Blank Page

When the author is writing a story, he must constantly go back to the blank page and fill it in. One of my most entertaining teachers I had at St. Francis University, who referred to himself as The D-Man, had written a few books in his time – including the textbook for his class. As a fully tenured professor on the brink of retirement, he had a story or two to tell and class typically went off on a tangent or two.

One of my favorite stories that he told was about meeting President Ronald Reagan. I may get some of the little details wrong here, but it was when he was a young professor at an Ivy League school and Reagan was coming to give a speech. My teacher knew he would be meeting the president, so he began building up the moment in his mind and trying to think of what to say to show his appreciation and admiration. What came out was “Hey Ron, I’m the D-Man!”

And then he did this...

And then he did this…

Students were always trying to pick his brain for interesting stories or advice from him…or sometimes they were just trying to waste time in class. Students interested in stroking his ego and getting some brownie points (me) would ask him about his books. This was a topic he was always happy to talk about. It’s nothing he said about his books specifically that stuck with me, but rather what he said about writing a book. He said something to the effect of “you come to the page and you write one word, and then another, and then another…and then you do that again”.

I am doing what you might call a creativity program with my sister, Clare, called “The Artist’s Way”. Similar to what the D-Man said, the Artist’s Way stresses “showing up at the page”. Whether you are a writer, a poet, a painter, a screenwriter, designer, musician, etc… you have to be willing to show up at the page or the canvas and let yourself fill it.

I have the chance to “show up at the virtual page” every time that I write a new blog. What I find in the process is that I show up with a general idea of what I’ll write, but then the post takes on a life of it’s own. Then, when it’s finished, I sometimes sit back and say “Wow, where did all those ideas come from?”

For instance, I remember one of my posts from last year called “The Missing Ball“. I came to the page planning on writing little update about how I had lost a ball while training and ended up writing quite a bit about No-Shave November…and the humility I suffer from my lack of ability to participate in it. Like untended facial hair, a blog can often take on a life of it’s own as well.

Not acceptable

Not acceptable

Getting out on the field and playing soccer is an incredibly similar process. The pitch is the blank canvas, the empty page. You have to take the chance to show up. Then the game takes on a form of its own and you get to impress your unique talents upon the outcome. The more pages you fill, the more comfortable you get with the process and the more you can develop and improve. It’s when you don’t get the chance show up on the page when things get frustrating.

So, after being back at Hungerford Town for the last few weeks, I did get the chance to play in two games. In the first game, in a single elimination tournament, we played a team a league below called Bishop’s Cleeve. I played for about the last 25 minutes and did quite well, although we had already essentially won the game when I entered the match at 3-0. I played on the right wing and nearly got a goal. We won the game 4-0 in the end in a comfortable performance. It was nice to get a run out since I hadn’t played for a few weeks since my return from the Thatcham Town loan which I mentioned.

The next game, we played in another local Cup/Tournament against a team in a lower division called Whitchurch United FC. I got to play 90 minutes in central midfield and did well. We ended up dominating and winning the game, but we only managed to score 1 on the night. It felt good to get a full game. I was able to successfully fill the canvas, but not having played a complete game in a while, it wasn’t my most fluent and impressive display.

Having only had these two opportunities to play and signs of more chances on the horizon, despite solid performances, I requested to go back out on loan. I really need to get a significant stretch of games to find some consistent form and rhythm in my game. I need more chances to show up at the page and improve my confidence and my ability to influence and dictate the pages that I play a part in. At this point, If I’m not getting the chance to even show up, then I won’t get anywhere.

Therefore, I’m back out on loan at a club in the division below called Fleet Town FC. So far they have really been struggling this season. They are second to last in their league and haven’t won in about two months, so my work was cut out for me. It was an exciting and yet difficult challenge to try to help them get their season back on track. My first game with them was last Saturday. We ended up tying 0-0 against a mid-table side called Evesham United. I played full 90 minutes and if the game was a piece of music, it would have resembled a heavy metal rave, rather than a classical concerto. In other words, it was a bit of a battle and far from the prettiest, most technical game I’ve played in.

Calthorpe Park - Home of Fleet Town FC. The slope on this pitch from end to end is so drastic that it effects tactics considerably.

Calthorpe Park – Home of Fleet Town FC. The slope on this pitch from end to end is so drastic that it effects tactics considerably.

While it was a good start, seeing as we didn’t lose, I know that personally I have much more to offer and I’m looking forward to the next game! I’ve recently come to enjoy, and even crave, coming back to the blank page and impressing myself upon whatever unfolds. So, now I have an itch to walk out onto the pitch again as soon as possible and to take one stride at a time, just as the artist takes one stroke at a time. In this way, I will consistently create new work and eventually, I will have my masterpiece.

