The Reframe Blog.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

[THE PITCH] Honestly, I have been struggling to come up with something fresh to write about this week. No, it’s not that football has suddenly stopped teaching me life lessons. Rather, I think that three months of treading water, kicking, screaming, and trying to… not just survive…but excel in this awesome, but incredibly challenging new environment has left me physically, emotionally, and, sadly, even mentally exhausted.

There was no prolific ‘Aha’ moment this week; but instead, it was a daily battle to stay focused, stay present, and stay positive.  Over the years, I have met some incredible people who have given me a few psychological tools to deal with an array of challenges. And at times like these, I try to think back to their words to help me get through my grind. One such tool is called ‘The Reframe.’ The concept is simple. To reframe is to put a positive spin on a seemingly difficult situation. When done correctly the results are almost magical. Here are some examples of my reframes this week.

Reframe #1. It hasn’t stopped raining and it’s June… depressing? à No! I’ll appreciate the sunshine way more when I am back in Cali Cali. The rainy weather accounts for the beautiful green country… My skin is safe from dangerous UV rays… and on top of that, I’m learning to be a better player in unpredictable elements.!

Reframe #2. I had a bad game this weekend. I’m a horrible player and I’ll never play well again? à No! A taste of the bitter makes the good that much sweeter... Having played poorly last game, I’ll be more determined in our next game… This is a challenge, and challenges help us grow and make us stronger… Playing poorly teaches me what NOT to do.

Yes, these spins are the dialogues I have in my head. As effective as Expelliarmus? We will have to wait and see…

Since I never attended Hogwarts, for now, I’ll have to accept the science from my positive psychology textbook to explain how ‘The Reframe’ really works. I've learned that that the feeling of happiness causes us to smile innately. However, what I find more interesting, is that the act of smiling causes us to feel happiness (evidenced by a release of dopamine in the brain… i.e. the pleasure hormone.) This bidirectional causation in smiling and happiness is true too of positive thinking and success.

 The moral of the story: pick up that wand and fake it ‘til you make it! I believe that repeating these seemingly stupid, forced, and trivial affirmations in your head 'cast a spell' on the mind to believe them to be true. And the more time you spend dwelling on the negative thought / fear, ‘I played horribly because I am a horrible player…’ the greater the chance that that will be your reality… So, for those of us who are our own biggest critics, try hard to drown the negativity with positive reframes. I’ve actually seen people skipping in the rain, slipping, getting up and skipping on. You’ve seen it too, and I bet you had to smile.

[Stoppage Time] After spending 10 days training with the US landslaget, returning to my club was like WHOAH: different timing, different role, and different focus. I thought transitioning would get easier each time…WRONG.

We traveled to Umeå over the weekend, and I truly enjoyed every minute spent with my team: the laughing, the banter, and the camaraderie. I am so lucky to be blessed with a group of people that make me feel comfortable in my own skin.

Unfortunately, my return to the pitch wasn’t as smooth. Fifteen minutes in, I realized I was playing poorly. I was frustrated easily. I couldn’t get out of my own head. Just when I thought I was making progress, I made all the same mistakes I had made at the beginning of the season. I was disjointed from the team, my timing was off, and I was playing totally alone up top.

It’s a good thing my team picked up the slack, finished their chances, and we captured the 3 points. BOOM.

Final Score:
Göteborg FC 3 – Umeå IK FF 0

[Off The Post!] One of my dearest friends is embarking on an existential soul-searching 4-month journey through South America, and I, like all of his friends, am oozing over with jealousy. He recently shared a story that I find quite refreshing and up lifting during a particularly stressful week of football here in Sweden…

“…I jumped in a canoe and embarked on a 3-hour boat ride through the Amazon. I made it to an indigenous village where I was invited to join the tribe members playing a game of pick-up. Picture this: jungle backdrop, animal soundtrack, and a simple game of fútbol. The world's most popular sport had made its way deep into the Amazon jungle!

The game was so fun and I was quickly immersed in the game. I received a pass deep on the sideline and dribbled up the field, beating 3 defenders before getting ready to cross the ball. As I looked across the field, I saw a wide-open player in the box, and suddenly I was Mesuit Ozil about to cross the ball to Ronaldo for a 100% golazoooo!

