Faith, Fate, Football

Friday, May 11, 2012

[THE PITCH] Although baptized in the Church, I am not the world’s most devout Catholic. I am, however, a spiritual person. In creating my own set of beliefs, I have scrutinized philosophies, challenged authority, adopted and rejected dogmas, and come to cherish a fundamental belief that I have the power to write my own future. I pick my own path and in doing so, I make my own luck. This is my creed. W.E. Henley’s eloquent words hang on the walls in my bedroom: “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

Lately, however, my relationship with football has challenged me to reconsider my steadfast faith in determinism. Are the forces of fatalism at work here? Is it possible that things happen for a reason unknown to me?

“Team Faith:” With little time to prepare for season in Göteborg, I have had to work actively everyday to develop what I hope becomes an unwavering conviction in the power of my team and our system of soccer.

Through recent revelations I have realized that my latest role of “rolling in the deep” puts me in a precarious position. The notion of “staying high” means not only that I must trust my team to contain the other team’s attack, but also I must play with the belief that my team will play me quality balls in dangerous places. In the past, a lack of patience and faith has drawn me deep into the midfield searching for easier balls. I am discovering how starting in dangerous positions on the field can change everything in a positive way.

Furthermore, as players we must display faith in one another, which seems to have a mutually beneficial effect. I’ve found that teams that truly trust in their game plan generally are winning teams. Something magical happens on the field when 11 players think with one mind. Coaches call it “being on the same page.” Captains call it “buying in to the system.” I call it having faith.

And while I am trying my best to keep the faith, I still proceed with caution. The operative word being "proceed," but I defer to the wisdom of the great spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into.”

“Me Faith:” My year as a professional football player has been a tumultuous one. Every year has its ups and downs, but the last 14 months have been extreme for me. Through smiling firsts and tearful lasts, full-volley goals and mental breakdowns, living simultaneously in paradise and a personal hell, my football career has stretched my limits. In doing so, it taught me to trust myself as a player. I have found one way to ground myself amongst the drastic changes and chaos that comes along with being a professional women’s soccer player: positive self-efficacy. Believing that I am a consistent player actually enables me to be one, regardless of circumstances over which I have no control. So, I look back on all of the times in my career when I thought something absolutely horrible was happening to me, and can now see how it was the perfect opportunity for me grow.

When I signed with KGFC in February, I had no clue what the football would be like, no insight into Swedish culture, no choice, and no take-backs. It was a total risk. And perhaps, like a sip of perfectly brewed cappuccino in the morning, Sweden is exactly the pleasant jolt I need in my life.

I have mentioned before that I try to leave room in my "luggage" to bring home a thing or two, but after rifling through my bags while packing and unpacking for games, camps and relocations, I have discovered that faith has been a stowaway in my life all these years.

Faith, at least in the role it plays in my life, is about trust. I’ll be real with you. When I first realized I would be unable to attend USWNT camp in May because of my responsibility to my club, I thought it was some kind of a sick joke. Perhaps the gods have conspired against me to give me the worst timing ever…

But then, you see, I have the ultimate faith in my path. Life makes no promises. I may never again have the chance to compete at camp for a spot on an Olympic team. But I’ve come to realize that this unfortunate timing is less of an evil plot to destroy me, and closer to … yupp … I’m going to say it … my destiny. This is my unique path; and as it happens, it is the road less traveled. I’m proud of that. Life is not a game of numbers, and I am sick of tallying up the probabilities anyway. With faith and a little push from the game itself, I trust that I am where I am supposed to be. Setbacks? Disappointments? I play on. For, like Michael Jordan says, “I have something more important than courage, I have patience.”

[Stoppage Time] Tuesday we played our “derby” game against local competitor Jitex. It’s safe to say I have never been a part of such a strong and emotional rivalry or held such intense loathing for a team my team has always beaten.

Ahhh! The power of emotions ... We play emotive football, and the "state" of the game often clouds the quality of our play. So, when we conceded an early goal in the game, we dropped our heads. When we let in a second, we fell apart. When we gave up a third ... well ...  I’m pretty sure everyone in Valhalla had lost faith that we had what it takes to crawl out of such a deep hole  I, personally, spent the first 80 minutes frustrated with the game and simultaneously disappointed in myself. We went on a scoring rampage for the last 14 minutes and were able to tie things up, I was so overwhelmed by emotions I could hardly form intelligible sentences.

The whole game is a blur to me now, except one final moment. When it was 3-3 in the final minute of stoppage time, the ball was served into the box and behind the defense. Playing on pure adrenaline at this point, when I saw the ball leave my teammate's foot, I decided that, despite the fact that the ball was served head high, I was going to slide the ball into the goal. What transpired was a last-ditch effort to fling my body, feet first, at a ball 5-feet high like a flying squirrel doing a karate kick. In my mind, I was so close my toe grazed the ball.

Better yet, my teammate had decided, despite the fact that she might need a full minute of “hang time” to get to the ball, that she was going to do a diving header. She started from so far behind me that I had landed on the floor before looking back to see her “flying” into me.

All I can say is we wanted to win so desperately. Talk about emotions. Talk about a comeback.

Final Score:
Göteborg FC 3 – Jitex BK 3 Game Report

[Off the Post!] This past weekend, I met my older sister Tyler in Copenhagen to kick off her 18-day trip visiting me. And although I’d like to think I rock my Canon camera like paparazzi, I’ve found that I’m not good at being a tourist. Instead of snapping a quick pic in front of the city’s most talked-about sites, we spent our weekend drinking coffee at seaside cafes, relaxing as we soaked up some precious Scandinavian sun, and tasting a wide range of local flavors. Saturday night we enjoyed a multi-course, Michelin-starred fine dining experience; while Sunday we ate a quintessentially Danish pølsevogn -- hot dogs -- from a street vendor.

To wrap up the trip, we went to a swanky bar for a late-night delectable custard desert. It was nearly midnight when a small boy, about six years old, walked into the place with his mom and posted up at a barstool. Surprised to see a child out so late at the "adult" bar, my sister leaned over to me and whispered, “This is what I don’t get about Europeans.” (Yes, we Press girls can be a bit judgmental at times.)

I, however, had no idea what she was talking about. So engrossed in my cream-a-licious treat, I had not come up for air in at least five minutes. I hadn’t noticed the mom and son come in. When I decided to take a short break from licking the bottom of my bowl, I looked up to see the boy’s mom staring at me. As I wiped off my whipped-cream beard with my napkin, her raised-eyebrows expression said exactly what she was thinking, “THAT is what I don’t get about Americans!”

Rookie for life,

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