10 Lessons I Learned From Playing Sports

  • 9 Nov, 2016

I have learned more about life lessons from playing sports than I learned in my entire college career. Playing soccer from a young age has helped me build character and become who I am today. I grew up watching many professional games and playing with older players than I was. That helped me post my confidence, master my skills and most importantly try to think and execute everything a lot quicker.

We all learn in different ways and our playing style is not the same. Each player got his or her own strengths and weaknesses. The more aware ewe are about those attributes the more we can help ourselves improve. I played soccer in Romania till the age of sixteen where I moved to the United States at a relatively young age. I had to learn a lot of different things and adapt to the culture. In my opinion culture is key to success. We breath and build the culture everyday and based on how well we do it we can slowly develop our own identity while we try to be part of a coach’s strategy. Each coach has his or her own expectations but if the player wasn’t trained in a culture where it allowed for failures, learning and development, then that player will never be able to fully integrate and be part of a successful strategy.

10 Lessons From Playing Sports 1

Over the years I learned so much from playing sports. I will outline the most important lessons I came across and how they helped shape who I am today. I am not perfect and I made mistakes but I never had any big regrets.

During my playing career, I may have complained but I  had the courage to try again and always found the power and strength to never give up.

1. Integrity

A player’s integrity goes a long way. It shows how a player chooses to behave in daily decisions. Those players’ integrity engages in actions that follow their words and beliefs. I always said to myself that I will not smoke or drink too much while in college. Even today, I don’t smoke or drink much. Also, I don’t lie because I do believe that honesty is the best policy. So I appreciate all the coaches that have been honest with me from the beginning. Some people just don’t have the guts to keep it real and tell you the way it is. There is no character or integrity to make a memorable impression on you.

I choose to speak the truth so I don’t have to remember what story I first told. The truth shapes who I am even when I play or coach. Players always appreciate me more when I tell them the way it is. It’s more important how I do it rather then what I tell them. That’s integrity for me.

2. Good listener

Over the years I become better at this. When we are young and go thru a lot of different experiences we tend to believe that we know it all. We often ignore other people’s advice because we believe that we can do better without listening to them. I used to be that player. I changed and realized that if you listen very carefully, you will learn something from everyone. The more you listen the more you learn and the better you will do.

Now as a coach, I tend to listen to my players and identify what their needs are so I can prepare on how to help them best improve. As a player, I know I could have done a better job at listening to my teammates and coaches. I always respected everyone regardless if I chose to listen to them or not.

3. Responsibility

This is a major quality for players to have. All coaches like athletes that assume responsibility. I was always responsible for my actions and I chose not to do stupid stuff that will get me in trouble. It’s important to know if a coach can hold you responsible because that will help increase the level of trust. I always encourage my players to take responsibility for their own actions. They are in charge 100% of their actions and sometimes the outcome is different than expected.

So my advise to all players out there is to always show up with the best attitude and give your best effort every time in the classroom, on the field and in life. If you do that, you will do well. As times goes on, you will understand the impact this can have on your future. I know I could have done better on the soccer field or in the classroom because there is always room for improvement. Do your best every time so you have no regrets.

4. Confidence

The more you train, the more prepared you are and the more confidant you will be. It’s a simple process that takes time and hard work to build when trying to become a master at something. I spend a lot of time with the ball playing so I can master my technique. I was able to dribble players in very narrow spaces and that gave me more confidence which, allowed me to take on new challenges.

Athletic Confidence

Ask any coach or players of any talented athletes what’s their forte. Most will say confidence. Once a player loses confidence, their talent will slowly get lost in the shadows of empty hopes. It’s that simple. Have the courage to let your actions speak of your ability and lift up your teammates in an effort to prepare for the next battle. Those are confident players who lead themselves and others to success. And remember that great athletes show their true confidence in moments of adversity and how they can help overcome those moments.

5. Discipline

Players who want to reach the next level know how important is to stay focused and be disciplined. The training, and routines will never work if there is no serious dedication towards them. During my soccer career, I don’t remember missing many practices. In college I never missed a practice and my coaches and teammates can confirm that. I was disciplined and when I committed to something I did my best to complete my mission.

