Galaxy star Chicharito works with ‘emotional coach’ to achieve his goals
So he organized a breakfast meeting with his agent and parents, during which they urged him to give the sport one more try. Twelve years later, that advice served him well. But even though he never made it back to the classroom, Hernández has continued his education.
“I’m learning about myself every single day,” the Galaxy striker said. “We go through experiences, we go through situations so we can know about ourselves. From there, we learn if we can become a better version of ourselves.”
If that was the syllabus, then last season was a graduate-level seminar for Hernández, who called it the toughest year of his life. In his first MLS season, he missed two months because of a calf injury, scored just twice for a team that missed the playoffs, lost his grandfather and saw his wife return to her native Australia with the couple’s two young children just before Christmas.
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Now that he’s coming out the other side, Hernández realizes that was all part of the learning process.
“I’m so, so thankful that I went through all of that stuff,” he said. “I was so resilient that right now I can be the person that I am.”
As a result, his second season with the Galaxy is off to a much better start. Hernández matched his goal total from all of 2020 in an 11-minute span during last week’s win over Inter Miami, momentum he’ll try to build on Sunday when the team hosts the New York Red Bulls before a socially distanced crowd of 6,853, the first fans allowed to attend a game at Dignity Health Sports Park in more than 13 months.
There was a lesson in the Miami performance, too, since it confirmed something Hernández believed: He was never as bad as he seemed last season, nor was as good as he played last week. It’s how he deals with those ups and downs, he said, that is the best indicator of success.
Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández scores twice in the Galaxy’s 3-2 win over Inter Miami on Sunday.
“When a human is just [being] human, mistakes happen,” he said. “It’s so easy to just point fingers to the people who are brave enough to expose themselves in sports, in life.
“If you want to learn the lesson or take responsibility, amazing things are going to come. If you want to stay the victim of any situation, problem or stuff that you’re going through, you can stay there forever.”
For the past three years, Hernández said he’s been working with someone he calls his “emotional coach,” trying to condition his mind just as he does his muscles.
“We always [talk] about shape and fitness only in the physical way,” he said. “But as well mentally, that’s where I want to maintain myself. Mentally and emotionally, as fit as I can. I need to control my emotions, my thoughts, my ideas.
“That’s something that is in my power.”
Hernández isn’t the first Galaxy captain to struggle with the mental side of the game. Landon Donovan, who retired as the leading scorer both in MLS and with the U.S. national team, was seeing a therapist for depression during the final seven years of his career and has been outspoken about the need to remove the stigma that has long surrounded mental-health issues in sports.
“I just want to be as strong as I can be. But as human as I can. Fame, money, success doesn’t take me out of being human.”
— Javier “Chicharito” Hernández
“I’m just so proud of him for having the courage to speak about it,” Donovan said of Hernández. “I just love that he was willing to be vulnerable and bring a spotlight to it.
“In a profession that you’re taught to just get on with it and deal with it, I was really, really proud of him to see him speak that way.”
Galaxy coach Greg Vanney, a teammate of Donovan with the Galaxy and the national team, agreed. But he also thinks the two quick goals will make things easier for Hernández and allow him to relax and play his game — at least in the early going.
“He’s put a lot of pressure on himself. And a lot of people have talked about that over the last year,” Vanney said. “Getting off to the two-goal start, he’s not pushing and forcing it to try to find that first goal.
“I’m sure that there’s some relief with that for him.”
Relief? Maybe. But what Hernández really wants is to be happy again. He nearly walked away from the game once, at 20, when he was frustrated by an inability to get on the field for Chivas of Guadalajara. He’s learned a lot since then and one of the biggest takeaways, he said, is that goals, even wins, can be fleeting.
“That’s the message,” he said. “I just want to be as strong as I can be. But as human as I can. Fame, money, success doesn’t take me out of being human. That’s my opinion and people [can] like it, people can hate it. I don’t care. I just want to be the better version of myself, show that I’m a human.
“Without struggles, we couldn’t learn.”
The Galaxy have put a number of rules in place for Sunday’s home opener, the first game with fans at Dignity Health Sports Park since last year’s COVID-19 shutdown.
Anyone age 2 or older must wear a face covering at all times, unless actively eating or drinking. Facemasks must fully cover the mouth and nose and fit snugly against the sides so there are no gaps.
Face coverings must be worn on all stadium premises, including parking areas, pedestrian plazas, entryways and other ancillary areas. Guests will also be required to maintain a safe distance from other guests outside their audience group or household.
Fans can order concessions through the LA Galaxy app and retrieve them at designated concession stands. All transactions will be cashless. Guests in the first two field-side rows are prohibited from eating or drinking at their seats.
Tickets will be digital and fans are urged to prepay parking. Tailgating is not allowed.