I’m back! My apologies for the long unannounced sabbatical from my regular blogging. I hadn’t planned to take such a hiatus, but finally it seems life caught up to me. In recent months, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in workload, spent more time with my daughter, and moved to a new house in a suburb of Chicago.
I suppose at some points, there was actually time to write new blogs, but I lacked the motivation to get up and start writing. As each day passed, it became easier to avoid this one extra obligation. I was burned out.
Recently, I read an article on grantland.com about Landon Donovan, unequivocally the best American soccer player. He has over 50 goals and 50 assists for the National team. At age 31, Donovan is an elder statesman of the youthful sport; many questioned whether he would have another World Cup run in him. The naysayers strengthened their case when Donovan decided to take a self-imposed sabbatical from international play. He openly questioned whether he had the motivation to go through the rigors of World Cup qualification. This angered fans who generally find it ridiculous when athletes complain about the metal difficulty of their jobs – essentially playing a kid’s game for money. Even the U.S. National coach expressed doubt about Donovan’s form and steadfastly refused to guarantee the National Team hero a spot on the roster.
Last month, Donovan returned to the US National team line-up for the Gold Cup tournament. The contest included the North and Central American countries in the FIFA CONCACAF region. However, since the matches didn’t count toward World Cup qualification, most countries were reluctant to send their A-teams. This was instead an opportunity for players on the bubble to prove themselves.
The United States swept the field. During their recent 11-game winning streak, the team has out scored opponents 35 to 8. The secrets to their success included strong defensive play and growing comfort with their new coach’s ball-control style of play. But, most of the credit has been publicly given to Landon Donovan. He scored or assisted in all but one of the team’s Gold Cup matches, easily earning the tournament MVP. It seems as though the time he took off led to truly inspired play.
One wonders how many other athletes could boost their game by taking some time off. Of course, soccer is somewhat a unique case. While most professional athletes enjoy an off-season, the top soccer players essentially play year-round. When the league season ends, the best players must then suit up for their national teams. European players must also contend with the prestigious Champions League, which features the best teams from each European league.
I have high hopes for the next few months. Regular contributors Rachel Cantor Fogarty (The Road Not Taken, How to Find Employers that Respect and Reward Their Employees) and Rafael Gomes de Oliveira (Better Education = More Education?, Pioneers Wanted! Fresh New Cities On and Off Shore) will be back with thoughtful new posts. We’ll also receive a report from the Emerging Leaders Alliance Conference in November. I also plan to provide more insight into the challenges of my new leadership role at work, share highlights of Chicago engineering and architecture, and revisit my columns in the recently sunset Journal of Leadership and Management in Engineering.