Until next time, don’t be afraid to face the blank page. Write a word and you are on your way.

Peace,

Seano

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Training

It’s a little backwards. Joining a team and then playing games immediately, without any team training sessions. Like taking the test before doing the homework. I always hated those classes where the teacher made you take a test at the beginning of the semester/year “to see how knowledgeable you were on the subject” – often read: “to see how much of an ignoramus you were”. Ok, I admit, my analogy is slightly faulty. There is one pretty significant difference here. If you are given a test before a class, you are expected to fail. On the other hand, if you are given a game before a training session and you fail then you may have lost your chance to get into the training session. As a trialist, you are expected to know your stuff. Imagine if classes were like that…I wouldn’t have made it through home-schooling.

Me taking the pre-class test!

Let me be clear here, games are what players love the most. However, training plays a key role in success, which leads to greater enjoyment of games. Preparation is an important factor, both on a team level and a personal level. On a personal level, I have been staying as fit as possible and as sharp as possible on my own. I think I might write an entire post on that subject alone…don’t get too excited. However, nothing I can do by myself can replicate practicing with the team I am playing on.

Let’s use another analogy. I have worked in construction for a number of years. In another life, I could see myself being an architect. Although, I’m sure the things I designed wouldn’t be called infrastructure, but rather infrailstructure. Anyway, you don’t just build a house by ordering loads of wood, piping, electrical supplies, toilets and then start hammering and screwing it all together. No, you follow a blue print that has been designed through hard work, trial and error, and maybe, if the office is a rough place, blood, sweat and tears. The blue print is the unified goal you are working towards. It is beating your biggest rival, it is winning a cup or championship. The blue print represents what you are doing and how you are doing it. The workers on the construction site; the carpenters, the plumbers, the electricians, each with different skill set resemble the players; the defenders, the midfielders, and the strikers (note: the defenders are plumbers because it’s their job to clean ***t up at the back). They all come together to build the house or to lift the cup. In construction it is called a blueprint. In a sport you can call it whatever you like, the goal, the objective – the idea is the same.

It would be done, but I had to go to training.

What does all this nonsense have to do with training? Well, training is where the blueprint is laid out, usually by the coach/manager, for everyone to see. Then as the season goes on, like the house being built, the blueprint is formed into something real, not just theoretical, not just a piece of paper. The blueprint can be tweaked from time to time if necessary. There are always unforeseen consequences; like weather, injuries, and even mistakes. We are only human. You adapt at every training session. You go back to the blueprint and see how it can be improved. It’s the search for perfection that I talked about in a previous post. The blueprint is the guide leading to perfection. Training re-aligns your goals with the blueprint. You focus on your task within the design. The less you go back to the design, the less you understand it and know its intricacies. In the end, this leaves you with a shoddy house or a shipwrecked season.

In case you didn’t guess, I had my first training session today with Albion. For an amateur team down in non-league football playing two games a week can be difficult enough for guys with other jobs and often families. It’s tough to fit in practices. However, after our cancellation in the midweek game and a by-weekend for us in the league, we wouldn’t be coming together as a team for 9 days. Alas, a training session today to review the blueprint. Re-align goals. Get everyone on the same page.

Successful? Well, yes and no. Every training session has value.

Seeing a Saturday afternoon off in the schedule at this point in the season is like getting a free trip to the Bahamas…too good to be true! Contrary to prior belief, this was actually the case. So, many of the players had made plans in advance of the day. Needless to say, there was not a full turnout to the last minute training session. We ended up with 10 players and the manager and the coach were appropriately frustrated. As was I, considering I was hoping for a chance to gel a little bit with all my teammates. It is easier to gel with players in training because it is more of a learning environment. You can stop, ask questions, and get a better overall idea of how they are all trying to play the game. As I said at first, the training is the homework. The game is the test – you don’t learn as well in a test.

Having said that, training with 10 people is far better than training with 1 – my M.O. the past few weeks. After all, it’s a team game. We ended up making the best of it, as is best to do in these cases. Most of the session was made up of variations of a possession game focused on moving the ball from one side to the other. We also focused on the defensive side of things, where we focused on staying tight and compact, so that the ball could not be played through us. I won’t bore you with anymore details, but I will say I am in desperate need of practicing my distance game. For me this includes any balls hit over 30 yards, with a special highlight on crossing and shooting (both of which are hard to do on your own!).

As always, the important thing is that I got to play! Blessed.

That’s that!

PS. On further thought, I decided that forwards and midfielders both have qualifications as plumbers. The strikers must create openings in clogged up defenses and midfielders have to keep the game flowing. Who woulda thunk, footballers are all just plumbers in disguise.

Don’t be afraid to dive in head first (unless its into the sewage)

Seano