Confidence can be the difference between a winner and a loser in sports.
All it takes is one little thing to push you over the line between success and failure. For Oklahoma City Energy midfielder Nathan Shiffman that moment came last summer playing in the NPSL.
“This past summer I became a much more confident player,” Shiffman said. “(RVA FC) has all the best talent from around Virginia so it made for really fun practices. Everyone on the team could start over anybody and this lead to very sharp, high-paced practices, where if you didn’t come with your best every day you might lose your spot in the lineup. I loved all the guys on the team and the chemistry we had in the short time we knew each other was quite special.”
RVA FC is an National Premier Soccer League team located in Richmond, Va., the same town where Shiffman attended college.
Shiffman spent four seasons with the Virginia Commonwealth Rams as a midfielder, starting 20 of 21 games last season and adding five assists. He said his time at VCU helped him grow as a player and a person.
“(Over) my four years at VCU I grew up a lot as a player and that is a credit to my coaches, teammates and family,” Shiffman said. “The training environment at VCU isn’t like most colleges — it is very intense, sharp and competitive which is rare for most college programs. Over the course of this type of training, I became a much more intelligent player which enabled me to cope with the speed of play at the next level.”
During the 2013 season RVA FC won the National Championship with a 2-0 win against Sonoma County Sol, something Shiffman said he remembers fondly.
“Putting in all the time and effort into hot summer practices and lifting the trophy at the end of the season in front of your home fans — there’s no better feeling.”
Coach for RVA FC Grover Gibson said Shiffman was vital for the team, and that the championship would not have happened without him.
“Nate was a huge piece to the RVA FC puzzle last year and player virtually every second of every match. Most might not recognize his abilities at first glance but when you see what he brings to the table and you can utilize it (correctly), he becomes irreplaceable. His attitude off the field was extremely professional and it was only a matter of time before he was able to move on to the next level.”
Earlier this month Shiffman was selected to join the Energy. Shiffman said he has noticed a large amount of support from the city and his teammates already.
“It is really exciting because it is the first year for (the team) in the (United Soccer Leagues) and already there is tons of support from the city,” Shiffman said. “The team environment on and off the field is already a special one. At training everyone is very professional and wants to win every battle. Off the field, we have a very close knit group after only a few weeks of knowing each other. So that kind of combination leads me to think it will be a very exciting season for us.”
The Energy and Shiffman are scheduled to kick off their season against Orange County FC April 5 at 9 p.m.
Shiffman said this season isn’t about personal goals, but about helping the team succeed.
“My only goal is to help the team be as successful as possible in our first year in the USL, and that comes with the right attitude, energy and sharpness in every training session and game,” Shiffman said. “I am not worried about the future right now because I want to focus everything on performing my best this season. If I focus on bringing the right attitude, energy and sharpness every day, only good things can happen from there.”