Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dear MLS Rookie

Dear MLS Rookie,

Congratulations! You haven't started your first season under the shadow of a strike! The Players' Union and the MLS owners came to a new collective bargaining agreement and avoided a work stoppage. 

There's even more good news. The minimum yearly league salary is now $60,000. If you're a Generation Adidas player, you're probably already making more than that, but if you're not, it's a decent salary. 

Don't be stupid with that money, though. Get a budget going and track where what you've earned goes. Roommates are still a good idea, too, because young players can collaborate on carpools, off-season training sessions and even food expenses. 

You're young, but an athlete's body is never invincible. Injuries are part of the game. Have a back-up plan in mind, just in case your soccer dream doesn't work out. Dream a new dream.Take care of yourself by eating well, too. Don't just inhale burgers because they're cheap. Every team has a resident health guru, whether it's the trainer who can bench more than any player, or a teammate like Jimmy Conrad used to be, always going on about superfoods and never cramping up, even in extra time. Listen and learn. Take in what you can handle and be open to new ideas like yoga, kale and kombucha. 

Even if you don't personally feel that way yet, there is life outside of soccer. Skype or call your family when you have downtime. They'll help you maintain perspective when you're struggling in practice and stuck on the bench. Also realize that some of life's most difficult injuries never show as bruises or broken bones. If you feel you need counseling, don't suck it up or try to be macho about it. Get help. 

When you can, try to give help, too. You may be a rookie, but there are developmental players hanging around the team now who look up to even you. An encouraging word or respectful treatment from you would mean the world to them. Those little kids hanging around at the end of practice? They may not know your name yet, but they see you in that jersey and get excited by a wave or a smile. Do the community charity events your team plans. Appreciate team staff and that will be remembered. Some players get traded a lot, but are always thought of fondly by all their teams because they're such good guys. Others are only remembered by, "Good riddance." 

Have a thought for the game reporters, too. True, they may be trying to get quotes from the team stars right now, but at some point, you'll get the chance to say something. Make it thoughtful, personal and honest. They'll come back for more quotes. You're making more money than many of them do now at this point, so even if what you say gets taken out of context now and then, is it worth getting heated over? Pick your battles. 

Most everyone, reporters, coaches, fans, etc, involved with the game loves it, just like you hopefully do. But unlike them, you get to play - maybe not as a starter, but yes, you get to play pro soccer for a living. That's awesome. Enjoy it. 

No comments: