27. The Doctor Evil Blog.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The 'American Colony' in Göteborg!

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,

Ridin' Dirty.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A beautiful day of horseback riding in Lindome for this Studio KGFC promo video. :)


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

 Feathers by FlyHighInc.

For Those Who Want To Lead, Read

"...But deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness."

26. My Pursuit of Happiness Blog.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

[THE PITCH] If you follow my blogs then you already know that, pretty much, I have nothing in life figured out. I don’t know exactly who I aspire to be, nor do I understand fully who I am right now. I'm trying to flush out the ways of the world, but I know that, at this point in my life, I will not find all the answers. My every day is a search and struggle to better myself, and much of the value and pleasure in my life can be found simply in that pursuit.

To borrow the words of Tracy Chapman… “At this point in my life I’d like to live as if only love mattered…As if the search to live honestly, was all that anyone needs no matter if you find it.”

As much as I hold firmly to this stance, constantly striving for progress can get both arduous and vexing… especially as a fotbollspelare…especially 22 games into a 36-game-marathon season. So, for me, this week I'm thinking about putting the joy back into the game.

I used to think of “fun” and “achievement” as two coveted but mutually exclusive aspects of life. Like two sides on a teeter-totter, it is almost impossible to find an equilibrium. In high school, I would weigh out the “fun”—prom, boys, and other diversions—against things I knew could help me find soccer success. Fun was a temptation I had to resist in order to succeed. The problem with this balancing ideology is that it suggests a zero sum game: if one rises, the other will fall in exact proportion. However, in the last year, I have begun to appreciate a different correlation between fun and success—a linear one. So, I've jumped off the teeter-totter and have decided to stroll through the park…and football is teaching me how to utilize both the elements of fun and achievement to positively affect each other.

I’ve become aware of the root of this relationship on the field. It is present in my demeanor most obviously after I score. Suddenly, I’m smiling. I’m encouraging. I’m bubbling up inside... and… I’m communicating. I’m moving. I’m connected and sharp.  When I watch film, I can actually see myself come alive on the field after I score. First I’m happy, then I play better. Then I’m happier since I’m playing better. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of joy and success, a cycle generating enough power to send me spinning into “the zone.”
So how can I use this understanding to my advantage? Is it possible to guide myself to this joyful and effective state with intention? While there are so many subtle and intangible aspects to playing a solid game of football, enjoying the game...my team...each moment, is something I can absolutely control. Focus on the fun, and let the success come? Much easier said, then done. Sometimes obstacles can get in the way. Hmm…

In the past, if I hit the crossbar or post, I have been inevitably unable to convert the rest of my shots during that game. Hitting the post infuriates me! Maybe it’s silly, but the difference of an inch determining the outcome of a game, a season, or a championship seems ridiculous to me! This negative thought does not always come to fruition, but it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is an example of a time where I can use my a focus-on-the-fun mentality to actually help me achieve more success. Instead of slipping into the lonely silence of my raging mind, thwarting all future chances to score, I can feed off the excitement of the moment...the crowd's gasp...the keepers look of terror...and smile! 

They say you play like you practice so you must practice like you want to play. So, in honor of fun week, and with the help of my long-time friend Nima, I went this week on a day off and just “kicked it.” No stopwatch, no counting reps, no drills… I actually spent half my time on the field as a keeper, as he shot on me in his sneakers. In full Swedish form, it started torrentially down pouring on our heads, which seemed to make the whole scene ludicrous. While in the past I might not consider this as a time spent helping me grow as a player, I am beginning to believe… or at least hope… that these moments, do indeed, enhance my life, and improve my game!

In my first blog I wrote: It seems that soccer is a microcosm of life. The skills I’ve honed over the 20 years of my soccer career concerning technique, tactics, group dynamics, and training have simultaneously taught me about autonomy, confidence, problem solving, perseverance and the pursuit of happiness. Again and again, I am reminded that soccer is, simply-put, “the game of life.”

