The problem with having goals is that they can zap your motivation as easily as they can feed it.
I studied psychology at the University of North Carolina, and over the years, I’ve developed an in-depth philosophy about my sport, my goals and my path toward achieving them. But after facing a series of disappointments and failures, and recently taking some time off, I felt lost.
One decision I made in high school is that I am O.K. putting myself out there, risking failure. I want to state my goals and pursue them with every ounce of my mental and physical energy. And I’m not afraid to ask for help along the way.
So, when it was mentioned in a mass e-mail I received that a sports psychologist was offering to speak to players, I called her immediately. I told her, “I’m not quite sure why exactly I called, but I just feel that I need help.”
The hour we spent on the phone was refreshing and enlightening. What she brought to my attention is that, although I’ve attained a high level and had a lot of success in many different ways, I’ve never been so far from my most immediate goals.
As a youth player, there was always an O.D.P. team I was trying to make, and my aim of playing for U.N.C. In college, I was constantly competing and trying to prove myself and improve my team. Straight from college, I had W.P.S. and was fighting for a spot on a professional team. Shortly after, I was called in with the national team and aiming to establish myself in that environment and make the World Cup team.
Right now, I’m out of the picture to make the Olympic team and I have no first division professional club to represent. I want to find a professional team where I am a starter and make the next World Cup team, but these are both long-term and abstract goals that are not fully within my control. As the sports psychologist pointed out, they are “outcome goals” as opposed to “process goals.” It’s important to have both. My lack of short-term process goals was leaving me feeling hopeless and unmotivated.
After our conversation, I immediately established some process goals. I always talk about loving the process and just for the sake of training (not solely as the means to reach an outcome), but despite all my talk, I had lost sight of embodying those principles.
This summer, I want to take joy in simply “putting in the work.” I am taking 100 shots a day — getting back to being dangerous in front of goal from all distances and angles, as well as free kicks. I’m also building up to a speed endurance workout that I used to do in the summers to prepare for U.N.C. preseason. It’s a series of 20-, 40-, 60-, 80-, and 100-yard sprints.
I am a firm believer that “success” comes from consistently doing the right things and enjoying each moment along the way. I feel that every day in my training and in how much I love the game, but sometimes it’s good to refocus and have a little reminder. My motto for the summer, which will be hanging on the wall in my room shortly, is “just put in the work.” I trust that the rest will follow.