I went to cross the ball with visions of the great goal playing in my head. But I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small furry object shoot onto the field and snag the ball from under my feet!

It was a monkey.

I couldn't believe it! The little guy had ran onto the field and stolen the ball right from me. He was now parading around the field with the ball as if to show off his skills and the spoils of his most recent tackle. It was one of the funniest moments of my life.  The monkey’s antics brought me back to reality: I was far far from home…” - Nima Majd

Rookie For Life,


Never Lonely.

Friday, June 29, 2012

"...So, go ahead and do you, boys and girls. Own the uncomfortable in-between where you experience the mélange of weird and wild. Play around in the lingering space that the world calls “loneliness.” Dance in your thoughts and make sure they don’t get too boring. Feel out the difference between your mind and everyone else’s and appreciate your inner-monologue as your longest standing friend.
Be alone, my dears. But never, ever, for as long as you live, be lonely." -Kristen Chen @ThoughtCatalog

My apologies to anyone who finds Thought Catalog trite and/or cheesy. I couldn't resist.

Panenka's Penalty.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Antonín Panenka on his cheeky 'chip' penalty kick (á la Pirlo) that won Czechoslovakia the 1976 UEFA European Championship...

"That penalty...After each training session I used to stay behind after a game with our goalkeeper and take penalties – we would play for a bar of chocolate or a glass of beer. Since he was a very good goalkeeper it became an expensive proposition for me. So, sometimes before going to sleep I tried to think of ways of getting the better of him, to recoup my losses.
I got the idea that if I delayed the kick and just lightly chipped it, a goalkeeper who dived to the corner of the goal could not jump back up into the air, and this became the basis of my philosophy. I started slowly to test it and apply it in practice. As a side effect I started to gain weight, because I was winning the bets. I started to use it in friendlies, in minor leagues, and eventually I perfected it so I used it in the main league as well. The culmination was when I used it at the European Championship." 
Antonín Panenka

An Attitude of Giving.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

“At the most basic level of any interaction, we are each looking for the same things: Love, Respect, and ultimately Happiness. When we analyze all action, our true motivation lies in the attainment of one or more of these three experiences. What it tells us is that they represent the pinnacle of human interaction – they are valuable. And, they are the basic currency within any community.

The basis of the word ‘currency’ is ‘current,’ or flow. Within any successful community, Love, Respect, and Happiness are constantly in motion. They are ever-flowing. When we are not getting these things, it is simply because we are not giving them. We have restricted their flow through some mistake.

When we want something, we must first learn how to give that thing. It is up to us to initiate the flow. Moreover, when we give something of value, our experience of it increases. The more we give, the more we have it. That’s how we know it is valuable.

To approach life with an attitude of giving is an incredibly powerful philosophy. Because only then will we receive.” - by Christian Bevacqua @GreenTree Meditation


Saturday, June 23, 2012

@Trädgårdsföreningen (Gothenburg's Central Park).
Making midsommarkrans (midsummer crowns).

Getting into the Swedish tradition.

Sweetest Swedish strawberries.

Midsommarstång (The raising of the maypole). 

Glad midsommar!

Midsommar celebration complete with folk dancing.

My Party of One Blog.

Friday, June 15, 2012

[THE PITCH] The primary question I am asked by friends from home and prospective American footballers contemplating the idea of playing abroad is what is it like to live … dum da da dum … alone in Sweden? Sometimes, their nervous voices startle me into thinking that perhaps I have overlooked something myself... I am, after all, living by myself in a foreign country, the setting for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo no less, so why am I not terrified or at the very least uneasy?

I recently met another foreigner in Sweden, who shared with me his thoughts of this country as a fellow "outsider." He told me that he thinks the Swedes are a lonely people. In fact, over 50 percent of the population lives alone. The country has one of the lowest marriage rates and highest divorce rates in Europe. Like many, he finds the inhabitants quite withdrawn and reclusive. He warned me, “And don’t expect them to open up over time.” After five years in the country, he still feels quite secluded. Yet, John Donne reminds us that: “No man is an island…If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.”—Still, shouldn’t I feel a little bit lonely?

