Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
The Little Prince(ss)
by Christen Press, November 4th, 2012 5:12PM
Subscribe to Soccer America Daily

TAGS:  americans abroad, sweden


“If you can dream — and not make dreams your master…” -- Rudyard Kipling

[THE PITCH: Blog 33] When I was 14 years old, I played this game with myself. On the spur of the moment, I would come up with a personal challenge -- if I can stop that ball before it crosses the line … if I can jump over three cracks in the street … if I can swim to the end of the pool in the next minute -- I’ll win the USYSA Golden Boot Award and a national championship with Slammers, my club team. None of these mini-trials helped build the skills I would need to achieve my goal. None of these small self-set dares even proved that I had what it takes to succeed. I knew this, but I played anyway, hoping that a greater force would send me a signal…

At 14, my soccer goals were my life; my life force. With each inhale I breathed in new hope, and with each exhale I let go of some of my insecurity as I got closer to achieving my goals. Winning meant I was a winner. Falling short meant I was a loser, as simple as that.  I still have the slip of paper from a Panda Express fortune cookie I opened before that year’s Cal South State Cup finals. It reads, “A tropical destination is in your near future.” I remember, vividly, our team manager “crowning” us with beautiful orchid leis after the regional finals in Hawaii. We ran our winning streak all spring, traveling from State Cup in California to Nike Cup in Oregon, to Regionals on Oahu, with a stop in Gothenburg, Sweden, for The Gothia Cup World Championships, then directly to the National Championships in Maryland.

Having “all of my dreams come true” that summer was a magical and unparalleled experience in my life. We were winners! I expected the world to stop to give us time to celebrate our triumph, and for a moment, my little world did stop. My coach jumped up and down. My dad cried. My mom danced. And my team did all three while singing in a huddle, “We are the champions!” I also remember that on the flight home, I had the strangest feeling. Is that it? If all my dreams had come true, what do I do now? Back to school there was homework and exams.  Winning was supposed to change everything. Monday came around, but it was just another Monday.

Over the years, I’ve won a lot … I’ve lost a lot. And my National Championship dream would take an even bigger stage at the NCAA National Championships. It seems that at 19, my goals in soccer were still my life. In my third year of college I threw up the night before the NCAA tournament started; I was so nervous. I remember crying, out of both frustration and relief, after almost every game we played that season. But cry does not begin to explain what I did after we lost both my junior and senior year in the finals … Oh Kipling … If only I knew then.

That final loss also marked the end of my career at Stanford -- no more chances to win with this group of teammates … of friends. Sorrow appears as a much more intense emotion than bliss. In my despair I felt that, surely, the world would pause now … not to celebrate but to mourn. But when Monday rolled around, it was just another Monday.  With the passage of time, we get older … not necessarily wiser. Battle scars and trophies are proof that “we were there.” But they somehow fail to validate the experience in a way that is meaningful, let alone profound. So, how do we determine what really matters?  I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure the answer lies closer to that scar on my right shin than on the shelf next to my trophies (which, of course, my dad has collected, shined, and displayed in his bar in the living room.)

After 16 years of a rigorous formal education, you would think I would be able to understand these complex matters … ha! Maybe it’s true that all we need to know we learned in kindergarten. Hmmm …  I recently read the children’s classic, Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which illuminates my point … simply but wonderfully. In the story, the little prince encounters a king, a drunkard, a vain man, and a businessman. Each one was busy trying to prove himself by doing his respective job of ruling, drinking, garnishing admiration, acquiring wealth … scoring goals, winning games. In their quest for success, they all seemed to have lost track of their purpose, the true meaning of their tasks. Their identity was so tied up in their work that they had forgotten how to live outside their work.

Ironically, in a moment of self-actualization the little prince discovers that dedication, even to a futile task, is what gives things their value. He states to a bed of identical roses, “You’re not at all like my rose … You’re lovely, but you’re empty. One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important that all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I sheltered behind a screen. Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.”

