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Becoming Elite with Matt Sheldon

Matt Sheldon is a professional soccer player who currently plies his trade with FC Tulsa in the United Soccer League Championship (USL). He’s also the founder of Become Elite, a YouTube channel which documents his journey as a pro, and aims to help players perform.

 

Our interview with Matt came right off the tail of FC Tulsa clinching a place in the USL Championship playoffs. Naturally, this was a great place to start the conversation. Even as a professional athlete, these moments don’t come around too often; “It’s crazy how much better it feels now after going through three years of not making the playoffs.” In the past few years, Matt has gone through some lows; from injury, to finding a new team, to poor team performance. Going through those low points, Matt says, makes this moment so much more emotional. Because these moments are so rare, we want to savor them. We should celebrate our successes and commit them to memory, and Matt and his teammates did just that. “I just wanted to be in the moment, running around dancing in the locker room. I’m a terrible dancer but I watch the other guys dance,” he joked.


Although it is a big achievement, he knows there’s more work to do. That this is just the beginning. This sums up Matt’s mindset. When you think of the word professional, Matt is the ideal. Matt credits his success to his work ethic, which by the way, is relentless. He bounced around the lower divisions in Germany early in his career, had trials in lower divisions in the US, and has had stints in Iceland and New Zealand. He talked about his struggles early in his career, chasing his first pro contract. He had been rejected at trials, and had offers fall through at the last second. Through all this turbulence, one thing has remained constant; Matt’s relentless desire to push himself to the highest level. “I don’t want to have any regrets about my career. Even if everything is stacked against me, and nothing is working out, as long as I focus on the things I can control and give it my best effort, then I won’t have any regrets.”

“ ... Everyone has these little doubts in their head, but you can use them to fuel you in a positive way. To work on yourself.”

Matt is constantly analyzing his own game, looking for what he can improve. He says there is a fine line between self-analyzing and self-criticizing. When he analyzes his game, it isn’t to beat himself up over his mistakes, it’s to note what he can work on. This positive way of looking at things has helped him become less self-critical, he says “Everyone has that critical voice in their head, that imposter syndrome. Everyone has these little doubts in their head, but you can use them to fuel you in a positive way. To work on yourself.” This self-analysis helps him decide how to prepare both physically and mentally.

"Being able to visualize... and train mentally is so powerful.”

When we prepare physically, with extra training, gym sessions, and constant repetition, mentally we become stronger, Matt says. Once we put in the work in training, we can go into competition with confidence. “I feel so good mentally when I train and put in the physical work, and vice versa. When I feel confident, I am ready physically.” This confidence comes from training, repetition after repetition. Matt mentions the importance of mental training in his career, particularly visualization. “You can’t go out and cross the ball all day long, every day.


At the end of the day, for Matt, it’s all about how hard you work. “People always have a thousand questions…but at the end of the day it’s just about work. The player out there who just works and does the most is gonna be the one who goes the furthest.” Matt, I can assure you, puts in the work. It’s a testament to his mindset. If you want to be better, if you want to Become Elite, go out and put in the work.


Check out the full interview with Matt here:

Check out Matt’s channel, Become Elite, here: https://www.youtube.com/c/BecomeElite/featured



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