Of course, the obvious answer is that I belong to a team with a built-in social structure: a group that has extra motivation to get to know me and incorporate me into their world. Without them, perhaps I too would feel like an outcast, estranged from Swedish society.  While being a part of a team might explain why I don’t feel completely alienated from Sweden, that’s surely not the whole story.

I think that living alone has actually had an inverse effect on my social sphere. My living situation has been quite a change from the last five years of my life, where I had a roommate and lived just a few minutes from my entire group of friends. But I’ve discovered a paradoxical effect of my newfound isolation, as living alone in this foreign country has actually prompted me to seek out others, thereby broadening my horizons.

I have been warmly welcomed and incorporated into this land of cobblestone and old buildings, this realm of fikas and lagom, this place where everything takes a little bit longer but is done with a smile. As for the occasional uncomfortable quietness of solitude, it motivates me to go out to meet and make friends at coffee houses, something I never did in America. Now, I take a daily fika, which usually entails lingering over both banter and laughter. No to-go cups and drive-through windows for me! As delicious as the coffee is here, the caffeine addiction runs secondary to the social fix.

I have come to cherish my moments of leisure spent in the pleasant company of friends. Whereas in "college life," I coveted … and I mean COVETED… any peaceful "me" time in order to just collect my thoughts; now, I enjoy going out to parks to write and be among the clamor of the people.  Not only do I appreciate each hug and laugh shared a little bit more, but also I believe that I actually hug, laugh, and even smile more often. The more I think about it; those statistics my foreign friend offered do not discourage me in the least. In an ironic twist of fate, living alone has actually made me feel more Swedish … if only in spirit.

This past rainy Tuesday, I laid back at my usual spot on the couch at Condeco coffee house happily contemplating this realization. And per usual, my mind began to drift to football… as I’ve mentioned before, in the last month, my team switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1, in which I am the lone forward. Suddenly, I had one of those House MD everything-fits-together moments. I live alone in Sweden, I play alone in a 4-5-1... (Ok, so it’s not as like I saved a person’s life by diagnosing a rare form of bacterial infection derived from a particularly stale box of cheese crackers...) Now, while our team possession and composure are improving, we have struggled to put together quality attacks in the final third of the field. Is it possible that my experience with solitude off the field can help me to improve my experiences on the pitch?

So I’m thinking … maybe this same fountain of knowledge can spill over onto the pitch as well. Splash! Living alone has actually allowed me to get closer to many friends, instead of just getting super close to my hypothetical roommate. Could the absence of a second forward (like the absence of a roommate) force me to make a better an effort to engage many and different teammates in the attack?

In the same way my efforts off the pitch have allowed me to develop better quality relationships, the same effort put forth on the pitch might help create more complex and quality football. Splash splash! By holding up the ball and waiting for numbers to get forward, our attacks will become more dynamic, unpredictable, fluid, and dangerous.

Still thinking … I am the lone striker now, but I am not a lone wolf. To go forward effectively…I need to run with my
teammates. My point is to attack -- I am not the point of attack. To be dangerous … I need stay close and engaged with the rest of the team. I am a party of one, but it is still a party. To be successful in life and in football, I must remind myself that we are all in this together.

[Stoppage Time] Sunday, we played top dog Tyresö in what felt like one of the most important matches of the season. With a great crowd (that included some of my USWNT teammates) and a home advantage, there was extra pressure to take points. And while we played one of our best matches together, we, yet again, dropped the ball: conceding a late goal and losing 1-0.

There are two sides to this story. While the stark improvement in the quality of our play over the last two months is both promising and uplifting, losing games we should win feels like the ultimate failure.

I’ve been told that for great players/teams after both wins and losses, celebration or sorrow must be short-lived. The next day is about focusing on the next game. And so, I work hard to turn disappointment into a constructive analysis. My brain ticks and I mull over the details we need to improve. My head spins as I rehash the breakdowns of our team. We are such a strong team. We should be winning games. BAH! Thinking about what we need to do to be better is overwhelming.

I take pride in being a team player. I make an effort to stay emotionally connected to my teammates. I try to encourage them when they are down and demand more from them when I think the time is right. I ask questions. And I am a firm believer that a team is much more than its 11 individuals. I guess I’m still splashing in that fountain… But I also know that the best way for me to help the team push forward is to focus on being the best player as well as teammate that I can be. In the end, it starts with me, my role. While its easy to say we need to do this or that, this week I am asking myself what I need to do to help the team find success.

