[THE PITCH] To compete... According to Merriam-Webster, to compete means to strive consciously or unconsciously for an objective. A "kill or be killed” mentality might be too strong a statement, but in my world, to compete is to be in a state of war.
This year, Allsvenskan is arguably the most competitive women’s soccer league in the world. With the influx of international players, the league has both strength and parity. The result is sure to be a grueling 22-game, seven-month season, A Hunger Game of sorts, of which I am right in the midst.
Like the character in the movie, Katniss Everdeen, KGFC is perhaps not the obvious pick for a Victor. We are not the symbolic “Career Tributes,” yet the team’s 2011 success has a lot of teams gunning for us. The pre-season projections ranked us 4th, but it feels like we are the dark horse. Nobody counts Katniss out. In the crucible of competitive sports, only one is left standing. Be it against the recently promoted Vitssjö or internationally star-studded Tyresö, every game for us this year will be a blood bath.
Unlike Katniss, however, we find fun in our fight and take pride in our plight. In order for us to win we must push ourselves to our mental and physical edge. And that is the strength of our game. Winning isn’t easy, and if it were, it would not be so much fun. Winning isn’t everything, but like Vince Lombardi said, “The will to win is everything.”
And then, there are The Games we Hunger for. The rivalries bred from competition, the "derbies" as the Swedes call them, the big games … the ones that, even though you’re fighting for the same three points, they mean so much more. When you leave it all on the field, victory tastes oh so sweet. And after a great meal, you push back from the table feeling satisfied.
Some might say I was born for The Games. When I was 12-years-old, I vividly remember the final minutes of a match that my team was winning handily. Sliding from behind and knocking my mark off the field, a mom on the opposing team’s sideline screamed that I was “a little monster!” Competition for me, however, sometimes transcends the field.
My sisters concur with the soccer mom. They tell me that when we were growing up, I was a little monster. Tyler once described our childhood playing Nintendo64 and Monopoly as anything but fun. "If she wasn't winning, the game was miserable for everyone because she was so crazy about it. Whoever was winning was subjected to ‘torture’—a constant stream of carping, taunting and recriminations.” Well, woops…
I admit, there were times when it felt like my whole life—not just football—was a Hunger Game. In high school, I looked over my shoulder at my schoolmates’ grades to make sure I was doing better. I wasted time jealous of friends’ good fortune … I had to be happier! My modus operandi was to jump higher, run faster, and sing prettier … okay that last one was a lost cause! The Tribute within me lost track of boundaries, growing so big that I began to judge my life only in juxtaposition to those around me. My inner Tribute began to eat away at life’s true blessing: contentment.
Sweden has been the perfect model for keeping The Games inside The Arena. My teammates are too short to be Top Models, but even Tyra would admit that they are fierce! For my first month, one particular teammate picked me as her partner in our daily warm-up competitions because she knew I did not understand the Swedish instructions and then laughed as she beat up on me. If all else failed, she would simply ljuger och luras (lie and cheat) until she could declare herself winner. But, as they leave The Arena, my teammates put down their bows, and enter a world that values equality and opportunity. They let things go.
Sometimes competition fuels us and pushes down our personal life path. And sometimes, it unites us and leads us toward our shared goals. Our locker room is void of the foul stench of inner team rivalry; we have more than enough stink emitting from our shin guards, thank you! My teammates want to be the best … fotbollspelare. Off the pitch, they are happy, perhaps even content. And as for me? Well, I’m working on it!
Rookie for life