Entering second-half stoppage time down 2-1 against the Columbus Crew over the weekend, players on the Chicago Fire were desperately searching for an equalizer. When late substitute Jason Johnson’s header found the net in the 94th minute, it secured a priceless point for Chicago before the final whistle blew 30 seconds later. Johnson was drafted by the Houston Dynamo in 2013, but didn’t see much playing time in his first two seasons in MLS, before he was traded to the Fire this season. Despite a massive first goal in only his third appearance with his new club, Johnson was quick to turn his attention to the next game. “It’s a goal, but I’ve put it behind right now,” Johnson told reporters on Tuesday. “I’m focused on Saturday’s game, so that’s the main thing for me: Try to get a victory at home Saturday.” Johnson also noted how much he is learning from Chicago’s veteran players on a daily basis. “I’ve been watching Mike Magee over the years in the league, and he’s a fantastic goal-scorer. Shaun Maloney…he’s a really good player. It’s an honor to be playing with these guys and to learn each day in training.” According to head coach Frank Yallop, this mentality has allowed the 24-year-old striker’s transition to Chicago to go smoothly. “He’s a great kid; he just wants to come in and do his part for the team,” Yallop said. “Any time we’ve put him on, or talked to him in training, he’s very coachable, he’s got a great demeanor with the group, and it showed on the weekend. Everyone was very happy when he scored, and he was very pleased and, like you say, he was humbled that he got a goal for the team … which is very refreshing.”
Johnson’s mentality in his third MLS season with his second club shows the importance of remaining humble and coachable even as a 24-year-old professional. By getting caught up in personal success and focusing solely on achieving individual outcome goals, many players lose sight of this mentality, and as a result, they stop working hard on a daily basis to get better. Being a coachable player means that you are committed to learn each time you step onto the field. It means that you are focused and attentive during training sessions, and that you listen closely to your coaches when they provide feedback. It also means that you are receptive to this feedback, knowing that it will make a better player, rather than taking it personally. Coachability also involves prioritizing your team’s goals and the team’s performance above your own individual success. Whether you’ve scored a goal, or you’ve been playing really well for several games, it can be tempting to get caught up in the confidence and pride you may feel for your individual accomplishments. However, while enjoying your success, it’s also important to keep a level head in these moments, and to avoid using it as an excuse to become complacent in any way. One way to do this is to objectively evaluate your performance (i.e., identifying strengths and areas for improvement) on a regular basis. Continue to set process goals for yourself that will allow you to build on each training session or game and continue to improve as a player. On the other side of things, it can be equally tempting to wallow in the frustration or bitterness you may feel if you are playing a position you don’t like, or you’re spending time on the bench. However, having a team-first mentality in these situations means accepting your role on the team no matter what it looks like, and committing yourself to fulfilling that role to the best of your abilities. Having already contributed in a big way to Chicago’s season, Johnson’s time with his new club is off to a great start. His commitment to staying humble, coachable, and putting the team first will help to ensure that things stay that way.
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