Of course, when I look closely at myself, the areas to improve seem vast: mental preparation, fitness, nutrition, attitude… (Hmmm…the list goes on.) But I’ll do what I need in order to break down each part, bit by bit, until I can chew what I bite off, and build from the bottom up.

Final Score:
Göteborg FC 0 - Tyresö FF 1  Highlights

[Off The Post!] The United States women’s national team sports performance coach Dawn came to me this week with the results of some recent blood work, and informed me that I have had a recent plummet in Vitamin D ... aka … the sun vitamin. Seriously!? If she reported low levels of iron, I’d say: typical! If the test showed questionable levels of cocoa butter, I’d say: It’s possible. But … low on D? “You must be joking!” My sun-worshiping- ‘west coast is the best coast’ -self stood there, mouth agape. Stifling her own laughter, Dawn handed me some supplements and said, “Pressy, I’m serious.” Apparently, I have been justified in my weather complaints. Curse you, Sweden!  

Rookie For Life,

My 100 Days of Sweden Blog.

Friday, June 8, 2012

[THE PITCH] 100 days ago I caught a ride on a major twister.

Day 1. It really was no miracle. What happened was just this ... Through an unpredictable force of circumstances, I was carried away from the familiar blue waters of the Pacific. Flying over the Atlantic Ocean, I imagined what my life would be like in Sweden ... I’ll study Swedish everyday. I’ll read so many books. I’ll write. I’ll take a photography class. I’ll travel every weekend. I envisioned myself filling my days with a plethora of existential soul-searching stuff. Looking 100 days back, I never could have guessed how much I have learned about myself, yet nothing has come from a class or a book. My life lessons have come from an unexpected place: the inhabitance of Oz! I’m happy to say I’ve barely found time to crack a book. The unread Sapolsky novels on my shelf will be there tomorrow, so will Santorini.
Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. This slice of the international women’s soccer game has really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities up for the taking. For me, a female athlete in the U.S., there seemed to be one track to success within soccer -- one style of play, one finishing point, and all of it began and ended with the national team. But now, I have found a world where professional soccer is not viewed as merely a stepping-stone. There are opportunities to grow and learn and change within the professional game. The league is 12-teams strong. There is Champions League. The best players are as diverse in style and personality as the world itself.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. At 60 days of Sweden, I was standing at a crossroads. My world was not in harmony. The ghost of football future came to me in the form of my head coach pleading with me to change. His requests came in the form of Swenglish: v lopning, in the deep, stå högt… I mean… STAY HIGH! I didn’t know what to make of this, but I did know I was to take on a new role. All the while, the ghost of football past asked, How could you just drop what you know? You’ve had a successful career and have played soccer for almost 20 years playing one way. Can you really just play a different way?

The voice coming from the behind the curtain was doubt. But I ignored the impostor! Okay, so maybe it didn’t happen that quickly or that smoothly, but 40 days later, I look back on day 60 and it feels like I changed my style of play overnight. I closed my eyes and clicked my heels together and changed what I thought defined me as a player.

Upon opening my eyes I realized a parallel transformation had occurred in my personal life…This group of easy-going Swedes have helped me to empower myself off the pitch, as well. Like the Swedish spring, a new me seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. While Swedes like to say that they are not the most welcoming bunch, I have found that they are extraordinarily accepting and non-judgmental company. This culture has allowed me to replace insecurity, vulnerability, and the threat of uneasy competition with a social strength derived from comfort within the team, and that is empowering.
Follow the yellow brick road! There is no one-track, fast lane to success, but many different roads and they are all winding, through both meadows and dark forests. I have had a glimpse at different styles, methods, systems, and cultures of football along the way. I thought my path had led me to Sweden, but it actually led me so much further. The trek down that road has been both empowering and liberating. Ironically, my round-a-bout trail has also led me to the USWNT, but in the most unconventional way. Let's just say, I took the scenic route!

