[THE PITCH: Blog 31]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.
|Christine Press, Anita Asante, Yael Averbuch|
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. Soccer 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 fotbollsfamilij. 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, road trip, Stockholm, shopping, disco… here we come!
3) What I have traded in over-zealousness, I’ve gained back (10 times over) in 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.
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 third 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 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