Tim Howard, the goalkeeper for U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (or for our global friends, Futbol), is being hailed as one of the best goalies in the 2014 World Cup. His performance during the Belgium-U.S. match provides a great example of his focus and skill level, and while the U.S. lost the game, Tim Howard can proudly walk away with his head held high. His ability to tend the net led to him being mentioned more than 1.8 million times on Twitter during the game, earned him a new nickname – the human wall, and even inspired its own hashtag and Internet meme – #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave.
So what can you apply from Tim Howard’s performance?
- Stay Determined and Focused: When Howard first began his pro career in 1998, he was a strong goalkeeper but needed work on other aspects, like distributing the ball after making a stop. Expanding his focus and practice beyond what was working (goalkeeping) and actively improving other skills, Howard became the youngest player to win the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2001. To expand your own skills and create success, set critical, measurable numbers and take small steps toward the ideal goal.
- Play through the Pain: After breaking two bones in his back during a FA Cup game in 2013, Howard earned a reputation as a player who grits his teeth and stays in the game. Not every initiative is going to go smoothly – staying focused on your priorities and what matters most to you, will help you determine when to play through the pain and stay in the game.
- Manage Misconceptions: Howard lives with Tourette’s syndrome, and while it comes with its own stigmas and associations, he is able to use time in the spotlight to educate the public on what is truly like to live with Tourette’s syndrome. Using the right moments and channels to educate an audience on misconceptions about you and/or your business, can spur not only greater awareness and acceptance, but potential positive brand identity.
- Live Past the Hype: With the amazing saves demonstrated during the World Cup, Howard became an overnight celebrity – new fans added his name to U.S. Secretary of Defense’s Wikipedia page and petitioned to rename the Ronald Reagan National Airport after him. While fame and public praise are very positive side effects of any successful performance, staying grounded and focusing on the task at hand and your desired objective is the most important. Whether it is one match in a series or a product launch of a new company – don’t let the bright lights and hype deter you from your end goal.
After making 16 saves during the final match against Belgium, Tim Howard now holds the most saves in a World Cup match since FIFA began tracking in 2002. Staying focused, persistent and team-oriented created not only a strong soccer player, but a professional athlete worth learning from. While the U.S. did lose to Belgium, Howard and Team USA are holding their heads high knowing that they gave it everything they had.