|The 'American Colony' in Göteborg!|
[THE PITCH] To get into the heart of a team, you have to let your teammates into your heart. That’s what I have been trying to do here in Sweden. And that’s exactly why this experience has been so meaningful to me. Perhaps it doesn’t seem like such a feat… becoming friends with your teammates?... but for a person who spent years building a fortress to protect my feelings, it was hard work tearing down that wall and letting people in. Then, to be told that perhaps this very behavior is thwarting my football career and progress….well…it is something to consider.
Last week, my coach Torbjörn requested we have a meeting. Lying on our turf field, he said that he had noticed that I seemed particularly stressed and uninspired during our frustrating last match. He had his theories and talking points, but one particular comment grabbed my attention. He diagrammed our lineup (X’s and O’s) on his napkin in typical Torbjörn form. Drawing a circle around the central players on the team—the center-backs and the center-midfielders—he pointed to the circle and said, “This is the heart of the team.” He explained that wide players have their roles and relationships, but sometimes they get left out if the ball stays on one side…. But he continued, “…and I know how it feels as a forward, a forward has a different role. And that role is to be alone. You have to be a certain type of person to be a striker; the type of person who thinks about themself. That type of person can find a way to win a game even if the team deserves to lose... without getting frustrated.” He looked at me and said… “Both on and off the field, you try to come in here, to the heart of the team. And we need you to be a forward, alone, and we need you to score.”
My blog is often about the parallels that run between my game and my life… and here was an analogy that I had clearly missed: what your position says about who you are… Is it possible to analyze a person based on her position on a team? Hmmm….
The doctor is in… (Quack! Quack!)
The Goalkeeper: Goalies are just plain odd… like swimmers who get up at 4am everyday to dive into an ice-cold pool. Well, who volunteers to be a human shield? These strange people thrive on taking hits almost as much as inflicting pain on others…hmmm…there’s a catchy phrase for that type…sado-masome-thing or other… And all that chattering!!! They seem to have an insatiable desire to be heard…or maybe they are simply trying to enlist help finding that loose screw…
The Center-back: The training unit for future “Soccer Moms of the World.” In a few years you can find her: pony-tail-rocking, sweatpants-wearing, shuttling wayward kids in SUVs. But for now, she must content herself with mothering an entire team, An “automatic-captain,” they are also expected to provide a tireless stream of pep talks, constantly monitor the player GPS, and most importantly… CLEAN UP ALL MESSES!
The Center-mid: Martyr or Psychopath? These silent thinkers appear introverted. They are the masterminds of the game. Like an orchestra conductor, their efforts are often hidden beneath the stage. Their unacknowledged status has been known to drive them into a schizophrenic state such that a running commentary about the match plays insistently in their heads…Like Joan of Arc claiming to have been led by the voice of God…I say sainthood can’t be too far off!
The Striker: Now we’ve come to the most important position, Self-centered/arrogant/cocky? I preferred to think of us as driven/confident… and maybeee a little bit of a temperamental diva! Try spending a day in a striker’s boots… or more aptly, her head… and you’ll find that we have more than enough going on. For example a little thing called…hmmm…SCORING! Everyone gives forwards a hard time for not tracking back on defense, but…in the tone of Allen Iverson (a basketball diva of sorts), ”Defense? We talking ‘bout Defense?” They say defense wins championships. Well…we forwards know the truth…SCORING is the only way to win. We are forced to carry that heavy burden around 24/7. It’s a wonder that we can sleep nights or maintain proper posture. I tell you it’s just too much to bear. And, for what? Glory you say? Well…you would be surprised just how often we have to endure the ugly “candid” photos that appear in the newspapers following a match.
Okay… that was all in jest. But is it fair to say that, as players, our positions define us, much like character actors in a movie? Or, do we define our own roles, wielding our special talents to create our positions and bring value to our team? Of course any true footballer would want to incorporate the best qualities from every position. Which can be explored in that tricky but fascinating study of say…”The Forward-turned-Outside-back”…or even the rare… “Mid-Fielder-trapped-in-a-Forward’s-jersey.” I’ve seen the glimmer in the eyes of many a back who got to play forward for one game or even one minute… so I know I’m not alone in my longing. Hmm…To be honest, I’d take the good with the bad if it meant I got to get into the heart of the team. But at the end of the day, I’m a striker. I accept that, diva and all. I guess it’s my job to embody those “virtues” and empower myself with the knowledge that I am needed. So for now…the doctor is out!
Rookie for life,