I am not a huge fan of sports. Mostly because I suck at them myself. I have no physical coordination. If there is a rock to be tripped over, I trip... an arm to be broken, I break it. I do enjoy soccer, or depending on our location "football" or "calcio". I like soccer because my husband likes soccer, but I came to love soccer because he plays soccer. There is nothing sexier than his gazelle run as he speeds past the defenders and scores while experiencing the joy of total flow. I digress.
Last year we were in a little bar in Italy with a bottle of Lambrusco in front of us watching the Italy-Spain semi-final for the Confederation Cup. It’s a classic old Italian bar ran by Renato, who at 85 years old takes a while to get the drinks out. This was fine since we were the only ones who actually ordered anything. The bar was filled with about 20 old men who spent the evening screaming Italian profanities at Renato’s big screen TV but drank only free glasses of water. Our bill at the end of the evening was 11 Euros which was Renato’s total takings for the night. Poor Renato.
The game was a good one with lots of chances and both sides getting lots of time on the ball - but there were no goals. Extra time… no goals. So it comes down to the dreaded penalties. Penalties are unfair as the end result of penalties usually do not reflect the results of the game just played.
Here’s the thing about penalties. It has been scientifically proven that if a player hits the ball at the right angle and speed, it is impossible for the keeper to save it. It is guaranteed that the penalty will be scored. Now these players are paid thousands of dollars a game so they practice their penalties. And practice and practice and practice. It should be impossible to fail.
My husband insists that it is the pressure of the moment that causes a player to mess up an action that should be automatic and unbeatable. The fear that he will miss - causes him to miss. Last night something else became very clear to me.
A player doesn’t miss a penalty because of the fear that he will miss. He misses a penalty because of the fear of what other people will think about him if he misses.
The most successful people in the world don’t care about what other people think. They know they have a job to do, a choice they have made, a calling they must follow. They put their head down, shut out the noise of the crowd, put faith in the power of practice - and just do it. They can’t miss.
Italy lost by the way.