The World Cup Shows The Maturity of Youth
I've been following this World Cup very closely. So far, it's been amazing. The group stage football has some of the best football we've seen in a while—a ton of upsets and nail-biting finishes. Japan beat Spain and Germany. Saudi Arabia stuns Argentina.
The knockout stages have provided plenty of drama as well. The insane finish between Argentina and Netherlands was one for the ages. Heartbreak for Ronaldo and Portugal as they are defeated by Morocco.
Yet one of the standout moments of the tournament was off the pitch.
A few days before the massive USA vs. Iran match, defensive midfielder Tyler Adams performed media duties alongside the U.S. Men's National Team coach, Gregg Berhalter, building up to the contest. It was a contentious exchange between the two and some Iranian press reporters.
U.S. Defensive Midfielder Tyler Adams.
At one point, he had to field the following comment and question from an Iranian reporter:
"'First of all, you say you support the Iranian people, but you're pronouncing our country's name wrong. Our country is named Iran, not "aye-ran"...
'Second of all, are you okay to be representing your country that has so much discrimination against black people in its own borders?'
Politically charged would be an understatement in describing the Iranian journalist's line of question. But Adams handled such bomb-throwing with grace and class:
"My apologies for the mispronunciation of your country.
"There's discrimination everywhere you go," he said. "In the U.S., we're continuing to make progress every single day…through education, I think it's super important. Like you just educated me now on the pronunciation of your country. It's a process. As long as you see progress, that's the most important thing."
Adams did well in responding to the charged question at hand. His response was genuine and heartfelt but also measured. Any wrong answer or gaffe could have led to generating more media drama both in Qatar and around the world, especially in the U.S., before the pivotal match.
That moment endeared me to Adams. He isn't the biggest profile star on the U.S. team, but he's its captain. It makes complete sense to me why his teammates chose him after the press conference concluded.
This is what I admire about soccer (football) the most. It's the only sport in the world that requires its youth to demonstrate maturity far beyond their biological age under high-pressure situations like representing club and country on the biggest competitive stages.
There's no other sport that can create those conditions for players. Imagine you're Jude Bellingham at the ripe old age of nineteen, playing every single match for England. Imagine having your nation's hopes riding on your shoulder at the age and being one of the best players on the pitch for your team throughout their run in the tournament.
England Attacking Midfielder Tyler Adams.
It's inspiring. It makes me think about my own path and journey in my career. When I think about Adams or Bellingham, I can only imagine the setbacks and challenges they faced in making it to where they are today for club and country. The level of maturity and professionalism they had to grow into to stay focused on development is immense. They had to be responsible for their development and growth if they were going to make it to the next stage of their careers. They had to place themselves in the right environment to grow as much as possible.
This isn't a one-to-one comparison, but I liken it to my own academic and professional journey (but on a much lesser scale). Somedays, I wish I took college more seriously when it came to developing myself as a world-class professional. Six years at MIT did a lot of good for me, but I wish I had taken more responsibility for my education in the same way Adams and Bellingham had to for their professional soccer careers.
You don't have to wait for someone else to tell you you're ready for the next level in life. Young people are capable of amazing feats well beyond their years if they are driven to pursue self-mastery from the beginning.
Fortunately, I have another chance to be in a Crimson environment similar to MIT that will motivate me to become a world-class professional in about nine months' time. But I don't want to wait until when I'm there to grow.
I'm starting right now.