The Big Question
The question I am asked most frequently since I retired from professional soccer is “What do you miss most about playing?”While I do miss the “big” games, the major tournaments and the competition that comes with playing at the highest level, my answer is always the same: I miss my teammates, and I miss being a part of a team.
As a result of thirty years playing on many different soccer teams I came to rely on being surrounded by my best friends and teammates on a regular basis. In some ways I took this for granted, but I also recognized how fortunate I was to have forged so many relationships – that no matter where I traveled I had a “built-in family.”
In addition to the relationships, I valued the team atmosphere because it challenged me in ways that individual sports did not. I became the best version of myself while participating on teams, as my teammates forced me out of my comfort zone and motivated me to improve each day.
After retiring, I was fearful of not having my “built-in family” or the accountability that came with being a part of a team. However, when I started working as a coach at Ambitious Athletics, a small independent gym in Washington DC, I instantly become a part of a team again, and in many ways, part of a larger family.
As I have embarked on my new career path, I have realized that coaching enables me to create an environment that is not so different from the one that shaped the years I spent playing professional soccer. Through coaching, I’m able to align my passion of motivating and educating others on the benefits of strength training with the aspirations of my clients, and in applying the strategies that I learned on the field, I’m able to create a similar high-level working environment in the gym.
I have grown to appreciate that there are many similarities between coaching at Ambitious Athletics and playing on a soccer team. Here are my top four:
1) Team Atmosphere: The most successful teams I played on were the ones that coupled a positive team atmosphere with a culture that embraced hard work and respect for each of its members. This is what we strive to achieve each training session at the gym. All training sessions at Ambitious Athletics are done in a group setting, which helps to bring out the best performance from each individual. Unlike one-on-one training, where there is only the athlete/client and the coach, the team setting allows for a unique blend of camaraderie and unity while challenging one another to step out of their comfort zone.
2) Coaching: There’s a saying that the hardest person to coach is yourself and from my experience this could not be more true. Coaches were critical to all of the teams I played on as they set the tone for each training session. During my playing days, it was important for me to seek out coaches who I believed would give me honest feedback about my game and athletic ability. I found the trainers who cared the most were the ones who were also the most educated and prepared. The coaching we provide at Ambitious Athletics is what sets us apart. Before members can join the Ambitious Athletics training program they must go through a thorough assessment that provides us with feedback on how that particular individual moves. It is a tool we use to tailor our support for each member according to his/her current fitness level. Our ability to give individual attention within a group setting is what keeps are members inspired and motivated.
3) Accountability: Accountability is essential to a high-performing team, and it was always present when I played for the U.S. Women’s National team. Not only did the coaches hold us accountable, but the players also held each other accountable, demanding more of one another. There was a collective standard set, and the goal was to reach it every day. At Ambitious, the standard is to “Have fun, stay competitive, and be ambitious.” This motto is taken seriously throughout our community, and is upheld by our members who push and encourage one another to become his/her best self at each training session.
4) Time Efficient: The majority of soccer training sessions last about 1-2 hours, and the teams who were most efficient with their time were the most successful. As a player I knew we had a specific amount of time to focus and put in the work which kept the team motivated. All of our members have busy schedules and want to maximize what they get out of their time at the gym. Each training session is an hour long, and members are encouraged to sign up for the training session that best fits their schedules. Since the coaches prepare all of the programming at Ambitious the training sessions directly reflect the coaches assessment of the most efficient and effective ways to provide our members with what they need, but also with what they want. Therefore making it easy for our members to adhere to the program for the long haul.
I’m sure there are many more similarities between playing on a soccer team and coaching at a small independent gym, but these are the four that stand out to me.
If you’re in the DC area, check us out at www.ambitiousathletics.com. If not, I encourage you to look for a small independent gym, where your experience will offer more than just an opportunity to lift weights. Consider the possibility that along the way to greater strength and fitness, you might cultivate meaningful connections with people who come to represent your own “built-in family” and make you a part of a high-performing team.
Until next time.