With the advent of the Women’s World Cup upon us, I am reminded on why I love this sport and how much beauty it possesses on so many different levels. There has been such a magical display of skill and exciting games, that I feel like I’m already full from the buffet, and I find we haven’t even finished our appetizers. So much still awaits us.
That being said there has been a lot of discussion back in Canada about our 4-0 loss to France, and the final 1-0 loss to Nigeria. Watching the group’s first games, Canada against Germany and France against Nigeria, I really thought Canada had the group stage in the bag. This was before France showed up with their technical and tactical arsenal fully loaded and unleashed them at perfect levels, while Canada just unfortunately happened to pick the wrong day to have an off one. The Nigeria game was just salt in the already heavily bleeding wound.
In the France game it almost seemed that on a stage that was so highly magnified and result oriented, both teams reverted to what was ingrained in them; Canada looked like a team honed on gravel fields with parent coaches, while France looked like a well-oiled machine who had a technique ingrained in them by professionals, from their first touch on the ball. Both teams played respectively as such.
I was sad for Canada, in that I know both from having friends on staff and on the team, that everyone involved with their group had given up so much on the journey to the World Cup. Because of the work they had put in, and the results they had had in the lead up, they, not surprisingly, had very high expectations.
I couldn’t help but hope for both the Canadian players and staff, after their journey to the World Cup ended in 2 games, that they had truly enjoyed the process. How even more debilitating that loss would have been, if they were hoping to find their only joy in the result of a magical run to the Finals.
It reminded me of a lesson that I learned in high school. I was on a very talented team when I was in grade 11. On that team made up of players from grade 9-12, with a lot of Provincial Team players, I would say I was in the middle of the pack from a talent perspective. I thought to myself in grade 11, if I was a Provincial All-Star, and we won the Provincial Championship it would be the most amazing thing, and I believed it would make me infinitely happy.
With my eye clearly on those two goals, fast-forward a year later and after many, many hours by myself at the park. It was grade 12, and we were playing in the Provincials again. Our team wasn’t expected to do much, because we had lost about 5 Provincial team players to graduation.
That being said, we had amazing team chemistry and spirit, and ended up making it to the Finals, farther than we had the year before, with a team that had had half the talent. I was convinced it was going to be a fairytale ending, one that I felt both myself personally, and my teammates, had worked so hard for and we lost. In overtime.
And the star of their team won her 3rd championship and MVP trophy. I was devastated. And found solace in the conclusions of my highly religious coach; God didn’t care to reward the hardest worker in sports competition, and that the power of prayer didn’t apply to sport.
I remember being so bitterly disappointed we lost, and tossed my Provincial All-Star trophy that a year before I thought would hold my happiness in it, into my suitcase for the journey home. It was fitting, metaphorically speaking, when I arrived home and it was broken.
I realized, that I was so focused on winning that Provincial high school trophy and contributing as an All-Star, that I got to the end of my journey, and realized I had missed the point of it. Instead of enjoying and soaking in the process of the incredible journey, all the days of hard work, and taking the result either way as the cherry on top, I thought the outcome would bring me happiness. And it didn’t.
I am sure even if we won, that I would have still had that empty feeling that a focus on the outcome can only bring.
Regardless of what the final score was for the Canadian girls, I hope they are all wiser than I once was, and have found the joy in the growth that their journey over the last couple of years has brought them instead of thinking they are defined by a win or a loss in one game. As always there is a far larger and more beautiful picture than the one that society tries to convince us of.
As my broken high school trophy so clearly illustrated to me, although championships and medals are something to be proud of and to be celebrated, they are just a piece of plastic, the cherry on top. They do not define failure or success. To focus on them as what defines us as winners or losers is a misconception.
The lessons and beauty in truly committing to a journey is something to enjoy each step of, and to celebrate, if only because it takes courage to embark on that journey and to make those sacrifices. Giving ones self in the purest sense to a team and a journey is the gold medal. As my high school memories linger, I still take far more pride in the selfless team that I was a part of and all the life lessons they taught me, far more than any trophy or medal ever could.
I’m sending all my positive vibes to the wonderful friends and former teammates I have both on the Canadian team and staff. I know they will come back stronger for the experience and look forward to watching them in Olympic Qualifying in Vancouver.