Well I wasn’t expecting to write another post so quickly but I felt I needed to while I’m still on a natural high. And I was given advice that blogging about it while it’s still fresh in my mind is a good idea. So, the reason for this is through Practice I have achieved my goal of juggling a soccer ball for 1000 consecutive touches. That’s without touching the ground or using hands.
As I mentioned in my first post, futsal is one of the areas I am focused on right now. And part of that includes consistent juggling practice to improve my eye foot co-ordination. This is an excellent opportunity to highlight the importance or practice as a conscious effort. I’ll start by going back to my High School years.
I use to juggle a hackey sack every lunch break, and also at home for quite a long time. This also included a lot of soccer ball juggling too. I spent a great deal of time and effort on what I considered at the time ‘practicing’. But all I was really doing was trying to get higher consecutive hits. In short, I was focused on the goal. And this is the single largest problem with anything we generally seek out to do. There are three sources I personally learned the importance of changing our mindset from goal to the process.
The first was a book called ‘Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment’ by George Leonard. In this book the Author describes his experience of mastering the martial art Aikido and explaining the process of mastery in an excellent way.
The second source is the movie Peaceful Warrior, about Dan Millman, a gold winning Olympic gymnast, as a young aspiring gymnast in college.
And finally, the latest book I have read, The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life – Master Any Skill or Challenge by Learning to Love the Process, by Thomas M Sterner.
What these 3 sources have mostly in common is the change of mindset. That mindset that wants things now. That succumbs to today’s instant gratification discourse. You know what I’m talking about. I want to be a better football player, I want more money/better job/girlfriend/insert anything here. Anything that starts with a want is generally what I’m talking about.
What they explain is that to truly master anything, you need to remove all personal judgement, all fears and beliefs, all wants and needs. Only then will you be able to start to appreciate the process instead of the goal. Because at the end of the day, life in itself is just a process, every second of every hour of every day. There is no tomorrow, yesterday, whenever. Only now. And right now is a process. It’s when you break down what you want to achieve into the process and put your energy into the process instead of the goal that you begin to understand how to practice and master something. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you don’t have goals. Goals are necessary. However it’s changing the perspective. Thomas in his book explains it quite vividly: Imagine you are swimming across a large body of water to an island. If you focus too much on the island by keeping your head above water, you will get frustrated and tired. However instead, if you focus on swimming, but taking a little time to look at the island and adjust as you go, you’ll not only get there much faster but you’ll enjoy the swim much more.
So I guess the take away from this post is when you practice something, always have a goal but focus your energy on practicing. Look at your island and adjust. This is exactly how I went from barely getting 100 consecutive soccer ball juggles to breaking over 1000. I broke it down to the very simple fundamentals of kicking the ball. Focusing on how each touch moves the ball through space. I quickly learned I developed a number of bad habits from high school, the main one being flicking my toes instead of kicking with the top of my foot, ie the flat part. From then, I stop going for high counts and focused on each single kick, forcing myself to lock my ankles and kick. At first it felt very weird and I was doing much worse than before. However, I quickly became better, and now it’s second nature. This would not have been possible without a conscious effort to practice this one fundamental move. Now the reason it becomes easier is the nerve pathways have strengthened, which I’ll address in another post but is beyond the scope of this post.
Now that I’ve reached my island, where do I swim to now? The next island of course. I’m planning to focus on learning tricks, like you see in freestyle soccer. Will I make it to the freestyle championships? I seriously doubt that, but it will bring me great pleasure in practicing.