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Everyone was shocked when Landon Donovan, arguably the best male soccer player the United States has ever produced, decided earlier this year to take a sabbatical from organized soccer. It was an unprecedented move in the world of athletics, where fitness is honed through daily practices and drills. To many, the move simply didn’t make sense.
But Donovan refused to listen to those who said he should simply push through his malaise and continue playing. Instead, he spent four months away from the sport, and it looks to have been a beneficial break.
Here’s what young players can learn from Donovan’s decision:
Yes, soccer is Donovan’s job, but it had become a job that weighed on him. He led his club squad, the Los Angeles Galaxy, to back-to-back Major League Soccer cups the past two years, in between dozens of World Cup qualifying matches.
With little downtime and a soccer ball seemingly always in his sights, Donovan stopped having fun on the field, and it showed. He seemed tired.
By leaving the sport for a few months, he was able to get his body some much-needed rest and make the sport fun again, which should always be the goal for younger players.
Donovan was heavily criticized by some in the national and international community for taking the time off. They scoffed at his reasoning, saying that all players get tired at some point; it’s just something you have to push through.
But like Harrisburg town homes or Milwaukee apartments, Donovan’s reasoning was built on a solid base. He truly felt like he could not give 100 percent to his team anymore, and he didn’t feel it was fair to give only 80 or 90 percent for his teammates. He stood by that decision even when others tried to get him to reconsider.
The lesson is that you know yourself better than other people do, and you should listen to your own inner voice.
Whether it’s energy drink, cotton candy or, yes, even soccer, too much of anything can be bad for you. Donovan was playing not only for his club team but also his national team, and making tons of promotional appearances to boot.
That’s a whole lot of soccer, and sometimes that can become overwhelming. If you’ve overcommitted yourself, or are playing on multiple teams, you might benefit from taking a step back and trying to remember what you love about the game. If you draw a blank, perhaps you too should take a short soccer sabbatical.