“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.”- Serenity Prayer
[THE PITCH] I am learning a lot this year, as I stumble down my life path: realizing my power as both an athlete and human being. My experiences with soccer and living abroad are challenging me, and so, teaching me how far I can push my body, mind, and soul with the right tools. Although I firmly believe in my own ability to change both my environment and myself, I understand that there are times when life is like a game of Wheel of Fortune. I spin the wheel, but who has painted the board … Can I buy a vowel?
There are always power structures at play, but perhaps this game is more like Chess. Sometimes I am a Pawn, but even the Queen can be left at the mercy of her Knights. So, if I am not in full control of my opportunities/limitations and therefore my future, who is? Who sits on the other side of the board? In chess, like soccer, it’s pretty simple, you implement strategies to fight your opponent … to exhaustion … every game. In life, we are often left fighting "the man." When your adversary is as nebulous as that, it’s a tougher and often futile battle. Success, then, comes with finding that delicate balance… that thin line… between when to accept your circumstance and "reframe" them to make the best and when to strike back.
Each person’s life is defined by a unique realm of possibilities. I was blessed with a lot of opportunities. One of them, an education that taught me: 1) Anything is possible 2) Always fight "the man" 3) Question everything that comes from the top… down 4) Never give up. However, while on my quest for … well … everything, I have learned that sometimes enlightenment is more expedient than enterprise, acceptance more effective than avarice. More importantly, I’ve learned to spend my energy and put my attention preparing to seize the moment when it comes, rather than wondering and worrying about if that moment will come. Every thought spent stressing over that which I cannot control is a moment of groundwork lost.
This mindset is effective both on and off the pitch. Accepting the fact that I cannot control everything has made me a better footballer. On the field, I am one of 22 players, and much of what happens in a game is out of my jurisdiction. I’ve found it more valuable to stay ready for the next play, instead of stressing over the why’s and the how’s of the last one. I try to focus on being in the best position I can be in at any given moment. The key is accepting that sometimes the situation is “a given” (i.e. out of my control.) It seems simple, but it’s harder than it sounds; and it has made a big difference in my play. Less frustrated and more focused, when I do have a chance to make a play on the game, I am more adept to make it a successful one.
Soccer is a subjective sport with no uniform measuring sticks. That’s part of its charm. But as a player chasing a dream, I am left at the mercy of someone else’s opinion. For the first half of 2012, it seemed that an opportunity to try out for the Olympic team was one I would not be afforded. It was a hard pill to swallow. I dedicated myself even more wholly to my sport, swearing to do everything in my power to prepare for what, in my mind, were possible chances in 2013. I reminded myself that every second I spent thinking "what could I have done?" was one less rep, and with that mindset, my spirit could not be broken. You know how your keys always turn up the moment you stop looking for them? Well, when your keys are your dreams, finding them will bring you to tears even if the carpool has left without you. In the end, I feel like the attitude -- of acceptance, of patience, of focus -- really did put me in the best position when my chance with the national team came this April.
And now, I find myself a part of London 2012 named an alternate on Team USA. Ironically, I am the ultimate pawn, unable to earn the opportunity to play. I am thankful for this opportunity to learn, to grow, and to be a part of such an amazing international sporting event. From the sideline, I will not question when or how I will be called upon. Alternatively, I will spend my time, energy, and concentration preparing to be in the best position if the time arises. Once again, I play the game.