Part of being a soccer player is having the courage to put our bodies on the line. Whether it is to get a small touch on the ball to redirect it in the back of the net, getting stuck in to win a 50/50 challenge, or pushing our bodies to run that extra sprint in the dying moments of the match, soccer is a demanding game that poses some risks. With risk, comes the chance of injury. As movement teacher and philosopher Ido Portal says "Injuries are a certainty. They are not a probability. ... They are also required.”
What Ido means is that in sports and training, being in compromised positions and exposed to pain is inevitable. That is why he espouses training in challenging conditions and also putting the body into compromised positions because as he says, “there is no improper alignment, only improper preparation”. When he talks about injuries being required, he is referring to desired and planned micro-injuries such as soreness or fatigue which when we recover from leads to greater performance and a resistance to an injury that could sideline us.
But today’s post is not about preventing injury or rehab itself. It is for the athletes who are already injured. For athletes who are on the mend. I’ve been injured in my soccer career several times and it is never fun, nor does it allow for us as athletes to improve in training or showcase ourselves in competition. However, there are ways to come back from any injury stronger and better than before, and it starts with the mindset we take from the moment we are injured. This is what we are going to discuss, and to help me get my point across, I am going to elicit the teachings of world-renowned neurologist/psychiatrist, author, and survivor of the Holocaust; Viktor Frankl
If you are injured, I am sure you’re going through a difficult time. Soccer is often a major source of meaning in our lives, and without that outlet and pursuit that gives us meaning, there is a void. You may feel like you will never heal completely or that your muscle or joint will never function the same way again. You might start believing that you are injury prone. You might turn to junk food or substance abuse and get comfortable with the absence of physical discomfort associated with training hard. You might start to like your new built-in excuse to be lazy.
It took me a long time grasp that the pressure I would put on myself to succeed was causing me greater agony than being hurt and not playing at all. In other words, I was comfortable sitting on the sidelines telling myself how great I would be playing versus actually playing and not meeting my own expectations. That was a huge realization for me and it took a lot of time and self-reflection to embrace the fact that it is always better to play poorly and lay it on the line than to not play at all. This new and more courageous approach helped me nip some of what Viktor Frankl called Organ Neuroses (disorders involving physical symptoms that appear caused by a medical condition, but are in fact caused by psychological factors) in the bud, Due to my fear of failure, sometimes I would feel pain in a part of my body that had actually already healed, or I would feel pain where I had suffered no injury at all.
So now that we have brought certain cognitive possibilities into awareness, we have the power to change them. Even if it is true that you are physically prone to injuries, a slow healer, or people are calling you a “pussy”, you have a choice.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”-Viktor E. Frankl
In the following quotes, notice how even when playing soccer is out of your hands, you can choose your attitude about the circumstances or injury, and turn the recovery process and return to play into a personal triumph.
“ One can find meaning in life by creating a work or doing a deed or by experiencing goodness, truth, and beauty, by experiencing nature and culture; or, last but not least, by encountering a unique being in the very uniqueness of this human being- in other words, by loving them. However the noblest appreciation of meaning is reserved to those people who, deprived of the opportunity to find meaning in a deed, in a work, or in love, by the very attitude which they choose to this predicament, rise above it and grow beyond themselves. What matters is the stand they take-a stand which allows for transmuting their predicament into an achievement, triumph, and heroism.
...life never ceases to hold a meaning, for even a person who is deprived of both creative and experiential values is still challenged by a meaning to fulfill, that is, by the meaning inherent in the right, in an upright way of suffering. “
Dr. Frankl discussing a patient who had depression following a diagnosis of cancer:
"She resolved then and there if she could not avoid the inescapable suffering, she would determine the manner and mode in which she would meet the illness. She became a tower of strength to those around her, whose hearts were lacerated with pain. At first it was bravado, but with the passage of time the act became invested with a purpose. She confided to me: “Perhaps my single act of immortality might be in the way I face this adversity. Even though my pain at times is unbearable- I have achieved an inner peace and contentment that I never had known before.”
What about your confidence as a player and perhaps as a person? A lot of us identify so much with soccer and how well we play. In the next quote, perhaps you can find that confidence you feel you lost, by remembering no one can ever take away the great and unique things you have done already.
"In the past, nothing is irrecoverably lost but everything irrevocably preserved and saved, safely delivered and deposited. Nothing and nobody can deprive us of what we have rescued into the past. What we have done cannot be undone.”
Concluding this article is a final quote from Dr. Frankl that again reminds us again of our ability to choose our attitude in the face of adversity. Injuries are hard, and they suck, but you can and will come back stronger, more mature, and with a new-found appreciation for the sport, your body, and life in general.
“A human being strives for success but, if need be, does not depend on his fate, which does or does not allow for success. The attitudinal values are the highest possible values.”