Soccer in the US: International thoughts v. Domestic thoughts

There’s been a lot of soccer in the news recently. If you pay attention to it, that is. Much of it is positive. Some of it is negative. But as the college seasons wrap up, MLS concludes, and international club leagues enter their season’s mid-point. I have run across several things that are major thought provoking comments and articles.

There were two articles that I read today that are simply amazing: one on Thierry Henry and one on Landon Donovan.

I want to give some quotes from each:

I was never the guy who was going to give up the rest of my life to do more in the soccer world.

I understand some people don’t want to see that, they want to see me kill myself to make myself better at soccer, but that’s not healthy and that’s not me.

In the last eight years, it’s been a coin flip with what to expect from him.

I insist on the word ‘work’, as it is the basis of everything. You may have a gift, but if you don’t work…I loved working and I wanted to be the best at everything…

It could have been the only chance of the game, I should have dealt with it better.

The aim is to be the best you can be. What matters is not to get there, but to want it, to have that desire.

You should never feel satisfied. Aim higher, always.

You’re nothing without your team, whoever you are.

The game is too focused on the individual. Stars are fine. But within the team, not without.

Yes, I’m hard, demanding, especially when it’s about football. But always in the name of love and respect for the game.

No, because victory is forged in identity. It is when you forget the principles that winning becomes difficult.

[T]he pleasure lies in improving and being demanding with yourself. I cannot play a game to have fun. Either you play, or you don’t. Winning is only the end credits sequence of that particular film.

There are vastly different sentiments from the first 3 quotes to the last 10 quotes. If you are able to spend some time reading the articles, the tone is night and day differences. Some of this can be chalked up to the soccer journos writing/interviewing each. But…how much? Could it be, that’s just how different the soccer culture is with international players compared to the domestic (US) players?

Let’s look at some rosters for college athletics:

Final Four for DI men’s soccer:

  1. UCLA — 6 international players
  2. Providence — 6 international players
  3. UMBC — 3 international players
  4. Virginia — 1 international players

Final Four for DII men’s soccer:

  1. Lynn — 21 international players
  2. Charleston — 33 international players
  3. Colorado Mesa — 2 international players
  4. Quincy — 3 international players

Final Four for DIII men’s soccer:

  1. Tufts — 1 international player
  2. Wheaton — 1 international player
  3. Ohio Wesleyan — 2 international players
  4. SUNY Oneonta — 0 international players

Final Four for NAIA men’s soccer:

  1. Davenport — 13 international players
  2. Texas-Brownsville — 19 international players
  3. Northwestern Ohio — 25 international players
  4. Marymount — 4 international players

Major differences for DII and NAIA than what’s seen in DI and DIII. What’s the reasoning behind this? School emphasis? Coach emphasis? Financial differences? Competitive decision? Could any of these differences in international roster spots be chalked up to the mentality that was so different for Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan? Is there even any correlation to the differences in international player thoughts than those of domestic player thoughts and its impact on college rosters?

In my short time in college soccer, I have encountered a big difference. Many times, the domestic player “likes” to play soccer while the international player “lives” to play soccer. It doesn’t matter where I’ve gone, talking to potential student-athletes and their families in the States…soccer is a secondary option. Now, DO NOT get me wrong, education is a top priority, and should be regarded as such. But, it just strikes me differently when the domestic soccer player may choose to be more interested in fantasy football, basketball, video games, band, drama, choir, etc. than the sport that has gotten them to higher education. Or, they choose not to play the sport in college because they are “burnt out.” I have not encountered this AT ALL from any prospective international student-athletes.

If this mentality is here in college soccer, how present is it in professional soccer? I talked to a DI women’s soccer coach a few years back and he admitted that 50% of his athletes were in soccer for “social reasons.” That simply amazed me, at the time, it was really the highest level a female could play soccer domestically and his roster was a social roster.

As an ambassador for the game, shouldn’t our mentality be different? I believe it should be. I also believe that our mentality towards our athletics can directly relate to our mentality throughout our life — career, family, friendships, etc. Granted, there are definitely “escapes” one can take and have a completely different mentality that doesn’t affect the life outside of that “escape.” But, is this mentality the same mentality that is present in our USMNT? Landon Donovan said it to Klinsmann: “He added that there were guys on the team who did not always care about the outcome. ‘But I do,’ Donovan insisted then.”

How is that mentality present for the USMNT headed into the biggest sporting event in the world?

Is that mentality there for other sports in America? I don’t know. I can’t say. I have a hard time believing it is. Don’t know why…maybe just my history within the sporting world itself. I’m sure it is present, but is it as rampant in those as it appears it is in soccer?

I feel the same way Thierry does:

If I don’t do this [right], someone else will do it instead of me.

That is there in every aspect of my life — I hope. Whatever I do, I want to do right. I don’t want to halfway do something. I don’t want to just do something just to do it. It doesn’t always revolve around competition. It mainly revolves on improving and demanding more of myself. There’s always someone out there that could take my place…that doesn’t concern me though. I’m concerned with doing what I have to do. Doing my job is more important than the negative ramifications. Sure, there’s a point that satisfaction is a good thing, but…there’s always more [and better] that can be done.

It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it. – W. Somerset Maugham

I have always been extremely critical of Landycakes Landon. I have never really been a fan of Thierry, mainly because he played for that team in England. Unfortunately, the reading does not change my mindset on Landon…but, I have become more fond of Theirry.

I hope more athletes, especially soccer players, take the mindset of Theirry. I don’t want the mindset of Landon present. I understand there’s more to life than soccer…but, I also think that we are called to give our best in every aspect of our life.

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do. – Pele


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: