Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure
I am having a difficult time finding the words to begin this final blog. I have started typing numerous times only to hit delete and move on to something else. It is strange to think that I have put on my gloves for the last time, tied my cleats for the final training, and played in my last competitive game. I can’t put into words how it feels to know that this experience, this relationship, however you can describe the last twenty years of soccer in my life, has come to an end.
Where do I begin, how do I even start? Truthfully, I have no idea. It would be easy to say nothing, write nothing, and simply move on. Because truthfully, somewhere inside me (even though I am not the greatest at this whole blog thing) I am grateful for the chance to put into words how I feel about the end of the longest relationship I have ever had. It was not a simple one. It was not an easy one of great love and little bumps. Honestly it was the opposite: never easy and always a fight. It has always taken work, sacrifice, and the probably a little too much blood, sweat, and tears.
But would I change it? If I knew at the beginning, if I was aware of all the pain, heartbreak, and disappointment this sport would bring me, would I have gone down a different path? I could have. Being born with a swimmer’s body and an aptitude for basketball, I could have pursued other sports that I had more natural potential to be successful at. They would have come easier, flowed more effortlessly, and led to other possibilities.
But I wouldn’t change it.
From an early age, for whatever reason, I have been captured under the spell of soccer. There was never another sport, and believe me, I played all of them, that brought me such joy and happiness. It has held my attention the longest: always been there for me after dalliances into other athletic realms. It has always been fun, it has always been a challenge, and it as a sport has always brought out the best in me. It’s showed me the power of a positive attitude above all else. It has given me some of the hardest challenges of my life, but it has also given me the most amazing experiences, friendships, and memories.
At the beginning of it all
Through all these years of playing soccer, I have come to know myself as a person and been able to create a clearer picture of what kind of person I want to be. In high school, I missed out on homecomings and social events playing at club tournaments across the country in order to earn a scholarship to the university of my choice. In college, I learned just how far I could push myself when my coaches implemented fitness testing that I thought I could never pass. Overseas, I taught myself how to deal with teammates and coaches treating me like a fool with a condescending manner because French isn’t my first language. Through it all, I have fought for myself, did what I thought was right, and never sacrificed my principles, even when it was not the easy way out of situations.
As I have slowly started to tell people that I am retiring, the most common response is, but you’re so young! You still have some great years left! And I agree, maybe that’s possible. When I first decided to pursue playing abroad, I (being the task-oriented person that I am) made a list. I made a list of all things I wanted to accomplish if I was going to really make this dream a reality. Set a record. Play in a country where English is not the first language. Earn a professional contract. And so on it went. Some serious, some silly, but everything on my list held some significance or importance. And that list, as I look over it today, worse for the wear but still in one piece after traversing the globe, sits with a little check mark next to every single entry. What more could I ask for?
When I look back at all ups and downs of the past couple years, I am at peace. Even at the worst moments: when I thought I would never get a chance to show my colleges coaches that I could be a starting keeper, when my team got relegated last season, this year when I had my first serious injury in almost a decade, there is still a constant theme. I still loved the game. No matter what, stepping onto the field for training or a game, I still found so much joy in the most simple of exercises. I am forever grateful that no matter what challenges got thrown my way, my taste for the game has never soured and my attitude has never waivered. In some ways, all of the disappointment and failure I have experienced has only made the success and positives that much sweeter. You can only come to the morning through the shadows.
So again, why now? Why choose to walk away now? I knew even back in July before preseason started that there was a very high possibility this would be my last season playing abroad. I knew from the start that this experience was never going to be a life-long career. I always looked at this as an experiment with a finite timeline, one that came with an expiration date if you will. My team achieved the next-to-impossible this season, staying clear of the relegation zone in the first year after being promoted. We did so despite all the incredible setbacks, drama, and problems that were put in our path.
The time has come to take on a new challenge! It’s time to walk away from the sport I love on my own terms, in my own way. I am incredibly grateful for everything I have learned over the long course of my relationship with soccer. And I am forever in its debt for all it has given me. A scholarship to one of the best universities in the world. The opportunity to travel all over Europe. The ability to become fluent in a second language (but really, NEVER saw that one coming!).
While wrapping up this experience abroad, I have had a lot of time to reflect on what it has meant to me. Truth be told, everything about playing abroad would be worthless if I didn’t have an amazing support system to share it with. This journey would not have been possible without my incredible family and friends. Even on the worst days, their belief and unwavering support has been my shining beacon.
I will forever be in debt to my parents, who sacrificed so much for me to play soccer and pursue it as far as I did. They have driven all across the country to summer tournaments, bought countless pairs of gloves and cleats, and watched at least one thousand games. They have each endured tearful phone calls when I thought I had had enough, been there after an especially hard loss, but equally been there to share my joy at a win or receiving an award. My sister has been there for me every step of the way, and there’s no way I could have come so far without her. Even this year, with nine hours of time difference between us, she is always the first to ask about a game or how things are going.
My Scottish teammates and my French host family after at match!
Thanks to all of the teammates and friends I have made along the way. I have become a better person because of all you have taught me and showed me, not just about the game of soccer but also about life and what it means to be a good friend. You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.
And finally, I want to thank Gina West and Women’s Soccer United for allowing me a platform to share my life over the past couple years. I know that sometimes posts were few and far between, but I have appreciated the opportunity to share my views with the greater soccer community. I hope that in some way I have helped grow the game and add a different perspective to women’s soccer. Thank you, thank you!
As I have stated numerous times already, I am at peace and ready to move on. It’s time to take on a new challenge and start the next chapter of my life. I am not sure where it will take me, or what obstacles it will bring me, but I am excited to see where it takes me.
And so, like all good things, this too, must come to an end. I am so lucky to have had the experience of playing abroad and following my dreams, and if I have inspired at least one other person to do the same, then it has all been worth it.
Peace, love, and to the next chapter,
Professional goalkeeper for ASPTT Albi in the French Division 1. Previous player at Foot Féminin Yzeure, Forfar Farmington FC (Scotland SWPL) and the Houston Aces (USA WPSL). Inquisitive adventurer uniting my first great love, football, with my passion for exploring. Proud alumna of Rice University (Go Owls!)