#ThankYouSigi: Danny Pays it Forward

NOTE: On Saturday, June 29, the Columbus Crew will induct Sigi Schmid into the Circle of Honor. This is one of several stories I am writing in advance of the ceremony. An updated list of stories will be kept HERE. For tickets to Saturday night’s game and induction ceremony, click HERE.

 

Danny O’Rourke and I had a conversation about a month ago. He’s now an assistant coach at his alma mater, Indiana University. O’Rourke was trying to think of how to help one of his players, and he thought back to a time that Sigi Schmid helped him back in 2007, back before the center back conversion, when Danny was still an opponent-crunching central midfielder.

“When I played, I was very focused,” he said. “I had tunnel vision. I saw the ball and I wanted to win it and nothing stood in my way. When you play that midfield position, I lacked some of the things with the 360-degree field vision that the best sixes in the world have.”

One day, Sigi pulled Danny into his office for one of their chats. Sigi probably told some stories. He always told stories. But at one point, being obsessed with self-improvement, Danny asked his coach for advice on what he should be doing to improve his game. Sigi responded with a way to expand O’Rourke’s field vision.

“He told me, ‘Any time you’re driving, or every time you’re walking around at Easton or wherever you are, always notice the things on the side of the road. Notice the cars. Notice everything and pick up on the information around you and develop it into a habit.’”

O’Rourke followed his coach’s suggestion and found it improved his game.

“It got to the point where I was driving from German Village to Obetz and I could tell you what exactly was on every single sign to and from practice,” he said. “It’s something that I didn’t get to the level I wanted to, but it definitely elevated my game. Something so small, but it’s something that when you’re tired after training and you’ve done all your extra work, you can still focus on getting better every day. For me, it was about getting 1% better than the day before, and that doesn’t stop when you leave the field. You can still get better when you’re not training.”

Now O’Rourke was on the receiving end of similar questions from a player in need of similar help. He gave that player the same assignment that Sigi had given him all those years ago.

“Coaches are teachers of soccer, but also of life skills, so for him to use something on me over a decade ago that I still find relevant and can pass on to others, you can’t really ask for more than that,” he said. “That was a pretty cool moment the other day when I was thinking of what I could say to this kid to help him out with what he needs and the questions he’s asking, and then Sigi popped into my head and I thought, ‘Yep, that’s exactly it.’”

*****

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