I have always said part of what motivates me to continue playing soccer is how I think it’s a fantastic metaphor for life. Some of the many lessons I have learned through the years include how there is no substitute for good habits and hard work, how you truly do control your own destiny through making the choice to turn negatives into positives, how we have the power through unwavering belief and going out of our comfort zone to make dreams a reality, and the true power and amazing feeling of working together with others and putting your own agenda aside, in the pursuit of a dream. Through these lessons, I have had the opportunity to travel the world, meet amazing people, win championships, and live my dream.
For those that know my journey well, I have also faced a lot of injuries. Starting with tearing my MCL the week before my senior year at Yale, and then tearing it again the following year, the evening before leaving for my first trip with UCONN to Notre Dame, right before the Champions League final against Umea, my trip to Australia to cure a killer case of osteitis pubis (look it up and you’ll understand why there was lots of awkward physio with that one!), problems with my achilles in 2009, and then in 2010 with my ankle. All those injuries have cost me a lot of money, a lot of tears, and a lot of disappointment, and sometimes had me questioning my decision to continue. But again I always could feel a bigger picture and in overcoming those injuries, I was becoming a better person, and having an opportunity to learn valuable lessons about life.
If I am being dead honest, and I look back through my injuries, I truly believe a lot of them I have gotten because of mental exhaustion of some sort. If you know me, my life at times can be chaotic. I have “try and pack 200 years into 1 syndrome” and often when you are doing something as physically taxing as playing soccer at the elite level, your body will be the first thing to go when your mind needs a break. I’ve grown as a person and now see these patterns and the resulting injuries quite clearly.
How does this apply as a metaphor for life you ask? Well, I think sometimes things happen to us in our lives that leave scars. There is a reason why a 30 year old is probably a little more jaded in their outlook on life than a 5 year old. I am heading into 2011, determined to have a great year both from a life perspective, and also from a playing perspective. The two, I believe are inherently connected.
But just like perhaps someone can be jaded by a broken heart, and afraid to let people close again, I feel like I am a little hesitant to embrace and get excited by an injury free 2011. I can feel myself a little jaded from the injury scars of the past, even if I feel like as a human I have grown to understand the why behind those injuries that took me off the field, a little more. Even if I have made some changes that has lessened the chaos in my life that I believe a lot of these injuries have been rooted in, deep down I can sense that I’m scared to believe that I can trust my body and have the great year on the field, that I know physically, tactically, technically and mentally, I am capable of having.
I am working hard to go back to a mental state before these injuries messed with my mind a bit and just trust my body’s capacity, and my mind’s ability to work through the little niggles that inevitably come when you are working your body hard.
Once I find it inside of me to forget about past injuries, and truly embrace what’s ahead like those worry-free 5 year olds, it will be another gift and life lessons that soccer has given me, to throw into the great old toolbox of life. And I won’t be complaining if at the end of it, there is a large championship trophy that I can be holding, in a sweaty jersey after playing a big part in earning it…injury-free.