I try to stay focused on my effort to make sure I did the best I could to help my team succeed. I lost many important games and those are the ones that made me stronger. A lot of the games I lost were somehow unfair but that didn’t take away from my desire to improve. Some great examples of being disciplined would be:

  • Go to school prepared
  • Listen and focus to the teacher and coaches
  • Come to class or practice ready to perform at your best
  • Respect those around you
Being disciplined is something that most elite athletes have in common because they focus on accomplishing their goals without being distracted.

6. Effort

Players can control how much effort they can choose to put into their work. If I see players who are lazy, slacking or not trying their best, I quickly try to fix it. Effort is something that comes from within and sometimes players need some extra motivation to find a way of giving their best. So no matter how talented a player is, if s/he doesn’t not work hard then they will fall behind. A player who works really hard will go further. Now, if you got the talent and you work hard then you may become unstoppable.

7. Accountability

Most athletes become accountable due to a demonstration of daily work habits. If you are lazy, you won’t be too accountable. Those who work hard and develop healthy habits are the ones that get the work done and therefore they are more accountable. Sports offer an environment where it teaches players to work and earn something in the long term. That could be more playing time, a starting position, a trophy or anything that requires work. That will also carry on in life when you get a professional job.

So how can players become more accountable? Well, always go thru stages by understanding what’s required of you to do.

  • Give your best effort to finish what you start
  • Be willing to work hard
  • Ask questions when you don’t understand something
  • Do the hardest things first
  • Don’t wait for others to do your work
  • Make things right no matter what
  • Be part of the solution to any problem
  • Believe in yourself that you can do it and work hard till you make it happen

8. Leadership

A true captain or leader is the type of player who leads by serving the team first no matter what. They put themselves last and always sacrifice for the benefit of the team. Those players they don’t look for personal recognition but that comes with admiration form their coaches and teammates.

True leaders have confidence which allows them to lead by example. They are not afraid to fail, listen, hustle and most importantly to encourage and support those around them. Always serving the team with honor and respect while they fight till the last moment.

Those players who become leaders have a pure passion for what they do and they become the voice of the team. They always spread positive energy to those around them and they are easily admired and followed by the group. Those are the leaders you want on your team.

9. Mental Toughness

The higher the levels of play the more pressure. A player who doesn’t have a strong mindset that can allow him or her to control and deal with the mental toughness will never be able to perform at their best. I remember that there were games where I wasn’t mentally strong. And that took away a big part of my game. The days I was mentally tough, I was a lot more effective.

Great athletes devote their time to continue improvement. They want to climb the mountain so they can have the best view possible. The road is rough, the pressure is high, the pain is felt but the mental toughness is stronger than them all. Those athlete recover quickly form mistakes and refuse to be discourages. They get up and try again till they make it.

Mental toughness is a trait that allows an athlete to remain confident, enthusiastic and positive no matter the circumstances or the outcome. Mental toughness comes from within a players’ mindset, which doesn’t allow the athlete to lose their spirit.

10. Selflessness

To become the best teammate, an athlete has to be selfless. Those players don’t care about scoring the goals, they are happy with the assists. As long as the team does well and wins, those players are satisfied knowing that they have contributed in helping the team succeed.

Always have on their mind that the team is first. Their decisions are based on the benefit of the team first and not their own. Your sports journey will be relatively short and all you have left will be your memories. Remember, that being part of a great team will be the true player’s best memory. So always play and train by putting the team first while you compete against yourself. See how far you can go and how long you can last when you give without expecting anything in return.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and I truly hope you won’t make the same mistakes as I did. Your time as an athlete is limited so choose to make the best of it.


Author @Nicolae Popescu

Nicolae Popescu is a former NCAA D1 full-scholarship student-athlete and the Founder of WeGotPlayers. He has experienced first-hand the complex college recruiting process himself. Nicolae' s knowledge, skills and sports expertise make him a valuable contributor in helping guide players and parents to find the right school fit. He is passionate about coaching, mentoring and positively influencing players succeed in their sports journey and life thru the power of education and technology.
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