For a really long time as a young player, trying to sift my way through the world and figure out what was important, I remember really struggling with what was the most important thing in the game and how someone got to be successful and what successful meant.
I remember being at a training camp in Bolivia when I was about 19 and getting in a conversation with a guy who was a really good player about cheating and winning. He said that it was all about winning and that cheating was a part of the game. I felt weird about that; it didn’t quite sit right with me, but I didn’t know what I believed or what was right, so I considered his point of view. I also remember a player at the time who was a really high profile female player who I heard wasn’t a really good person or teammate, and I remember the thought crossed my mind, that maybe I was just too nice, and I needed to adopt this kind of mentality if I wanted to get somewhere in soccer.
But the farther I’ve meandered along in life, the more it has become clear to me that soccer isn’t about 15 minutes of fame, or fortune (well the fortune doesn’t really come into it on the women’s side for the most part), or big stadiums or medals or trophies. I feel so stupidly cliche saying it, but the game is the most amazing opportunity to touch people in a positive way.
One of my favourite memories of soccer in fact has nothing to do with a ball and a field per say. I was sitting in the country in some random place in Nigeria, watching some kind of foreign procession going on from my friend Maureen’s balcony, drinking a soda and talking with her family in 2010. I remember getting a buzz about how the only thing that brought me into this world, so completely different from my own, was the passion for the game that I shared with Maureen, my Nigerian teammate in Norway.
Tonight I got a really special email from one of the parents of one of the 8 year olds I coach that said this:
We never got the chance to thank you both for another great GirlsCan session! She absolutely loves every minute of it:) she can’t figure out why it can’t be all year. Of course we feel the same way! As a parent the best feeling in the world is to see your child happy & confident and you both give that to her and we truly appreciate your efforts.
Every time you step on the field as a coach, as a player, as a teammate, you have the choice to use the game to make the lives of everyone around you better.
There’s no better feeling.