It has been an odd year for me as a soccer coach. For the first time since I can remember, I am not knee-deep in soccer every day. My life as a player or coach no longer revolves around training, game prep, and making sure I have enough clean sports bras! That transition to from full-time coaching to working with only the goalkeepers has had its difficult moments, but sometimes a step back can bring new perspective.

There is a raw passion that comes out in competition and until you step away, you do not truly understand its power. As a player, I took things for granted. I was not always the hardest working player. I was willing to make excuses about why others were better. I was willing to go to practice with other things on my mind or without full commitment to improvement. As a coach and spectator of the sport, I have developed a disdain for the player I once was and a desire to fill my squads with the gritty, relentless players who go to battle for their teammates.

As a coach, I am often asked,  “How can I stand out as a player or recruit? What are college coaches looking for? What will put me above the rest?” Of course, my response varies depending on the player, their goals, and my opinion of their ability, but the one stand-out trait I look for in every player is <h4>work ethic<h4>.

One of my favorite sayings is “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” That quote can be applied to any and all aspects of life. In today’s immediate gratification society, the practices of hard work and perseverance can be lost. I cannot say if the trend is growing in sports, or if I am more inclined to notice the lack of tenacity, but if you want to stand-out, you must be willing to put in the work.

I recently had the opportunity to facilitate our weekly team fitness training. In my new role as goalkeeper trainer, I have not attended many of these sessions this season. I was floored by what I witnessed. A timed mile and half, a long standing tradition on Tuesday mornings at Butler Community College, has become a proverbial gauntlet.

For some of the players Tuesday morning is simply a run, but for a group of them it is an opportunity to compete. They push themselves to the limit to beat their teammates (or their roommates), to beat their previous time, to be at their best regardless of the circumstance. I found great inspiration in their passion and work ethic on that Tuesday morning. They were pushing themselves to exhaustion . . . and for what? There was no championship waiting at the finish line, no newspaper story, no All-American award and yet they left everything on the track! Even those who knew they would never finish first were pushing to be faster, to beat the person in front of them, to challenge their teammates to raise the bar.

That is competition at its finest and that is what it takes to stand-out.

About Suzie (Hinman) Locke:

As a former collegiate soccer player and current soccer coach at Butler Community College in El Dorado, KS, Locke hopes to bring quality perspective to recruiting and college prep ideas. Locke is preparing to launch an online educational site, Do not be deceived by the name. The goal of the site is not to help prospective student-athletes be recruited. It will focus on the issues of recruiting and aid parents, players and coaches in navigating the process from eligibility requirements to official visits. This one-stop recruiting site will hope to meet the needs of prospects for all sports and from all different backgrounds. Launching July 2013… you won’t want to miss it!