Kafka On The Shore.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I recently finished reading Haruki Murakami's Kafka On The Shore. I began the novel in an attempt to start a book club within my team here in Gothenburg, but the book's strange cover, summary, and themes scared a few of my teammates away. I, on the other hand, was instantly enthralled. I haven't been submersed in a true story in a long while, and it felt important to be living in two worlds temporarily.

I could not do a summary justice or even accurately express my feelings about it. The only way I can describe it is: provocative and paradoxically spellbinding. Murakami has a way of being so simple, and yet every word seems both loaded and symbolic. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts: 

"Miss Saeki looks at me for a while, and the smile fades away. 'Picture a bird perched on a thin branch,' she says. 'The branch sways in the wind, and each time this happens the bird's field of vision shifts. You know what I mean?'

I nod.

'When that happens, how do you think the bird adjusts?'

I shake my head. 'I dont know.'

'It bobs its head up and down, making up for the sway of the branch. Take a good look at birds next time it's windy. I spend a lot of time looking out that window. Don't you think that kind of life would be exhausting? Always shifting your head every time the branch you're on sways.'"


"Perhaps most people in the world aren't trying to be free, Kafka. They just think they are. It's all an illusion. If they really were set free, most people would be in a real pickle. You'd better remember that. People actually prefer not being free." 


"'There must be a limit to that kind of lifestyle, though,' she says. 'You can't use that strength as a protective wall around you. There's always going to be something stronger that can overcome your fortress. At least in theory.'

'The strength I'm looking for isn't the kind where you win or lose. I'm not after a wall that'll repel power coming from outside. What I want is the kind of strength to be able to absorb outside power, to stand up to it. The strength to quietly endure things -- unfairness, misfortune, sadness, mistakes, misunderstandings.'

'That's got to be the most difficult strength of allt o make your own.'"

32. My Fear Blog.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.” –Cheryl Strayed in WILD.

[THE PITCH] To me, fear is a twisted torch, simultaneously igniting the heart and scorching the soul as it leads the way.

In quite a few of my blogs, I’ve written about the role of stress in sports. In my world, stress is an underlying, smoldering fire of fear that, despite my attempts to ignore or even suffocate it, cannot be extinguished.  But I am learning now that perhaps it is time to put down the hose.

So…what is there to fear in football?

To say that I fear failing would be too broad. Everyone fears failure on some level. Small failures are inevitable and so constant that they often go unnoticed. Some people fear simply ‘not being good enough’. Others have more specific fears, like missing an open net in the last minute of a final. These fears sit like the candles on my windowsill; if the room gets too hot, I can blow them out. These burns fade quickly, barely singeing the skin. But, I do not fear that I am not good ‘enough’ because the bar is always rising, and I cherish the climb. I do not fear missing the game winning shot because, I mean… how many times have I already done that?

My flammability comes from my vulnerability. In the same way the ball’s bounce is often out of my control and unpredictable, so is my future. As a female footballer in 2012, the circumstances of my professional world can change like a match struck in wind. It can catch… or it can fizzle. My career is at the mercy of a few coaches’ opinions. And so, I fear that there is nothing I can do to guarantee success. My wildfire burns from the outside in. I fear not being able to affect all of the outcomes, all of the time. I fear getting caught in the fire.

It started as a spark: a flicker of passion, the will to win. But over the years, fanned by frustration, it spread within me, like the wildfires fueled by the Santa Ana’s of home. Fear can be a great motivator, a power source, but left uncontrolled, it can burn ferociously, laying to ashes everything in its path. As a southern California girl, I expect fires. They are part of nature. But I do not accept them. As an athlete I have made my home in the middle of that combustible path. And over time I’ve learned that the best way to deal with fear is not to battle it- ‘fighting fire with fire’- but rather, to empower myself by tapping its energy and harnessing its forces. In the words of Mike Tyson ”…let it cook for me…and heat my house.”

Sometimes taking control means letting go. Like flickering flames, football’s precarious nature can be unnerving. There have been plenty of times in my career that I’ve felt that I have played a good game, but was unable to ignite my team and we lost. On the other hand, there have been times that I was not exactly smokin’ yet the ball ‘bounced off my shin guard’ and into the back of the net, yielding a win, and setting the crowd on fire. I am trying to embrace the unpredictable properties of this sport. They are, after all, what make it so hot! Great matches are like raging infernos as both spectators and players come ablaze in the heat of uncertainty. Fans erupt in response to great plays and players erupt in response to the fans. Can I thrive in this type of energy?