While scoring goals and winning games are lovely to look at, those “roses” are empty on their own. I’ve realized that the emotional aftermath of big wins is the same as the emotional fallout of big losses … temporary. What actually sustains and enriches is the effort put forth … the investment. After 14 years of youth soccer, four years of college, and (almost) two years as a professional, I still must try hard to not allow my football dream to be my master. After all, my career is not my identity; but my goals are important to me because I’ve watered them … I’ve tended them. That said, from winning I’ve learned to dream big and rejoice freely and from losing I’ve learned to how to get up, brush myself off, and forgive. Assimilating these lessons is how I can still play the game … the application of these lessons off the pitch … priceless.

Stoppage Time:

The end is near! Last Sunday marked our final home Damallsvenskan match this season. The air at Valhalla has begun to feel the same way it did when I arrived in Sweden last February -- crisp, cold, chilling. The blow dryers have been brought into the locker room to warm-up our toes. And while the end seems to resemble the beginning in a lot of ways, the once unfamiliar turf now feels like the only truly comfortable stomping grounds for my worn-out cleats… and now I can actually pronounce Valhalla (sometimes.)  

Our match versus Örebro might seem of little importance. We weren’t gunning for gold, and we had Champions league the following Wednesday to worry about. But its insignificance in league standings allowed me to concentrate on another aspect of my football experience. After nine months, I am now familiar with this field that has become my weekly battleground, at ease in the locker room that has become my home away from home, and comfortable with my teammates that have become my friends … my fotbollsfamilj.

I never thought I would say that 0 degrees Celsius, artificial turf, shorts hanging down to my knees, a hair-sprayed bun jutting out of my head, being the lone forward in a 4-5-1 formation, and pre-game talks in Swedish, would be normal to me, but on Sunday, they were. They are. And with that thought, I am committed to finishing the season with a smile on my face … no matter which way the cold wind blows.

Final score: Kopparberg Göteborg FC 2 – KIF Örebro DFF

  1. George Hoyt
    commented on: November 5, 2012 at 7:31 p.m.
    Such a sublime and comforting maxim of life- this too shall pass, good or bad, frivolous or grave. I am grateful for your willingness to share your thoughts. Though "Monday" will most certainly follow each event or season or passage of life or era, how important to have had the moment. Here,here!
  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: November 6, 2012 at 2:47 a.m.
    Dear Ms Press Thanks for a remarkable series of columns. Please work on your one-touch and field vision, cuz the US Women need you in middle. Just ain't been the same since Loudy Foudy hung them up. All the best.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent Soccer America Daily
What They're Saying: Franz Beckenbauer    
"Carlos Alberto was like a brother to me, one of my best friends." -- Former German ...
MLS: Pending Barnetta exit adds incentive for Union    
Of the 12 playoff qualifiers, Philadelphia compiled the fewest points (42) and drew a daunting match ...
What They're Saying: Sacramento planning and design commissioner Cornelious Burke    
"This project in my opinion is a game changer." -- Sacramento planning and design commissioner Cornelious ...
USL Expansion: Tampa Bay and Ottawa leave NASL    
As the USL and MLS grow, the NASL shrinks. From its membership of 12 teams for ...
MLS Moves: Jahn's goals net him new contract in Columbus    
A rough season for Crew SC did yield some hope for the future, and as part ...
MLS Playoffs: Teams limp into Knockout Round    
Between them, the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake have made 11 MLS Cup appearances and ...
Video Pick: Carlos Alberto's wonder goal    
Carlos Alberto, who died at age 72 on Tuesday, scored one of the greatest World Cup ...
Video Pick: Sweet solo strike from Leipzig    
One of the reasons newly promoted RB Leipzig is only two points behind Bundesliga leader Bayern ...
U.S. Abroad: Big night for Americans in DFB Pokal    
Bobby Wood scored two goals for Hamburg, his first since the second week of the Bundesliga ...
Double DUII arrests add to Portland's nightmare week    
In the space of a week, the Portland Timbers, the 2015 MLS champions, failed to reach ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives