World cup 2014. USA vs Portugal. Stop right here if you don’t want spoilers. Keep reading if you want to learn a great lesson from this match.
Like many of you, I yelling and screaming at my TV during the US vs Portugal match yesterday. And I don’t even like soccer. Portugal scored in the first few minutes, 1-0, because one of our guys nonchalantly defended a shot on goal, giving Portugal an easy follow up shot. Damn it Jim, this is the World Cup, not a kids AYSO soccer match. Do not NONCHALANT anything in this most pivotal match! Sigh….despite that mishap, we fought hard in the second half, putting constant pressure, and with some tiny bit of luck (hey chance favors the prepared mind or body), we scored to tie it up.
Gooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal! Yeah, I watched the Spanish broadcast of the match. The Spanish guys are just so much more into it than the English broadcasters. And then later we scored again, with a beautiful, perfect long ranged short from some dude whose name I totally forgot and am too lazy to google. Yeah, baby! USA! Now, ALL we had to do we keep up the pressure, constant pressure and make sure Portugal didn’t score. And we did. But then my novice soccer eyes started to notice something. Were my eyes deceiving me, or were our guys turning over the ball a lot more? Correct me, soccer experts if I’m wrong, but if you’re in possession of the ball, the opponent can’t score, right? In order for you to score, you must first take possession of the ball, right? Why then were our guys turning over the ball so much?
We had the ball and then almost immediately Portugal was sort of, practically given the ball from careless footwork, or a careless pass. I didn’t like the looks of this. Yet, 1 minute or so left. I suppose they know what they’re doing, allowing Portugal to possess the ball for so long. They just need to hold out. I guess its working. We have possession on their end of the field. No problem, just keep the ball, pass it around, right? Nope-sauce. We turned it over. Instead of sprinting to get it back, all the sprinting was done by Portugal. Within moments, the ball was on the opposite side, some guy named Ronaldo Cristiano or something had the ball, on the right side of our the goal and he kicked it. Not into the goal, but perfectly guided into the projectile-like head of a Portuguese player, right into our goal.
What is this. I don’t even. Its like the ball was guided like some sort of soccer laser right into that guy’s head. But lets back up. This shouldn’t have happened at all. According to my soccer ignorant observations, it seemed to me that team USA coasted. We had the lead and instead of aggressively attacking or at least aggressively keeping possession of the ball, we were well, lazy, and turned over the ball. Even my wife, who is even more of a soccer noob than me, was like “hey, they’re just sort of jogging, shouldn’t they be running, like the other team?”
And there you have it. From the mouth of babes (in both senses). Jogging during the last minute is the World Cup equivalent of taking a nap. We had the lead, and we took a nap. A very determined tortoise in the form of Portugal relentlessly pushed forward and scored, to tie it up.
What does this have to do with Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Everything. It is human nature to want to rest, take a nap, before the battle is over. Fighting off a determined opponent is hard. Its exhausting. We’ve all rolled with that guy, who seems to have limitless energy and never gives up. His energy has less to do with his body, and more to do with his mind.
When we roll, train or compete, we can take that nap in ways so subtle, only we really know it. The coach may not see it. The ref may not notice. But deep, down, we know. We”re trying to coast our way to victory. We drill our techniques, practice them on the mats everyday. This is great for our body. Now, train your mind every day on the mats. Do you notice your resolve weakening during a roll? Do you feel like your partner’s guard is impassable, so maybe its not worth trying so hard these last 30 seconds to even try? You’re taking a nap. Recognize it, then practice waking yourself up. You need to practice this mental technique as often as you practice your physical techniques. You can’t just turn-on mental resolve during competition without having practiced it, no more than you could magically pull off a physical technique you’ve never practiced.
Now this doesn’t mean go 110% aggro crazy for the entire roll. Be the tortoise, not the hare. Don’t burn yourself out. Constant, consistent pressure is better than going 200% and burning yourself out in the roll. But you will have to practice adjusting the throttle to be able to put constantly pressure throughout, until the very end. Let’s hope team USA will learn from this and fight to the end against Germany. And let us learn from it too, and never give up on the mats!