I Love: Soccer

Mar. 5, 2014

I love soccer.

Always have.

Not in the “I like it more than school and less than partying” kind of way. But in the “wow this is a really hauntingly perceptive love song, it totally describes how I feel about soccer right now” kind of way.

This is not an easy confession to make. First, because there are a lot of activities that I am naturally better suited to do. And second, because when I was growing up, no one really wanted to hear this. Mostly – I think – because adults are terrified that if a kid deviates from what’s “normal,” he/she will drop out of school and a become crack addict.

I mean I can’t even tell you how many times when I was younger I heard “study hard,” “don’t do drugs,” “don’t give into peer pressure.” As if I was about to quit school, buy a bong and go “live in a van down by the river” at any moment.

Meanwhile I’m checking my watch during our mandatory all school meeting – in which one very large man plays seven different characters struggling with what I can definitely agree are “issues” – thinking we are wasting valuable daylight here people. Valuable soccer-playing daylight. (Side note: I saw that one man play twice – involuntarily both times)

Second side note: The reason I’ve never done drugs is not that a man in a head scarf impersonating a teenage girl told me about how he got addicted to paint thinners and started prostituting himself. It’s because I already had an addiction.

A serious soccer addiction. It was the first thing I thought of each morning, and the last thing I thought about every night before bed. My days were entirely planned around how many sessions I could get in. I did my homework in the car; I napped in between classes; I rarely ate dinner at home. When we lost in a tournament I was heart broken – when we won I walked around school the next day like I owned it (the fact that no one knew I’d even played in a tournament made very little difference to me).

I was so addicted that I couldn’t understand how anybody else could not be.

For those of you that know me, you know that it has been a life long goal of mine to be considered cool. I’ve come close once or twice (more on that later). But as a result, I spent a lot of time in my youth nodding along during conversations that I could not relate to.

Example - Friend: “Ugh I can’t believe we have practice on Halloween.” Me: *nods* while really thinking “Listen betch, you can wander from door to door begging for candy on your own time. Or better yet, swing by the grocery store. Problem solved. Let’s play.”

One girl on my club team committed to a college and quit our team the next week – right before we had a major tournament. Now - soccer for me was never a means to an end. I was always too preoccupied with whatever game we were playing that day to really care about college recruiting. And I remember being so upset that this girl (good player btw) was not going to come to the tournament that I actually cried. (Side note: I also had the stomach flu and was basically OD-ing on Imodium just to make it through the games. I add this as both color to the story as well as perspective on my state of mind)

I am not the poster child for drop everything – only play soccer. Believe me – I ALWAYS did my homework. I could have been bleeding out of my eyeballs all night and I would have been mortified that “I was unable to do the reading.” My mom used to ask me if I needed to take a mental health day and I would look at her like “for shame woman, what kind of a mother are you?” (The fact that I’d spent the entire night rearranging the furniture in my room rather than sleeping did not seem to worry me as it did her.)

What I’m trying to say is that I did everything any adult ever asked of me. (Feel free to tell my parents how lucky they are to have me.) I’ve been pushed and pulled in every direction you could possible imagine – not by malicious intent, but by people who genuinely care about my well-being. And it took me a while to realize that doing something – just because you love it – is okay.  Whatever it is.

Soccer has not always been easy for me.  There were days when those break up songs really spoke to me… But I’ve always loved it. It’s all I’ve ever really cared about.

Our 2012 NCAA National Championship team was recently invited to visit the White House. The visit happens to coincide with the first day of NWSL preseason (this coming Monday). I would definitely like to go. But as much as I’d like to have a framed picture of myself with the President to hang on my wall and intimidate people with, I had to sit myself down and have a bit of a serious chat. What will I regret in 20 years? What experience am I willing to sacrifice? What matters the most to me?

The answer was – as it always has been – soccer.

And when you love something, it's never truly a sacrifice.

- A

P.S. For any young ones out there.  If you ever need to do a ton of homework in the car, this is a great contraption to have. You can also buy extra large binder clips to keep papers from sliding everywhere…