mediocrity and was “just happy we have soccer” here. I try to imagine myself getting lost in the euphoria of a manufactured MLS rivalry or if I viewed players the rest of the world considers squad players at best as world-class… I can’t do it. What if just “believing” was enough? I would be reinforcing negative soccer. I would be lying to myself and my players. I would be an enabler.
Look at this picture. It’s perfect. “Every four years the banner yet waves” translates to: Every four years America pretends to care about soccer. The “firms” and “hardcore” fan groups might fool themselves and the culture of casuals using the sport as an excuse to drink craft beer, wear a scarf, and proclaim themselves to be an “army”. Seriously? Do us a favor, get on a plane to Europe, Central or South America and act “tough” at a game over there — they’ll show you the difference between your MLS “firm” and a real firm. This manufactured, faux hooliganism isn’t the way to grow the game.
Anyway, back to this culture of casual…I recently received an email from someone who constantly follows and unfollows me on Twitter and regularly slams me on sites like Reddit. This person can’t bring themselves to block or ignore what I’m saying — and I’m a nobody. I’m just a guy with a little website and a wild idea that we could and should be doing a better job, if not for ourselves, for the millions of kids who play the game here.
“Jon, I find your writing to be insulting. As someone involved in youth development, you constantly set a bad example by bashing MLS. I can’t believe I once thought you were someone I could learn from. What kind of coach doesn’t support the league that gave us so much?”
What you’ve just read is garbage. I responded with the following:
You’re offended? Claiming that you are offended is essentially saying that you are incapable of controlling and managing your own emotions, so everyone else should do it for you.
But here’s the reality of such conversations: people aren’t interested in seeing any marked improvement in the game. Non-profit organizations do more for the game than the Federation. If you think about it, if the governing body was really doing its job, these non-profits, “diversity committees”, and “initiatives” wouldn’t need to exist.
The more I think about the state of the American game, the more I realize the current product has shinier shoes, more Euro-centric names, and can do more circus tricks on the ball, but it still can’t hang regionally or internationally. Sure, we may have some Development Academies placing players in the college game (again, the best players played college or went pro before the DAs), but I still think the concept of real development is lost on the “soccer community” as a whole.
The following is a list that I put together that’s in stark juxtaposition with the list up top:
1. Any training program can fatigue you. A REAL training program makes you better.
2. Everyone wants to be a “serious player”…until it’s time to do what serious players do.
3. You want to get better but don’t want to suffer, sacrifice, or seek out the right answers? Cool — I “want” a lot of things. “Wants” don’t mean a thing.
4. Serious development is NOT about being better than someone else. It’s about being better than you used to be. And also better than the clowns in your talent pool.
5. Serious players train and compete. They don’t “practice” and “participate”.
6. The average person watches 37 hours of television a week. This doesn’t include hours spent online. The average excuse for not training more? “I don’t have enough time.”
7. Obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated. If you think training harder, playing against tougher competition, and making sacrifices is dangerous — try being a shit player who thinks they’re good. Now, that’s dangerous.
8. Look in the mirror. That’s your main competition. Don’t accept mediocrity.
9. Set some standards for yourself and don’t accept NOT meeting those standards.
10. Real training isn’t supposed to tickle. Working on your weaknesses is supposed to be difficult. Stop taking shortcuts and expecting meaningful results. Training may not always be fun, but it will always be rewarding.
Bonus: Most players have had their career by the time they turn 18 — that means they STOP progressing and begin accepting the reality they simply aren’t good enough. Players who were “All-Conference” in high school begin to slowly fade away, opting to “focus on their studies” or play for the “intramural” team at the university because all the hype, all the plaudits, all the kitchen table coaches sessions don’t mean shit anymore.
For some reason young players take “no” for answer or as an insult in the game. Players who make it refuse to accept “no” for answer. So your coach is mean, doesn’t think you’re good enough, says there’s no roster spot for you on the team…move on to the next one. If being told “no” ends your career — you were always pretending to begin with.
Look at both lists. Hell, print the second one out as well. You choose what list you want to abide by and before I forget…
“Welcome to the State of American Soccer, it’s governed by the Law of “Averages”. Take a moment to collect your participation ribbon. Complimentary Capri Suns and orange slices are available in the lobby.”