The Taya Shokker Column: The zone and what it means to ‘get stuck in’
There are moments in football that feel surreal. Not just that 96th minute goal that takes you to the final, but the smaller, more personal moments. The moments that can be compared to walking on air. When your boots grow wings, and every movement is sharp. The sound of the ball rolling through the grass, and cleats breaking through the dirt. Time slows just enough for you to see, hear, and feel every rich second. Nothing escapes you when you’re in the zone.
The zone is a state of mind. And nothing beats it. When you’re in the zone the possibilities are endless and achieving them feels effortless. Your lungs don’t burn and your muscles don’t ache from the exertion. The most intense game of your life can feel like a walk in the park. You don’t
overcomplicate and overthink every play, your body falls into an easy and familiar rhythm.
This state is what I chase every time I play. Connecting flawlessly with every ball, moving effortlessly across the pitch, running without any resistance – a feeling of bliss like no other. The crowd fades away, the only sound is your own breath and heart beating steadily in your chest.
And maybe the occasional shout from a teammate. You find homeostasis no matter how hot, cold, windy or rainy. The moment is perfect. And when your cleat finds the ball it’s like destiny.
This level of attention is also what it means to ‘get stuck in’. When your mind and body are tuned into the frequency of the game – the flow, the speed, the style. When you ‘get stuck in’ – you’re in the game. You’re always in the right place at the right time. Your mind and feet become one entity. As a midfielder, this feels especially important. The midfield is a dance – a tango. It’s fast and always changing. If you don’t find the rhythm, you’ll fall behind and make a fool of yourself (similar to dancing). Being able to hear the music and keep up with the steps are the deciding factor of whether or not you can be effective in a match.
Not every moment of every game feels this good. Gee, sometimes I go weeks without reaching the zone. And it’s been some time since I’ve felt this level of magic. It can make football feel a little bland, as if it’s lost some vibrance. It’s not gone but you can’t seem to reach the high of
It’s no one’s fault when the zone doesn’t feel accessible. It can be as simple as the system your club is playing doesn’t suit your needs as a player. You might be playing out of position, or not finding the same rhythm on game day. Maybe the speed is too slow or too fast for your liking and no matter how much you try to get stuck in, the feeling just never comes. This doesn’t mean you can’t perform and put on a good show, but it can mean your own satisfaction is left unattended.
This is a sacrifice I’m willing to make as I strive for more. I won’t always be comfortable and my own style won’t always align with those of the clubs I play for. This doesn’t mean I can’t expand my skill set and make myself an invaluable member of any team I find myself a part of. And if I’m being honest, that’s what makes the great players stand apart, isn’t it?
As I continue working towards the next game, my next chance, I want to remember to keep playing for myself. In spite of the noise, can I find my composure – my zone? Can I seize any moment I’m given and prove to myself first (and then to everyone watching), what I’m capable of? I’ll keep focusing on myself and my own fulfillment, knowing full well that the football gods are working their magic. Once I find my zone, everything else will fall into place.
Love it and I can relate even in different sports