I have recently started to play football again. You can call it soccer, I really don’t mind what anyone calls it. I had not really played in a long time due to the protracted hiatus forced upon me by two ACL reconstructions and a pandemic. I grew up playing football but really loved watching it and learning about it. From when Italy won the World Cup in 1982 until about 1994 I am an encycopedia of European (and especially Italian) football facts. As I have aged (I almost wrote “grown-up, but at 53 I think that part of my life has passed) I have enjoyed actually playing football more knowing all about it.
The physical aspect of playing is always one that I enjoy., I try to make up for my limited skill set by covering as much ground as I can performing defensive duties. Running a lot and harassing opponents are pretty straightforward tasks. It is just a case of marshaling your discipline and willpower to keep going. When you are hustling it is hard for anyone to complain about your efforts, and I derive a personal sense of achievement when I work hard for the common cause.
I have more of a love/hate relationship with the sexier, more creative side of the beautiful game. It is a very complex structure, the notion of taking control of the ball and make something unexpected happen. That involves my having confidence in my abilities, trusting myself to execute, and being able to manage a desperately high frequency of failure. The toughest task of all is managing woefully high expectations of myself. But when it all works, those few times that I do have a delightful first touch, and I see or sense a teammate making a run, and I manage to thread the ball to him with perfect weight on it, well that is the love part. These days the love part comes along 5% of the time, tops.
More often than not I come home feeling accomplished for the 7 kilometers that I covered but feeling grumpy for all the bad touches that I took, the misdirected passes I made, and the litany of other failures that I experienced. When I ask myself why I keep turning up to football, it is because of that 5%, because of the art of it. Because being creative feels good. So as Seth Godin and Harry Crews (and many others) will tell you, you have to just do the work. You cannot summon your moment of flow. You cannot call on your muse to sit down next to you when you write. You can not line up the interaction when you and a colleague breakthrough and figure something brilliant out. You just have to turn up and play, you have to sit down and write, you have to prepare and talk to others, and those moments will occur.
And be kind to yourself whilst you do that work. Be kind to yourself.