Six months later the words ring even more true, if that’s possible! I’ve allowed my game to help me grow as a person, and, in turn, my life experiences have facilitated my growth as a player. So as I try my best to focus on fun during each match, I will continue to do the same off the pitch, with the glistening assurance that this will lead me to more successful relationships, accomplishments, and ultimately more happiness!

[Stoppage Time] Last weekend we traveled to Stockholm to play Djurgården, the league’s last place team. While it may seem like this would be a “no-worries” game… we had traveled two weeks ago to Stockholm to play the league’s second to last place team and lost. Unfortunately, this team likes to re-live our past failings right before we play: “We never do well on grass…”or, “This was the stadium we lost the league title last year…” So our stumble two weeks ago was not put behind us.

The match was a far cry from the excitement of our previous two matches: beating Malmö to earn a birth in the Swedish Cup final and then winning 9v11 with a field player in the goal. I was very frustrated with the feeling on the pitch that day. But as my coach Torbjörn Nilsson likes to remind me, a great team knows how to use just enough energy to win a game. And so, playing on 70%, we put up a solid W and snagged 3 points. 

While I understand that perspective from the viewpoint of a coach, as a player, I strive to play at 100% every time I lace up my boots. Anything less, win or loss, feels like a failure to me. Maybe I am shooting for the stars, but I believe it is possible to give 100% mentally, physically, and, with the right recovery strategies, turn around and give it again next game. That being said, after those frustrating and uninspired games are in the past, it is part of that very recovery process to look back on them in a positive manner. In that light, I will remember a few positive moments from our match versus Djurgården: 1) Usually, when I am frustrated in a game, I do not finish my chances, but I was able to do so in this match. 2) There was a really fun moment in which, our keeper Krisse punted the ball 65yards to put me on a run at goal. 3) We are on a four-game win streak! (The best of our season thus far). 4) Our now 15-player squad gets tighter and stronger with every game!

Final Score: 
KGFC 2, Djurgården 0


25. My Blog Blog.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

[THE PITCH] “Now is the winter of our discontent…”- William Shakespeare

In the midst of what I can only describe as a winter whirlwind, six months ago I huddled up and headed North without the benefit of seeing too far forward nor the security of looking back. Immediately, I decided to write a blog. I wanted to stay connected to the States, to the football world, and to my friends and family at home. Writing a blog seemed like a great way to do that.  Although I wrote my first entry from my bedroom in California, I would take my blog with me, much like a southern California kid packing a snowball from a trip to the mountains, placing it gingerly into my suitcase along with my fears and excitement, only to find upon opening my bag in Gothenburg that my “link-to-America” snowball had melted away…I couldn’t help but wonder: could I ever get it back?

It starts with a few flakes…both wet and dry…

On my first day in Sweden it became clear that plan BYOS (Bring Your Own Snow) was soooo unnecessary…. Still, for the first weeks here, my blog was my confidant and best friend. Although initially I pulled out my laptop in an attempt to rebuild my connection to the states, over time I have established quality relationships and learned many things: about Sweden, about football, about myself, and writing my blog has been an incredible facilitator in this process.

Writing is therapeutic, unintentionally providing optimism. Who is this person sitting behind the computer screen? Well, she’s wildly more optimistic than the everyday me… I often start out venting about all the annoyances and frustrations in my life, but when I read my writing back, there is always a transformation from "this is lousy" to "this is lousy but I can endure it” to "I love this for challenging me and demanding that I be better."

Also, writing my blog gives me perspective. So far I’ve written 25 blogs, spanning over my 25 weeks in Sweden. I reread them to reflect on how far I have come. I also read blogs written by my peers in juxtaposition to my own, which gives me an even keener perspective on my experiences.

Pat well…with both hands.

Writing this blog brings balance to my life. Though it may not seem so important, it is essential for me as a professional athlete to have a full and fun days. It was scary coming all the way over here just to play football. Putting all your eggs in one basket is a dangerous game. But I’ve found writing the perfect complement to sports, as it is an intellectual outlet. 

