By Tim Bennett, MGCP
Over the past several months, I have been slammed with requests for mental performance coaching sessions regarding the NCAA recruiting process and its collateral damage on confidence, expectations, and by extension on-field/court performance.
June 15 is right around the corner. For the class of 2024, you all know what this means. This is the first day that Division I and II NCAA coaches of certain sports can initiate communication with prospective student-athletes. This truly is the first significant recruiting date for this rising class of high school juniors. But it may also be the first significant bit of adversity a 2024 experiences in their youth soccer career.
Up until now, the recruiting process has been pretty straightforward. Get on the best team possible in the best league possible. Go to id camps. Send emails. Create highlight videos. Train hard away from the field. Do extra! Build a social media brand. Get great grades. Play in the best showcases. And of course, perform well on the field! June 15 signals the first time where a player sees if this work has been seen and/or will be rewarded.
The harsh reality is that you may not get a call on June 15. Or maybe you don’t the call from the schools that were on your wish list. Maybe they are from schools you never heard of. Why would your schools of choice call? You did all the things necessary up to this point. Nothing. No calls. No texts. No messages. Nothing. This kick to the gut gets compounded by seeing social media posts from teammates or friends posting about getting calls from the colleges of their dreams. You worked harder than they did at this. And then it hits. Maybe I am not good enough to play college soccer? You begin to question everything. Self-doubt grows! You put all that work into your dream of playing college soccer. Your parents spent a lot of money and sacrificed a lot of time to help you try and achieve this goal. You feel like you failed. You begin to feel like you disappointed all of those who helped along the way, coaches, teammates, and friends alike. Athletic anxiety begins to settle in. You just can’t make sense of it.
Does this mean that your college soccer dream won’t come true? Just because you don’t get a call on June 15, does that mean only “bad’ schools will recruit you? Some will say the market will dictate your opportunities. You don’t have a choice; you don’t have any control or say in this process at all. I completely disagree and so should you. We do have a choice here.
You can’t control what college coaches think. You can’t control what they like about a player or what they don’t like about a player. You can’t control if they call you or not. But maybe you can…
Let us look at two things you can control in recruiting. The first is your actual recruiting process tasks; the emails, the texts, videos, camps, and ultimately your on and off-the-field performance. These are completely in your control. The more that you recruit a school, the more likely they will recruit you. The more you work at this process, the more opportunities you will create! We can talk more in-depth about this at a later time.
The second aspect is more important and maybe a bit harder to achieve but it is long-lasting and will apply to every part of your game and beyond the field. You can call it your recruiting mindset; I am going to call it Amor Fati. Translated from Latin as “a love of one’s fate.” It has its roots in the ancient greek philosophy, Stoicism. Simply put it is a tool in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom. It provides much-needed strength, understanding, and stamina for all of life’s challenges. Stoicism is a way of acting, living, and thinking that helps you deal with adversity and difficulty. The origins of Stoicism date to the ancient Greek philosopher, Zeno, who began teaching this philosophy to his students at the Stoa Poikile, the painted porch. The great Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt were all Stoics. Modern-day coaches Nick Saban and Bill Belichick are Stoics. The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche popularized Amor Fati in his formula for human greatness.
This is cool and all but what does it have to do with June 15 and college recruiting? Amor Fati is a Stoic mindset that you develop to make the best out of anything that happens. You accept whatever happened and then make the best out of it. Everything is an opportunity. Treating each and every moment—no matter how challenging—as something to be embraced, not avoided. This is mental toughness; this mental resilience and everything in between.
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius
If you don’t get the June 15 call from your dream school or if they never recruit you at all, you may choose to view this as a negative or something to be avoided rather than something to be celebrated. This perception is based on fear of failure, but with an Amor Fati mindset, this can now be viewed as something much more positive. Rather than interpreting it as a wasted dream, you can now view it as something to be overcome and which will then lift you to greater heights. It is not failure that you should focus on, but the opportunity for success. To not only be okay with it but embrace it and be better for it. So like oxygen to a fire, obstacles and adversity become fuel for your potential.
“A blazing fire makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it.”
— Marcus Aurelius
You have a choice. What’s yours?