• December 2011

Sporting Rules of Thumb

By Joanna Lohman
Professional Soccer Player
Philadelphia Independence

After 20 years of studying, playing in, and analyzing the sporting world—soccer specifically—I can tell you from the bottom of my cleats that becoming one of the best in any field does not happen by accident. It is a combination of drive, attitude, opportunity, and plenty of hard work.

It’s true in sports and business. And while there is no exact formula for success, there is a path that you can follow to reach your full potential on and off the field.

Here are three rules that I believe are imperative to achieve success in any profession.

1. Deliberate practice makes perfect.

There is a magic number to being the greatest in sports, business, and life: 10,000 hours. This is the amount of time it takes to become great at any one thing, according to Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 book “Outliers.” Mind you, I realize that this is a lot of time. But think about it. No one becomes an expert without this magic number, not Warren Buffett, The Beatles, Jerry Rice, Mia Hamm, Benjamin Franklin, or Picasso … no one.

And it’s not just practice, but deliberate practice, that will get you to your goal. This includes mastering three practice zones: the comfort zone (because you can’t constantly work on things that you already have down pat), the learning zone (because in order to be deliberately practicing, you must be ready to learn at all times), and the panic zone (because you can’t work on things that are too far out of our reach).

Here’s my mantra: practice early, practice often, and practice deliberately. It’s the only real path to perfection.

2. The way you do anything is the way you do everything.

Since there is no getting around the fact that achieving success takes hard work, you must be willing to put in the time and effort to reach your full potential. This is true for everything in life. While there are athletes who try to cut corners, cheat, and expect to be handed the glory on a silver platter—that’s a recipe for disaster rather than success.

What’s worse, if you’ve got cheating on your mind, odds are good that it’s not limited to the playing field. So don’t even think about taking the coward’s way out. Push yourself to the point of exhaustion (it is a learned trait, and once you get accustomed to it feels pretty good). Ditto for extreme concentration (another learned trait that hurts less, and feels even better once you master it). So get to work.

3. There is never a moment when you are not representing your own personal brand.

As a professional athlete, you have an image to uphold, and it’s your responsibility to make sure it’s a good one.

After all, you are looked up to by young kids who dream of doing what you do when they get older—and older people (whether they admit it or not) who secretly wish they could be doing what you are doing now.

Unfortunately, not every athlete, especially one who has become a successful business personality, remembers this important rule. Two words: Tiger Woods.

But the truth is that whether you are an athlete or not, you have a brand to manage. So make the most of it.


About Joanna Lohman

Professional soccer player Joanna Lohman has played in the WUSA Festivals in both Minneapolis and Los Angeles in 2004, and was a member of the 2005 Freedom Reserves. She trained with USWNT during the 2004 Olympic Residency Training Camp and was a member of U21 US national team from 2000-2005, captaining the squad from 2003-2004. She helped lead her U21 team to three Nordic Cup championships, earning MVP honors in 2002.

In college at Penn State, she scored 19 goals and had six assists her senior season, finishing her career at No. 5 in all-time goals scored (41), No. 2 in assists (37), No. 4 in points (114) and No. 1 in scoring game-winning goals (8).

Among other honors, she was named Pennsylvania’s NCAA Woman of the Year in 2004, was a two-time M.A.C. Hermann Trophy finalist (2002-2003), a two-time Honda Sports Award Finalist (2002-2003), and a finalist for the Collegiate Women’s Sports Award for Women’s Soccer in 2003.

Originally from Washington, DC, Lohman currently lives outside Philadelphia and plays for the Philadelphia Independence soccer team.