Now let it roll!

Perhaps the most important effect of writing my blog has been viewing the world as a writer. Blogging is motivation for deeper thinking. I first realized its power when, after talking with some friends, I thought—wow this is a perfect subject to write about in my blog.  These “Bloggles—blog boggle moments” (revelations that something is ironic, profound, relatable, or significant to me) happen regularly as writing a blog encourages me to consider experiences on many different levels.

The snowball effect:

Somehow the simple process of sitting down at a coffee shop with my laptop has changed my life. Being a writer inspires me to change my patterns of behavior; to “experiment” for the sake of my blog. For example, in pursuit of the development of this, “My Connectivity Blog,” I attempted to switch-off my usual focus on the more narcissistic aspect of football (stats/results) in order to hone the elements of team bonding. I have made a pact to have an in-depth conversation with a different player on my team before every game. There were times during the first half of season that I lost my attachment to winning; so focused on my personal goals. After talking with some of my teammates, I have been reminded how invested I am in my team and how much I want success for all of us.

Which brings me back to the purpose of my blogging, both generally and this blog specifically: connecting.

An unwritten law of Irony is that it can only be discovered by accident. What started out as a device to keep myself connected to my past, has, quite fortuitously, turned into a conduit for connecting me to the present.

So…what happened to my snowball? Is it here, only made larger by a continuous roll down life’s slope? Perhaps it is not the same at all… But after six months in Sweden, I know now it has been “…Made glorious summer by this sun.”

[Stoppage Time] Our Damallsvenskan game last Sunday was perhaps the wildest game of my career. But now, we are on a three game win-streak! And we are proud of that, especially since we had to play as a unit and scrape to the very bottom in order to squeak out this last win.

I left the field after the 73rd minute with our team leading by two and soon after our final 3rd and final substitution was made. It felt like we were winning comfortably. Our young forward was doing rainbows over defenders. We were smiling and cheering from the sideline. We had all the momentum. Until suddenly we didn’t.

First our forward Sara was forced to leave the game after a hard tackle. Then our keeper Kristin landed on her neck and also left the field on a stretcher. So, we were down 2 players with a field player in the goal.

Swedish fans are eerily calm during our games normally, with a nice golf clap here or there. But as our team got compact: sliding, sprinting, and leaping in order to keep the ball out of our goal, the fans came alive like never before. When our field-player-keeper Johanna came out sliding to take the ball from their forward’s feet, the crowd went nuts. And when the final whistle blew with 98 minutes on the clock, we were proud and so grateful for those 3 points.

[Off The Post!Fun Facts about the enigma that is my father Cody Press… who recently returned from an impromptu trip to Sweden to catch two games last week! Our conversations go like this:

He takes himself very seriously.
Me: “Do you ever wish you had had another child? Why didn’t you?"
Dad: “Hell yeah. All the time. Tyler’s big ole’ watermelon head ruined that!"

He is eloquently spoken.
Despite two Ivy League degrees, he continues to refer to multiple shrimp as "shrimps” to every member of my family's irritation and chagrin. You can imagine his excitement when he realized that the Swedish translated-to-English menu always featured his favorite: shrimps!

He is a stickler for eating healthy.
Every night of his trip I would receive a message around 11:30pm stating, “Got my hot link at 10.59. No leftovers in da kitchen.”

He is a poet who knows it.
Most nights before games I get a text that looks something like this: “Mo u da sho. Put a show on manana. I am wit u always.”


