Welcome guest blogger Davy Arnaud, former pro player for Kansas City, Montreal and DC United who defines character. Currently assistant coach in Major League Soccer [MLS]. Not only is this guest a 14 year MLS veteran, but a class act on and off the field. I have known Davy since we played in college together. He is not only hard working, but a class act on and off the pitch. I asked him to share with us, what he considers the 5 keys to his success and longevity.
Why character matters at every age/level
One of the best examples of these character traits I can share is that just before Davy was to finish high school. He already had an offer to play Div. I at South Carolina. During his high school season he broke his leg in a game, which is one reason he ended up going D2. The big D1 schools have so many other players to choose from. Davy did not sulk, perceive himself as better, or ask for things. He stayed silent and worked hard always and now has a long and distinguished career because of his character.
I continue to value Davy’s character traits and decision-making abilities that I’ve seen him use over his career. With any injury he’s never complained but just plowed on. With a positive attitude, rehab, focus, drive, and ALWAYS acting as a professional. Below he shares some of the decisions he’s committed to that allow him to have professional success.
5 keys to Success by Davy Arnaud
Try to do the simple things perfectly, every time
My first professional coach was Bob Gansler, an American coaching legend. He taught me what it meant to be a professional player and had a huge influence on my career. Coach Gansler loved using this term and would often stop practice if he wasn’t happy with the quality. This was to remind us that even if a drill seemed simple, we should be striving for perfection in the execution of it. I have taken this term and never forgotten it.
Not only do I apply it to things I’m trying to do on the field with the ball (using the proper technique, passing the ball to the correct foot, not dropping balls while doing technical work, etc.), but also in things I do off the field. There are questions I ask myself on a daily basis. Is my attitude and commitment level right? Am I on time to meetings and trainings everyday?
These are just a few among many others, but I think it’s important to understand that even if something seems simple, we should be striving for perfection. Of course, we will not always be perfect and soccer is a game of mistakes, but the closer we can get to it the better we are. To this day I can still hear coach Ganslers voice, “simple things perfectly, every time gents!” I’ll never forget it.
Be a good learner/listener to build character
The term that people use a lot to describe a player who is a good learner is ‘coachable’. I think this is a great term and one that’s very important to being a good player. No matter your age or what level you are playing at, there is always something new you can learn.
It’s vital to listen to your coaches and when you are told something once, take it in and correct the things you are doing wrong. I’ve been playing this game for 35 years and there isn’t a week goes by that I don’t learn something new.
Take care of your body/be fit
This seems pretty self-explanatory but it’s something that if overlooked, will not allow you to be the player you can be. How can we expect to perform if our bodies aren’t physically capable of doing so? My fitness is always something that I have taken a great deal of pride in. It’s something that I can always control and something I have relied on to help carry me into my 14th season in MLS. Fitness is easy to get when you are training everyday with your team and playing games on the weekend.
However, for me the most important time of the year in terms of my fitness is the off-season. It’s easy to get distracted and not push your body the right way when you don’t have somebody looking over your shoulder and pushing you. The question I always ask myself is “how hard are you working when nobody is watching?”
I firmly believe that if you push yourself to the limits when you are all alone, on a cold day in January running sprints, you will be rewarded down the line. Every time I feel like stopping short on a run, or doing 10 sec. less work, I picture myself in a big game in the playoffs. If I can honestly say that I pushed myself when nobody was looking, I will be rewarded when it counts. It sounds a little cheesy I know, but I believe that you get out what you put in, and this constantly motivates me. Don’t cheat yourself and the rewards can be huge!
Understand that there will be tough times/tough moments
Soccer is the greatest game in the world. It can bring a lot of wonderful moments, but it is also capable of breaking your heart at times. My first heartbreak in the game came when I was 9 years old. The week before the state tournament I was in a car wreck with my Mom. It was nothing too serious but I had to get 12 stitches in my knee. This kept me from playing in the tournament the following weekend. I can still remember how upset I was watching from the sideline the following week.
Understanding that we will all go through these moments is important. In 2007 I had serious knee surgery and was out for 9 months. Those 9 months were a very difficult period in my life and I wondered if I would be the same again.
Understanding and accepting that every player goes through tough times, every player loses games, every player gets benched and every player deals with injury is crucial. I have lost in a high school state championship game, 2 college elite 8’s, an MLS cup final, a Gold Cup Final, 3 conference finals, missed the playoffs several times and been benched on many occasions. Sounds like a lot, and it is! However, the tough times help shape us as players and people, and make the good times that much better.
Be confident, not cocky
Being confident is a huge aspect of playing good soccer. It’s amazing to see the difference in performance between a player who is in good form and is confident. Then that same player who has had a few rough games and not believing in himself. It sounds easy to do, but I guarantee there is not a player on the planet that doesn’t struggle with their confidence at times.
Have self-belief, be mentally strong and remind yourself every day that you perform your best when you are confident in what you’re doing. If you can’t believe in yourself, how do you expect others to?
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