While COVID-19 Impacts Our Communities, Marc Sagal suggests Ways We Can Continue to Grow as Players, Parents, and Coaches
The second article from our new columnist, Marc Sagal, who has worked with Manchester City, Leicester City, Liverpool Academy, and the New York Red Bulls along with numerous other players, clubs, and countries. Here are Marc Sagal’s insights on how to deal with the Coronavirus COVID 19 and how this may grant us the opportunity to improve ourselves and add meaning and value to our lives.
Marc Sagal on Who Are You, Really?
Whether in soccer or in life, we all want to be in control, be good under pressure, be at our best with our backs against the wall. We want to be great.
We don’t like feeling out of control, feeling vulnerable.
Yet here we are, in very uncertain times. Worried for ourselves and the ones we love.
And while you are probably getting bombarded with advice on how to deal with the drama that is unfolding; how to wash your hands; what to shop for; how to stay healthy… I also have some advice. I’m not sure how much you’ll like it.
On a wall in my office, I have this odd-looking chart.
It’s basically a sheet of graph paper with 52 columns of small boxes running left to right and 80 rows running top to bottom. Each row represents a year (52 weeks). A title sits atop the sheet, next to my handwritten birth date. It reads Memento Mori, latin for ‘remember that you will die.’
You might find this disconcerting, even morose. I can understand why. It sometimes makes me sad but it’s the truth.
In my line of work, I often find that the biggest opportunities lie buried under the biggest pockets of discomfort. Like a physician probing for your most painful spot, I’m sensitive to where my clients are least comfortable, most avoidant.
Athletes in general — and footballers are no exception — are not fans of showing weakness.
Establishing trust and learning what makes people tick isn’t easy. I use mortality to help my clients think about who they are, who they want to be, what counts as success and what is and should be important in their lives. It’s not an easy process.
What does all this have to do with what’s happening in the world right now? And what does this have to do with you and the soccer community as a whole? Well, as much discomfort as we are all likely to experience for the time COVID-19 is around, there may be an opportunity to improve ourselves and add meaning and value to our lives.
There may also be an opportunity for us to improve ourselves as players, parents, and coaches.
Let’s begin with the Personal Motto Exercise. Crafting your Personal Motto is a powerful way to remind you of who you are, what you stand for. It can also help to inspire you when you are down and soothe you when you are stressed. It’s a simple but compelling statement or phrase that summarizes your guiding principles (your values and deeply held beliefs).
How do you make a motto? In a sense you don’t, it makes you.
You’re probably more familiar with mottos than you may realize.
Phrases like Keep Calm and Carry On, No Pain No Gain, and Carpe Diem are some common examples. Barca’s Més Que Un Club (More than a club) and Liverpool’s You’ll Never Walk Alone connect deeply with their supporters.
Personal mottos are, well, more personal. Like, Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. — Shakespeare; We must become the change we wish to see in the world. — Ghandi; The unexamined life is not worth living. — Socrates.
Mine is: Listen. Laugh. Learn. Love. Try.
See what comes to mind for you. Don’t overthink it. Come up with a few and try them out.
My next suggestion is heavier. It’s my Eulogy Exercise.
A Personal Eulogy is a short, written memorial of your life. It is meant to capture the spirit of who you are, what you’ve accomplished and other important elements of your life. It can be quite emotional, so be smart about choosing the right time and place but remind yourself that by doing this you are helping yourself and the people you love – because you are fortifying your identity, gaining perspective and strengthening the connection you have to the people and things most important in your life. Don’t get caught up with length or elegance. Just take some time and think about what you would want written about you.
Today we celebrate the life of Marc-Simon ‘Chip’ Sagal, proud father of Simon and Eli. Adoring (lol) husband of Courtney Cutter and forever grateful and loving son of Paul and Karen Sagal. Oh, and Jared’s brother (love you bro).
Bestowed with the ‘Gift of Scrutiny,’ Marc seemed always able to find the thing that was wrong in any given situation or with any given person. Yet, he did so with a bizarre sense of humor and pointed wit. Sentimental and sensitive, like so many of us, Marc was engaged in a life-long struggle for greatness, relevance, and acceptance. Having overcome poor vision and a lack of eye-hand coordination, Marc’s relentless commitment to achievement helped him get great grades (who cares now) and more importantly to realize an early life dream of playing professional soccer in Europe. A knee injury forced him into the world of coaching. An expired ‘A’ license later, Marc quickly found himself searching for a new reason for being. Literally hit on the head with a book on Sport Psychology, Marc found a way to combine his love of sport and performance with a career. For the past 50 years, Marc did his best to help people be at their best.
Marc loved to travel. His fondest memories involved being away with his family on trips, revolving around soccer, in some foreign country with plenty of time for a great meal and glass of wine. A life-long learner, Marc loved documentaries, reading (Hemingway was his favorite), and exercise. He enjoyed nothing more than a long walk and talk with a family member or friend.
Marc’s work in Sport and Performance Psychology (and Management Consulting) focused on the importance of a clear and compelling Identity (the story of your life) and on the importance of striving, rather than achieving. He hopes he will be remembered for his humor, ‘caring critique’ and angst-ridden desire to make his meaningful mark on the world.
Too many people to thank and say goodbye to (you know who you are), Marc misses you.
Every time I re-read this I think of things to add and edit. My biggest concern, having now shared this with you (the reader), is that someone I know will be bummed that I didn’t mention them specifically. The point of the exercise is not to get it exactly right but to get you thinking about your life and how you want to live it.
Thinking about who you are now, and more importantly who you want to be, can help you cope with adversity and uncertainty.
We are works in progress, but we won’t progress unless we focus on the right things.
Like many of you, soccer is a huge and integral part of my life. Being without trainings and games to play, matches to watch, and soccer trips to take, will not be easy. But as challenging a time as we are all in, we have a tremendous opportunity for personal growth.
Oh, and make some time to work on your weak foot.
Marc Sagal is a Sport Psychologist and Managing Partner at Winning Mind, LLC in San Diego, California. Winning Mind helps people perform at their best when it matters most. Marc has worked with Manchester City, Leicester City, Liverpool Academy and the New York Redbulls along with numerous other players, clubs and countries.
Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org