Soccer, Disc Golf, and the Present Moment

I recently listened to a fascinating podcast episode about near-death experiences. The guest (an author on a new book about the topic) had no firm conclusions about what follows death–just a string of interesting coincidences–but he did learn a lesson about life: The present moment is incredibly precious, yet we miss out on it.

I’ve heard this message in various ways (including in a recent graduation speech by Roger Federer), but I didn’t completely grasp it until a recent weekend when I played a round of disc golf on one day and an hour of pickup soccer on the other. Disc golf became my weekly sport a few years ago, but before that I played organized and casual soccer for over 30 years.

I adore disc golf. It’s like a giant tabletop dexterity game combined with a hike through beautiful landscapes. There’s the challenge of choosing the right disc on every throw and then actually executing the throw. It feels amazing when the disc actually goes exactly where you wanted it to go.

The one catch is that for me, disc golf can be quite stressful. It’s an incredibly mental sport. Yes, you might be able to consistently drive 400+ feet and hit 40-foot putts, but throwing into the first available tree or bouncing off the chains from a yard away can really mess with your head. It’s tough to shake off and just focus on the next throw, as you have plenty of time to dwell on your mistakes as you walk from basket to basket.

Soccer is the exact opposite, as I was reminded when I played recently. In soccer, my mind is 100% focused on what’s happening right now. Even if you don’t have the ball, you’re either moving into space or marking an opposing player. There’s no downtime to focus on an errant pass or bad touch. The entire game is set in the present moment.

I think I had forgotten–or never fully appreciated–this aspect of soccer until that recent pickup game. In terms of stress, it’s night and day compared to disc golf. My endorphins kicked into high gear during and after the soccer game in a way I haven’t felt in years (which helped in more than one way, as my body was far from prepared to sprint for an hour).

This isn’t to say in any way that I’m giving up disc golf. Rather, I have two conclusions: One, I’m working on truly savoring the present when I play disc golf. Two, disc golf can’t be my only sport–I also need a complementary sport like soccer to clear my mind and be completely focused on the present.

Have you experienced anything like this? If it’s important or invaluable to you, how do you stay focused on the present moment?

2 thoughts on “Soccer, Disc Golf, and the Present Moment”

  1. Climbing is for me what soccer is for you. It allows me to “clear my mind and be completely focused on the moment,” as you put it so well. It’s wonderful to exert myself, find a flow state, and then go back out into the world.

    • I’m glad you mentioned climbing, Joe–that’s been my experience as well when I’m on the wall. That flow state is amazing.


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