It does, however, take more than time to tame a fire. It takes patience, persistence, and, yes, power to tame my fears. A certain level of insecurity is good. I know that to play football the way I want, I have to use this fire for fuel. I’ve found that the harder I try and more determined I am, the more the game, with its frustrations and disappointments, heats-up my passion for playing. So, yes…fear may beget fear but from its embers…I will rise.

[Almost Off The Post!A List Of Anonymous Footballers’ Secret Fears:

- “Someone pulling down my pants for double butt cheek exposure.” HEADLINE: Full Moon at Valhalla.

- “Lack of identity without football.” The youth player.

- “Getting picked last for the team.” The veteran player.

- “Finally getting my picture in the paper… but then accused of steroids. Who knew I had that many muscles in my neck?!?!”

- “The camera catches my finest snot rocket of the year.” CAPTION: Only one snot on frame.

- “Going down in a game like I just got shot… with a leg cramp.”

– Using ‘shutter’ when I mean ‘shudder’ in my blog. Called out again. J


31. My Fair Trade Blog.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

[THE PITCH] A season has many highs and lows, wins and losses. The waves of energy, waves of wins, waves of goals come coupled with exhaustion, losing streaks, and dry spells.

Over the course of a season, an athlete can lose a lot. I shudder thinking about how my body has deteriorated. The muscles that were once strong and lean thanks to a level of weight lifting and fitness training impossible to maintain in season, now wear the black and blue markings of matches. I probably cannot jump as high as I could in March, or run as fast. The sharp shooting that results from hundreds of shots a day in the off-season wanes with fatigue. You can lose a lot mentally as well. The excitement of a promising season ahead is replaced by a mid-season grind and end-of-season stress.

But during this nine-month season, the longest of my career, the things I have lost do not even compare to the things I have gained. The list of benefits is infinite, including football savvy, match endurance, a fresh soccer perspective, and worldliness. The following are a few specific trade-offs that I feel pretty good about:

1)   What I’ve lost in muscle mass, I’ve gained in emotional strength.  Football showed me how happiness is the perfect foundation for, well… everything. Being in Sweden has taught me to build upon the positive moments in my life and in the game. When things go wrong, I can push off those stored positive moments and stay strong. There was a time when I really felt like winning was everything. But now I know that happiness is everything. Winning is simply one means to an end, but somewhere along the way I forgot that. I feel I am a better friend, teammate, and athlete because I am happier. Also, it is amazing how wide the net looks when you smile. When I let everything go and just enjoy the moment…success seems to follow.

2)   What I’ve relinquished in self-preservation, I’ve received in friendship. Over the last eight months living 7,000 miles away from home, I’ve made a fotbollsfamilj. I can’t describe how grateful I am to be on a team with great rapport and fun loving people. I have found friends that bring out the best in me, who are truly there for me. For example, after a frustrating game this past weekend, I talked to one of my teammates about my irritations and she helped me work through it. Although I know creating happiness is my responsibility, she reminded me that it’s not an easy thing to achieve alone. She offered to help me squeeze as much fun as possible out of my final weeks this season. In that light, a few of us are taking a short trip this “off-weekend.” … So, roadtrip, Stockholm, shopping, disco… here we come!

3)   What I have traded in over-zealousness, I’ve gained back (ten times over) in what I like to think of as wisdom. I’ve discovered what this sport is really about for me. While in the past I have been playing to hit certain bench-marks or score a certain number of goals, this year I have learned that there is only one truly rewarding endeavor: to push myself to be the best me. I know that it is the nature of sports to fight against each other in order to get to the top…to prove yourself to the world, but I have found that the only fight worth fighting is the battle against myself. After all, I am the one that set the bar and I am the one that keeps raising it.  I believe I am better than I was eight months ago, but more importantly…I am better than I was yesterday. No matter how political or an unfair the game can be, no matter how many goals you score or games you win or lose, justice always prevails in the battle to better yourself, and it’s a truly rewarding fight.

[Stoppage Time] I have to admit that I skipped over reporting about our loss to Malmö on October 7th because that was just infuriating, and I am choosing to black that game out of my memory. HA!

This Sunday, just two days after our big victory in Swedish Cup, we traveled to Linköping in a game that would most likely determine 3rd place. Our home game against Linköping this year was probably one of my favorite games of the season, as we won 6-0 and perhaps played our best game of football yet. On the other hand, playing Linköping away was quite the opposite.