I’ve written about this before, how I am learning to take on a new role on this team, but now I am trying to tell you what the process of learning has taught me. Here it goes…

When I want to do something, I can just do it (after all this contemplation, it seems I could have come to the same ‘revelation’ by just thinking about the famous words written next to the swoosh.) No more excuses like: “That’s just the way I am.” Who I am is a choice, a daily choice, and I don’t have to be defined by my past. I was not resisting out of stubbornness or pride or fear, but rather out of ignorance: ignorance of my own power, ignorance of the power of my own determination. I did not know I could just be different, if I decided to be, until I decided to be. I have discovered that I can be whomever I want even if I wasn’t that person or player yesterday.

After some shaky beginnings on youth national teams and even college, I really thought I was a player who did not adapt smoothly or too quickly to new environments. After a career of checking far into the midfield to pick up balls, I really thought I was a player who did not do well making runs in the deep. After years of slight social anxiety, I really thought I was a somewhat awkward introvert. But now I know that sometimes molds get moldy.

Day 100. It’s been over 100 days of living abroad, 100 days of playing football, 100 days of learning … going with the flow … stepping outside my comfort zone  … looking past criticism for opportunities…incorporating the balance of Lagom … daring to roll in the deep … harnessing the pressure…keeping the faith … letting go … rediscovering a love for the game … thriving on competition. Oh, it’s been quite the journey. And still, the most important lesson I’ve learned so far has been realizing my own power to affect my world and myself. While I’m certainly no Dorothy (although I think I mentioned before my affinity for shoes), I can hear Glinda The Good Witch’s words so clearly now. You've always had the power…but had to learn it for yourself.

On the other hand … there is something reassuring about knowing exactly how I’ll feel next time I head back across the Atlantic, down the Pacific Coast Highway to Palos Verdes. The first time I ever left home for college, I cried, fearing that my life would never be the same. Today I feel differently. The farther I travel and the more places I go, the more I realize that the comforts of home will always be waiting for me. My dad will always be "viewing the sunset" as his BBM status reminds me.  He’ll be there sitting on his balcony, drinking a Hawaiian-style beer, smoking a cigar, and
screaming at a game on the TV. And my mom will forever be drumming up company for her 28-mile bike rides up the coast, or in the kitchen cooking up something fattening and delightful, like her newest dessert, coined “Crack” for how addicting it is. After all … There’s no place like home!

[Stoppage Time] Last Sunday, our team traveled down south in hopes of the club’s first victory ever at Malmö. And while we played a game that both coaches and players have gone on record saying that we dominated, we lost. We kept possession well for most of the game, but our efforts were futile as we had no bite: in this case, nothing to show for it.

In tight games, I always feel like there is a defining moment for each team, when they can take the game or leave it open. During our match versus Malmö, I felt this moment bubble up inside me. I could feel their team getting really tired and we started to dominate the game in the middle of the second half. We had time and space on the field to play, but we kept piddling around … About 65 minutes into the match, it was ours to be had. The game was tied 1-1. We had three corners in a row. I tried to push, to yell out to my teammates, to bring some extra energy, but the moment passed unmarked. When they had their moment, it was clear that they felt it collectively and it gave them power …. Unfortunately, just like the last time we played them in the Super Cup final, Malmö seized the win.

Final Score:
Göteborg FC 1 - LdB FC Malmö 2

[Off The Post!] In a salute to the 100 days of Sweden, I would like to pass along these sage words:

Blott Sverige svenska krusbär har.

•    Translation: "Only Sweden has Swedish gooseberries."
•    My advice: Start a gooseberry export business!
•    Actual Meaning: Sweden is a unique country in many ways.

Alla känner apan, men apan känner ingen.

 •    Translation: "Everyone knows the monkey, but the monkey knows no one."
 •    My Advice: Be careful when signing up on!
•    Actual Meaning: Those that stick out are often both well-known and avoided… ehem ehem: ‘lagom!’

I de lugnaste vattnen går de fulaste fiskarna. 

•    Translation: "In the shallowest waters, the ugliest fish swim."
•    My advice: See previous advice!
•    Actual Meaning: The seemingly most respectable people are quite often in fact scoundrels.
Rookie For Life,

My Hunger Games Blog.

Friday, June 1, 2012

[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