In 2006, Nike ran a series of ads called “Joga Bonito” leading up to the soccer world cup in Germany. It means “play beautifully.”
The clips showed world-class players like Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic performing soccer tricks, goofing off, and just enjoying the game. The ads were a smash hit, and my best friend and I spent hours watching them. We started downloading and collecting freestyle videos of all kinds, and, soon enough, we went outside and began to practice.
“How does Henry do this trick?” “What’s an ‘Around-the-World?’” Before long, we had a sizable repertoire of cool moves. Unlike my friend, I wasn’t on an actual soccer team, so instead of focusing mainly on that, I just kept practicing tricks. I trained outside for hours. I did sessions in our basement in the winter.
I also got more friends addicted to the fun, and, together, we discovered we weren’t the only ones. We hung out in forums. We started a local German freestyle group. We even had our own competitions. Everyone would film some footage, edit their best clips, add music, and, voilà, the trick-off was on!
By 2008, the movement had gained enough momentum to warrant its own world championship called Red Bull Street Style, which my then-practice buddy took part in. We also auditioned for Germany’s Got Talent, but neither of us made it to the show.
In 2009, I was gearing up for my A-levels and started having knee problems. That year, I shot my last clips. After graduation, I still dabbled with the ball on occasion, but when I went to college, I decided: That’s it. I quit. No more football freestyle. Today, all that’s left is grainy videos and a ball in my room.
In retrospect, this may sound like an obvious choice; the classic “giving up a hobby for something bigger.” Back then, it was a very painful decision.
Initially, there were less than 100 serious freestylers in Germany. I had peers from all over the world who respected my work. By being both early and dedicated, I had been, for a brief moment in time, one of the best football freestylers in the world. That’s hard to walk away from.
Ultimately, however, quitting was necessary. I wasn’t meant to be an athlete. I’m very happy with the job I have now — writing — and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
But how do you make these decisions? How do you know when to quit? Here are some of the factors I considered.Read More