24. My Story Blog.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

[THE PITCH] To Torbjörn Nilsson, who is both my head coach and my Swedish liaison//mentor, football is a game of numbers. He explains the field in geometric terms. He talks of decision-making based on probabilities. In meetings he demonstrates how to break each situation down to a solvable equation. As I scribble down his lessons in my notebook, I marvel at how he sees the game. I’ve never had such a mind for math. In my understanding, football is not a graph nor formula nor an equation. I see the world through metaphors, in imagery, as literary allusions. The game has and always will be a story to me… my story…

Clinging to the arm of the North Sea sits a rainy old-world city I have come to love, not in spite of the many challenges it poses for me, but because of them.
In many ways, Gothenburg feels like home. For now, it is my home. And yet, being in Sweden doesn’t feel like “real life.” Six months after I first suited up in my Kopparberg jersey, I am still captivated by its many charms. Living here is like attending school…always pushing me, but also a holiday…giving me endless reasons to smile.  Playing football in Sweden requires the straightforward discipline necessary to manage its harsh conditions, yet it is a gentile and unmanageable play place. Like the Pacific Ocean of my California home, it is both calming and invigorating: as exciting and inviting on the surface as it is brisk and mysterious at its core.

Perhaps this is the most important element of my Swedish story. The people I have met here: my friends and teammates, our staff, and even the strangers I will never know have taught me so much and changed my life for the better. There is something about the Swedes that really allows me to feel safe in my own skin. I find inspiration every day as I look around the locker room and beyond.

Our team ranges in age, in football experience, in English-speaking-ability, and in how much they value the game. For example, there’s Mimi. She just turned 18, an up and coming Swedish striker with the potential to be “the next big thing.” She dreams of going to college (the wild college parties she sees on TV) and living in California. She’s a ball of energy and enthusiasm… and she rides the young waves of emotion. As an experienced wave rider myself, I try to help her surf over the inescapable rough currents that exists in the front line. There is Anita, who likes to call me her “limb” because we have been attached at the hip for the last five months. She has over 50 caps for the English Full Team. She played for practically every WPS team in her three years in the USA. I respect her opinion and appreciate her different perspective, so I go to her for advice and constructive criticism. Then there is me…and I know I have as much to contribute to Anita as I have to learn from Mimi. Despite our vast differences in backgrounds, we are all in this together, happily connected. Although I am sharing my own story now, we, as a team, are creating our future and, thus, writing our story collaboratively.

[Plot// Stoppage Time]:
Like any good story, the plot has had a few unexpected twists. Instead of ascending slowly towards a climax, my first weeks here started BAM! BAM! BAM! (Big important games) and BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! (Disappointing losses). The re-building commenced, but the stage was set and it was makeshift, as we had lost confidence. I was told from the start, KGFC is not a team of stars, but it seemed without self-assurance, we weren’t a team at all. Still, we pushed through it and despite the shakiness; the first half of the season was an extraordinary experience, and I know I am a better player and person because of it.

Having returned from our summer holiday, the team is back in business. While it is now impossible for us to win Damallsvenskan, with SvenskaCupen and Champions League ahead of us, we have a lot to play for…and a whole new slew of challenges.

I woke up the morning of our Umeå game with a feeling that there is no end to progress for a professional athlete. It’s a limitless climb; there is no finish line. And yet, it seems, that there are countless beginnings…restarts, as it were. I hoped and still hope that the Umeå game was one of them… the beginning of the turn-around… the commencement of “a second season.”

It was a beautiful day to turn around a season. The sun was shining (a phenomenon, a teammate pointed out, that only occurs during Kopparberg games) … the seagulls were chirping (waking me up at 6am)…
Final Score:
Göteborg FC 5 – Umeå IK 0

We felt good. We played well. We had success. But as soon as the final whistle blew, I could feel the future coming toward me… applying pressure where joy should be. We had won so many games likes this before, just to show up at the next game a different team; unable to post two solid wins in a row. SvenskaCupen semifinal was 3 days later against Malmö. It would be a big test… a test of our strength and determination… a test of our confidence.
Final score:
Göteborg FC 2 – LdB FC Malmö 1

[The ending]:
Will we continue to build…to get stronger…to reach our potential? To borrow the lyrics from Natasha Beddingfield, “The rest is still unwritten…”