A Thousand Words on Keeping Your Head Up

Friday, April 20, 2012

[THE PITCH] I’m fairly certain that I’ve seen this street before, but then again all the streets have cobblestone, tram tracks, and heeled boots treading steadily over them both. The tiny Swedish android phone in my pocket, fully equipped with street-level GPS tracking, was designed just for this moment. In fact, a few quick clicks, and I’d find my destination in 5 minutes. No, put your GPS down and pick your head up! You can’t be too far away.

I originally set out to write about how football teaches me about life. Upon reflecting on my past blogs, I’ve realized that, just as often, life teaches me about football. In fact, it is a two-way street, football to life, life to football… Keeping my head up when I’m on the soccer field? No problem! So, why do I walk around the streets of the city staring at the ground? Maybe I need to stop investing so much in my shoe collection…! As you might imagine, this has gotten me into trouble (no, I’m not referring to the dwindling number on my bank statement), as I have not quite developed that astute sense of directions needed to get from point A to point B; somehow I always end up at C.

Lately, I’ve made a concerted effort to erect a new posture as I explore this city. Head up high, I’ve taken to the streets of Göteborg, and although I still struggle to get my bearings, what I have discovered at all three points is… well, rather than come up with all 1000 words…

 I’ve had my fair share of challenges throughout my career. I put a lot of pressure on myself to “make my way up,” and I have admit that there was a dark year or two where football and I were not friends.

I know I have been blessed by great teams and great environments and that I have had a tremendous amount of success in the sport from one perspective. Nonetheless, my ultimate goal -- to play at the international level -- has eluded me.  In retrospect, I am very proud of the way I have "kept my head up" through the long haul of my career. I have never given up hope and I never will let my frustrations bring me down. I fight a daily battle with my fear of not being good enough. That said the hardest part has been resisting the urge to give myself an excuse. I have had to swallow my pride and be honest with myself, even when that means I might have to bear the full extent of my failure. I continue to push everyday and to go after my dreams, face forward.

Even in my weaker moments, I try not to go to that pity-me place. I’ve learned to harness all of my emotions, including anger. I’ve found that sometimes Weezy’s Drop the World leads my iTunes Top25 Played Playlist… (I don’t always listen to Tracy Chapman. Come on people!) Eventually, rage fizzles and what stays constant is belief and optimism. I believe in myself and I am optimistic about my future. This week, I have a paramount opportunity to begin working towards that goal to play at the international level. I got my first callup to USWNT training camp in Florida. And can I just say it? I AM SO UNBELIEVABLY EXCITED!!! My advice to everyone out there with a dream...like the Earth Wind and Fire song goes, "Keep your head to the sky..."

[Stoppage Time] This week we traveled to the frigid north of Sweden to take on Piteå in our second Allsvenskan game. We landed the morning of the game in a snow covered small town. The sun princess in me thought, get me to Florida! The Viking in me yelled back “Brrrrring it on!”

It still feels like we are in the very early stages of developing and becoming a team, but during this game, we showed glimpses into ‘the promise land.’ Although we can be undisciplined and panicky at times, there were periods where we dictated the flow of the game like a championship caliber team. Progress! Next step: consistency.

As for me, I had been using an insane amount of self-talk during my first games here (and my game-time self-talk is always out-loud, so the defenders in this country probably think I’m nuts). My mindset for this game was to just let myself go a little bit and enjoy the moment. I usually try to focus on something the morning before a game, and this game’s goal was to “shoot like you have never missed before.” Bad news is I felt uninvolved and no so dangerous. (Maybe I’ll go back to being a looney-tune!) Good news is I had been working on my runs behind the defense and finishing crosses all week, and it paid off. The turtle (the most unfortunate nickname bestowed to my head in college) put one away! Yet another reason to keep your head up...

Final Score:
Göteborg 3 - Piteå IF 1

[Off The Post!] I’m starting to think of this section of the blog as “My Weekly Bone Head Moves.”

This week, after getting in an extra training session, I went out to lunch at a Thai restaurant with several of my teammates. We had a lovely time and upon leaving, we ran into our speed coach Erica Johansson, a Swedish long-jump national record holder, who has been with our team twice before.

I have been trying really hard to be more gregarious here, so as my teammates began to chat with her in Swedish, I stood sideline, plotting how I could join the conversation. “How was the snow?” I piped in, referencing on a conversation we had about a sky trip she had taken. Erica’s attention suddenly shifted from the others to me. “I wasn’t in the snow. I was in Stockholm and it wasn’t snowing.”

“Wait, I thought you were going to the snow for the weekend.”

She looked quite puzzled. “No…"

I recall vividly Erica showing me pictures on her computer from a webcam of the conditions in her snowy destination. Maybe she had taken a mean tumble on her snowboard … Confused but adamant, I continued to press (albeit gingerly now), “What? We talked about this. You showed me pictures on your laptop of the snow…” When I saw her bewildered I began to wonder if I had been the one who had taken a fall in the snow. The, she shook-off the befuddled look from her face, “Ah… you don’t know who I am.”

Uh oh Christen!  “Yes I do…” I tried to sound confident.

“Well, then do you know my name?” I could feel the awkwardness spread through the room.

“Sure…” I had no choice but to call her bluff.

“Well, then what’s my name?” Ok. Time to show my hand. In the seconds before I answered the question, I’m pretty sure nobody took a breath. The air was so thick you could cut it with a knife and I was sweating profusely. “Erica (ironically pronounced sort of like ‘eureka!’)” I squeaked. There was a HUGE communal sigh of relief in the room. (Later, my teammate confessed that the whole scene had made her so nervous that, for the life of her, she could not think of Erica’s name in the moment.)

As we walked out of the restaurant, happy to escape, the five of us burst into laughter. About an hour later, I realized that I had confused that conversation with one I had had with the team’s athletic trainer: Karin. So much for adding my two cents…

Rookie for life, Christen Press

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