John Herdman remembers arriving to see a broken and fractured team.
The Canadian women’s national soccer team coach who took over the job in 2011 and led the group to bronze medals in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics knows about building people up. He was the keynote speaker at RDC’s 14th annual Kings and Queens Scholarship Breakfast on Tuesday.
His message to those in attendance and even all the way back to when he first met Team Canada was surprisingly simple — it was all about finding a vision, pursuing a passion and being good.
“Keep being good. Be good on and off the pitch, at work and at home and the universe will bring you the things that it should bring. I can attest to it, I’ve lived it,” Herdman said in a quick summary of his talk.
Herdman explained in detail about the team he took over six years ago, and how they went from a disastrous last place World Cup finish, to bronze at the London Olympics. Herdman said he challenged the group to be good and instead of trying to be a perfectionist or great some of the time, be good all of the time.
“Being good on a regular basis on and off the field. The complexity that sits under that is just on the character side of life – being able to do the little things the right way,” he said.
“Not trying to push for excellence everyday, just keeping that consistency of being good. Knowing that will transfer onto the field. I think for the student athletes, so many of them beat themselves up on trying to be perfectionists in everything they do.”
The two-time Olympic bronze medal coach also noted that the lexicon of failure has been almost eliminated from our daily lives and has essentially let us live in a safe space without challenges.
He said in both medal wins for his squad, nine months earlier they had suffered major disappointment. The sting of a last place finish at the World Cup in 2011 led to an unexpected Olympic bronze in 2012, then a sixth place finish in 2015, followed by another Olympic bronze in Brazil taught his team a great deal.
“Unless you’re going to fail at something, you’re never really going to learn from it,” Herdman said. “Adversity is a massive part of our learnings in life and I just feel we put ourselves in situations where we don’t expose ourselves to those learnings.”
From Newcastle, England, to New Zealand and now to Vancouver, the coach explained while he has faced plenty of adversity in life, he discovered along they way reclaiming your passion can make massive change. He opened his talk by challenging the audience to examine the memories that made them proud.
“You’ve got be clear on where you want to get to. I think a lot of people lose sight of that,” he added.
“That end goal also has to have meaning as well. It’s got to be really worthwhile. If the goals don’t light that fire, then the passion never appears and the passion doesn’t drive a discipline which means you push to those levels where you accomplish things that will be remembered.”