Life Lesson I Learned from Playing Soccer with Pelé That Will Help You in 2023

Pelé , Coach Colley to his right, me standing in front of Pelé

Pelé passed away over the holidays at the age of 82. Regarded as the GOAT, he is the only soccer player to win the World Cup three times.

As a kid I loved playing soccer and Pelé was my idol. Getting to kick the ball around with him was magical.

I was lucky enough to have an Uncle Andy who heard about the Pelé soccer camp that was not far from where he and my aunt lived in upstate New York.

He called my Mom and said that I should attend. The plan was I would stay at his house and he and my Aunt would drive me back and forth to camp every day.

After all if you want to be great, you’ve got to learn from the best. My Uncle always strived to be the the best and he knew I wanted to be a great soccer player. The formula was simple.

I couldn’t wait to meet Pelé and get to spend a week playing soccer every day. That excitement quickly turned to anxiety on the very first day in our first drill exercise. The talent of the other campers was like nothing I had ever seen before.

I quickly felt like I was out of my league. The kids moved with and without the ball like I’d never seen. Back home I had time to trap the ball, take a second to control it and then look around to see if I was going to dribble or pass.

Playing with these kids I had less than half the time. By the time I got control of the ball there was already someone defending me, giving me only a split second to make a move. For a minute I was like a deer in headlights.

Hundreds of campers were divided into small groups and assigned a coach for the week.

What I quickly realized was that what I knew about the game of soccer was never going to be enough to compete with these kids.

I did the only thing I had to lean on, listen to every single thing our Coach Colley said.

I didn’t think about it when he told me to do something, I just did it…the whole entire week.

And guess what?

By the end of the week I was a different player. Better, faster, making quicker decisions. Playing at a higher level. But…

I wasn’t quite good enough to get picked to play in the all star game at the end of the week.

I remember the utter disappointment I had at that moment when they called the last kid and it wasn’t me.

As it turns out my Coach Colley was selected to coach one of the two All Star teams. I have no idea how kids were selected and it didn’t matter because I wasn’t one of them.

The rest of the us were divided up to play a “Non All Star end of camp game”.

I got my team designation and was walking to the assigned field when all the sudden I hear someone yelling,

“Brandon, Brandon White.”

I turned around and it was Coach Colley.

He said, ” Come here”.

You didn’t walk at this camp, so I jogged over to him.

He said, “Come with me.”

Like I had done all week, I didn’t question him, I just did it and followed him.

As we’re walking he said,

“There was a mistake, you’re playing for me in the All Star game.”

The game was a minute ago, but it was a pivotal moment in my life.

I still remember when he put me in the game being nervous as hell and him holding both my shoulders, looking me right in the eye with unwavering confidence and saying,

“Do what I taught you, listen to me from the sideline and you’ll do great.”

Followed by a little push onto the field.

And guess what?

I made a few mistakes, but also some great plays, and we won the game.

Truth be told the full selection committee didn’t pick me. Coach Colley simply didn’t agree with the others and being the Coach took the liberty to pick the player he wanted, me.

What got me selected as an All Star when my fundamental ball handeling skills were not all star level?

It’s revealed in the feedback he gave me on my camp report card:

Life Lesson I Learned from Playing Soccer with Pelé That Will Help You in 2023

My report card from Pele Soccer Camp that year.

And guess what happened for me the following soccer season?

I started for my local traveling All Star Team, we were undefeated county champs.

Life Lesson I Learned from Playing Soccer with Pelé That Will Help You in 2023

My All Star Traveling Team Jacket

You’ve likely already guessed the skill you need to become an All Star by now…

Be coachable.

As I was working on this piece over this past week, I’ve come to believe that this may be the most not talked about, yet most important, skill that separates the All Star players from the people who play in the “Non-All Star last game of the season”.

The skill has produced a recurring winning theme for me my whole life.

You hear all the time, you need a coach or mentor, they help you do xyz, everyone has a one, you’ve got to get one if you don’t have one already etc…

That’s true. But…

If you’re not coachable it doesn’t matter how great a coach or mentor you have.

Be more coachable in 2023 and see what happens for you!

Your move.

This essay is from my 1/7/23, Week 2 weekly email newsletter. Sign up below