When we found out we did not have the right kit and would be wearing green pennies over our uniforms, we should have recognized the bad omen for the… unfortunate game to come. I’ll spare you the details and just say that at times I felt as though we got sliced and served like Swiss cheese. 

But there is always a silver lining and in this case it came in the form of a lesson, or, multiple lessons. Furthermore, it is my personal challenge to fight the frustration and look on the bright side. Just days before the match, during shooting training, I was striking the ball very well. Then, of course, I started feeling sorry for myself (wondering when this would ever translate to the game), since missing long-range shots seems to be my specialty these days. Well, in the game I took two long-shot long shots and they both went soaring into the goal. Double HA!

Final Score:

Kopparbergs Göteborg 2 – Linköpings FC 3



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

30. Against The Odds.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

[THE PITCH] I’ve never heard a good victory story that just happened easily. Football is not like that. No success is like that. And great stories definitely aren’t like that! If someone says, “Hey, I was born talented!” or “ Of course we won. We were the better team…” most of us would think, “Boring!” or even … “Impossible!” It’s the trials and tribulations that make the triumphs…triumphant. Strains make success…sensational. Worrying makes winning…worthwhile… Okay, you get my point!

There are more than enough blessings in my life, and this team is one of them. I am in a positive environment, surrounded by good people. But on Thursday when we took the turf for the Swedish Cup Final against Tyresö FF, I must concede, we were the underdog.

We are a smaller team, with smaller numbers, with a smaller budget, from a smaller city. Our team isn’t studded with internationally renowned stars. However small we appear from the outside…we are big where it counts…at heart. But, as when David met Goliath, we knew, to be victorious, we would have to fight…and fight we did.

We fought as they danced over and around the ball and swarmed us like bees from all sides. We fought our way into double over-time, tied 1-1. We fought against a very talented Tyresö team. We fought against the odds. So, when I was fouled in the box, I heard the whistle, and I saw my teammate Marlene laughing as she strode up to take the penalty kick, I knew that all the fighting had paid off. Her enigmatic smile as she approached the penalty spot embodies the spirit of our irregular and tight knit team. At a mere 5’2”, she slung a shot with all her might and hit the Gol…iath between the eyes; capturing the GOLD for KGFC! To celebrate the feat…a small group of us took a small leap into the small river, that runs behind the small field in the small town of Gothenburg.

Speaking of the excitement of the match to the reporter from the local paper, Torbjörn joked, “It (the match) was not good for the heart”… I beg to differ. It is the stuff that keeps my heart beating.

[Off The Post!] Sometime long before I was born, my dad decided he wanted his children to call him Big Daddy. Although I am certain that neither of my sisters or I have EVER ONCE called him that, he signs off every message BD. Little does he know that we have actually embraced his BD nickname… Big Dodo, Big Dufus, Big Donkey… All perfectly appropriate ;)

Since an early blog where I wrote about my father, “he is a poet who knows it,” he has sent me a little poem before every game. Thought I’d share some of the more appropriate ones:

“Hey Mo, u money. So make like BD Brown Bear and go get da honey. Good luck manana. Much love, BD”

“Hey Christen... Listen. Go to goal and snatch der soul. Good luck manana. Much love, BD”

“So I say, hey hey, to let you know you are my bet, to be the greatest ever to hit the back of the net.”

“Brown Suga #9, kick me some behind. And remember, BD is wit ya.”

As ridiculous as it is, his short poems have become a staple in my pregame routine. Although games sometimes feel so serious, when I read his poems I laugh, smile, shake my head wondering WHERE IN THE WORLD I CAME FROM, and remember to have fun. After all it’s just a game!


29. My 'Rabbit Rabbit' Blog.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

[THE PITCH] On October 1st, I woke up in the morning and my first thought was, "Rabbit rabbit." ...

In college, one of my friends held firmly to the superstition that if the first thing you say on the first day of the month is, “Rabbit Rabbit”, good luck would ensue for the next 30 days. I woke up on that fateful morning wondering what I wanted out of my final month here in Gothenburg… other than some really good luck! J

Reading through my blogs this year, I've noticed a trend. Perhaps life is simply a series of second chances; cycles of learning opportunities, during which you attempt, fail, and attempt again. For me it seems that everyday is a restart.

The second half of the season has been a restart of its own sort. After six weeks of summer break, four players left and two players came, the team returned almost unrecognizable. While the first half of our season was an emotional and qualitative roller coaster of brilliant soccer and epic wins, followed by unnecessary and unacceptable defeats, August and September have been a steady production of victories (8-0-1). As Torbjörn (my head coach) put it, before we had moments where we played the best soccer of any team he had ever coached... and moments of the worst. Now, we are playing just good enough to win each game. But that's a victory in its own right.

