[THE PITCH]I have a secret. In 9th grade, I failed the physical education exemption examination. Even the cheerleaders were able to pass the 10-minute mile run and skip PE… But I was required to participate in three separate high school sports all because I could not touch my toes.
In college, when someone told me that inflexibility runs hand in hand with speed, instead of scrutinizing the theory, I just ran with it. Hmmmm.
About the same time I stopped (… OK, tried to stop) eating grilled cheese sandwiches with extra butter for lunch, I started (… OK, attempted to start) getting more cut at the gym, and dedicated myself to making healthy lifestyle choices (… OK, OK, I admit that is a stretch…), I simultaneously acquired a natural nemesis in the form of tight hammies! (… and tight hips, tight lower back, tight calves … Essentially, I was about as flexible as a robot.)
|With my parents. Stockholm|
So, it looked like this not-so-well-oiled machine would have to spend some quality time in the offseason limbering up. Twenty minutes a day of stretching in the hot tub is not so much to ask, right? Right. As you may be aware, the most challenging aspect of any healthy living plan occurs in the first few weeks; the adjustment period, when there are no visible perks such as getting thinner or faster, let alone becoming flexible. During that time it seemed that the only things stretched out were my patience and conviction, and both were on the verge of snapping. But I pushed and pulled on…albeit gingerly. I never realized just how close my head could get to my knees if I got my mind behind it.
Well… after 45 days of stretching, at the age of 23, I touched my toes for the first time in 10 years, and that was all the motivation I needed to kick into full gear. Progress is a powerful promoter. Not only was it self-enforcing, but also it was inspiring. I felt so empowered that I began a strict diet and my body became leaner, added 20 minutes of agility drills to my daily workouts and I starting moving quicker, added 20 minutes of skill work to my routine and was becoming more and more comfortable on the ball. I was learning the lesson that I can do anything with patience and practice.
Yes, some people are born more flexible, stronger, faster and sometimes it's good to focus on your strengths and just accept shortcomings. However, through a wider angle, I saw a glimpse of how much more I could squeeze out of my own body.
As you have probably guessed, I had to trim down my routine, as there are only so many hours in the day. It seems that now, my body is flexible but not my schedule. Lately, I’ve been experiencing a difficult time in the season. With some bad timing on top of exhaustion, it’s safe to say this break came at the right time in my life. Still, I’m counting on the self-assurance I’ve gained from "power stretching" to pull me up from this mental slump. When things begin to drag, I focus on the small stuff that is in my control to put the pep back in my step, starting with a simple stretch.
For that time in my life that I was a "machine," I felt invincible and limitless. In a lot of ways, I still do today. I stretched out my body and my mind, and in doing so, I flexed my power to affect my life. Nothing is out of my reach!
Tuesday marked the team’s last game before a six-week Olympic break. I was excited to play against one of Allsvenskan’s top teams Tyresö and in front of my family. For me, my family watching always makes football seem infinitely more important. I guess a lot of the fun in being a professional athlete is to be able to bring people, and especially the ones you love, joy and pride.
However, I have been struggling with a strained groin and could not play many minutes in the match. Coming into the final minutes of an intense match is an interesting experience and takes a totally different mentality and understanding as a player. There is a momentum and feeling already established on the field, and a substitute's job is to change that balance to the benefit of their team. There is no time afforded to get comfortable, taking some simple touches to settle in. Sitting on the sideline watching my team made me want to play to the point I felt a bit desperate and completely antsy. My team kept quality possession and took the lead, going into half up 1-0. Halfway through the second half, however, the tide seem to have turned, and I entered the game just after we went down 1-2.
I came on the field eager to run, kick, and fight, and that’s what I did, but to no avail. It was a sad loss: in front of my family, our last match for a long time, and the final game for one of our center backs Jane Törnqvist. At 37, Jane retired and just left for a spiritual trip to India. Over the last four months, I have come to think of Jane as both a good friend and a strong role model. She is one of the most grounded people I’ve ever met. And she will be missed. Our next match is Aug. 18, and there is much to be done before stepping back on the pitch in my KGFC jersey.
Göteborg FC 1- Tyresö FF 3
Rookie for life, Christen Press