It's really a remarkable story! It seemed like a loss when a few of or core players left and our roster shrunk to a mere 15—but we turned it into a gain. The small number actually allowed us to form a tighter group with a new attitude: a winner’s mentality. I am very much proud of that. Proud of what we've been through as a team over the last seven months and what we've accomplished.

Still, somehow, this part of my journey has been the most challenging. Perhaps as we near the end of the season, I am restless as I come closer to realizing what I set out to accomplish, but also potentially missing those marks.  Perhaps after the thrills of the Olympics, I'm anxiously waiting to hear about my future with the US national team. Perhaps it is the added stress of deciding what to do with 2013 after such an amazing 2012... But whatever it is, when I woke up the morning of October 1st. I knew it was time for yet another restart.

And that's where my baby sister Channing swooped down to save the day in the form of a "Healthy living challenge" proposal. In her own personal quest for joy and living to 120-years-old, she proposed that my two sisters and I begin a ‘course’ toward enlightenment. Since we Press women are all seasoned meditators, the first part was merely a rabbit rabbit restart to recommit to our daily Vedic sessions. The second part was a pledge to do 20 minutes to an hour of yoga four times a week. The fun part is that we would all “compete” to see who is the most dedicated Press sister… and we all know I like a little sisterly competition! Restart? Bring it on!

On the pitch, ‘restarts’ are those important moments after the whistle blows, when the game just begins to pick back up. With the right tools, these interruptions can be turned into successful restarts and result in goals. The same principles can be applied to make a successful restart both on and off the field. The keys are quite simple, very specific, and somewhat subtle.

First, you have to tune in…in meditation and in Yoga you tune into yourself and in football you must tune into the game. In both cases you have to be aware of what’s happened and alert to what is about to happen. Second, you have to take care of the small stuff to achieve the big stuff.  Focus on the little details like breathing in yoga. Restarts in football call for savvy play, including quick organization (as in marking and setting the wall), starting quickly on offense, or deterring quick restarts on defense. Third, you must live/act in the moment. A staple of meditation and yoga, staying present is imperative for success in football as free kicks and throw-ins are not the time to lament errant play. Forth, and last, you have to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity to restart. This seems obvious but it surprising how many of these opportunities go wasted because the person or team failed to recognize the significance of the moment.

While it may appear from the outside that the year was mostly smooth sailing from the “I'm-going-to-Sweden?!?” turn around, it actually was a constant struggle for happiness; an everyday battle for success and contentment; endless failing and endless pushing and endlessly wanting more. It has been a good fight: a battle to stay positive, keep the faith, and find my own happiness.

But the nice part is that I'm not fighting to find a "happy place" where I no longer have to work for my joy. Because the effort it takes to achieve anything and everything is what gives it it's value. More eloquently stated by Pele, "The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning."

[Stoppage Time] This past week we had two big games. Sunday was our Derby match versus fellow Gothenburg team Jitex. There is a lot of history between the clubs and it’s definitely the fiercest rivalry I've been a part of. After a 0-3 to 3-3 comeback tie last game, there seemed to be even more to prove this time around. But with first and second place out of reach, Damallsvenskan has taken a clear backseat to our other fall goals. Right now, our top priority is Champions League.

Wednesday, we played the return leg of the Champions League Round of 32. After scraping out a 1-0 win away, our team knew we had to take care of business. It was our 4th game in two weeks, but we looked very much forward to playing on our home field. Valhalla's perfect turf is a much better fit for our possession-oriented style of play.

Both games had added incentive to win. And both games, we knew we were the better football team. As my high school fitness coach Ed Daniels liked to say, "our best is good enough..." But being the better team and being the better team on a given day our two separate feats entirely.

So how do you prepare for high stakes games that you should win? We knew both teams would try to turn the game into a physical battle, since physicality is their strength. So it was or job to dictate the play and let the ball do the work. That was the intention and the execution. We continued our win-streak to seven games!

On the other hand, this week we play the leagues top two teams. Malmö in league and Tyresö for the Cup final; the latter being our priority. Preparing for these games has been entirely different in that we know that we have to bring both quality soccer and an additional bite to take down Sweden's top dogs!

Final Scores:
Kopparbergs Göteborg FC 3 – Jitex BX 1
Kopparbergs Göteborg FC 3 – ZFK Spartak 0 Highlights herehttp:/