[THE PITCH: Blog 4] After my extended trip to Jacksonville, Fla., Nashville Tenn., and Helsinki, Finland, I was uncharacteristically exhausted and theatrically glum. Considering just how much I had enjoyed my time stateside, there was only one reason for my melancholy. Jetlag … DUH! I fled into my bedroom, shut of the lights, and with a maniacal grin, turned on mindless television for hours at a stretch under the pretense of “resting” and “recovering.” Yet somehow I still overslept three days in a row! (Much to the astonishment of my little penguin housemate, who was kind enough to wake me up just in the nick of time for training.) However, as I unpacked and attempted to settle back into my home and routine, I realized I had just 10 days until my next trip to Algarve, Portugal.
In Finland, I suffered a minor knee injury (a bust bursa), and to my dismay would be sidelined for a good part of my short time home. In the wake of such an exciting week in the U.S., I experienced a strong emotional letdown exacerbated by my inability to train. And, once again, “the little girl inside” reared her head and I responded to the situation by locking myself in my room. I declined invitations to spend time with friends and chose to stay in bed rather than watch practice in the cold. I racked my brain, searching for a way for me to “fix” the problem: just shake it off! But maybe turning to myself was the problem.
Then, like a well-aimed spitball on a school playground … it hit me! A blue mood and a week of rehab did not cause my excessive yawning or my excessive frowning. There was stress "bubbling up" from under the surface and my “chill” week gave me just the quiet time to hear it.
So, during practice as my teammates ran, kicked, and skipped merrily along, I ruminated upon my personal frustrations. Getting a call for a USWNT camp or tournament will always be a blessing in my life, but it will have a unique impact on my time abroad. The life of "an international footballer" -- in both senses of the term: as a player who plays abroad and a full team player competing internationally -- certainly ain’t easy! Missing training games and training sessions with my club team gives me anxiety. I don’t like to lose out on these opportunities to learn my teammates flow and style on the field, grow closer to my companions, and explore the new world in which I live. I’m getting impatient as these things develop sloooowly over time. Don’t get me wrong, there is no doubt in my mind that this is where I want to be in my life and career, but I will undoubtedly have to adjust to the new flow and rhythm to get the most out of both of my playing environments.
My knee didn’t recover as quickly as we had hoped so I had to sit out our match versus Umeå IK. Watching from the stands sometimes feels like being in detention while all of your friends are on the playground at recess. And while inherently frustrating for any player, today my stadium seat proved to be an ideal vantage point. The cold, crisp air blowing in my face was refreshing … awakening, in fact.
Whenever I watch football, I always envision myself out there on the field; whether I’m watching Real Madrid or my little cousin Max’s pee-wee soccer team. (Note: I might be “the pee-wee” playing in Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, but in the pre-school game, I’m “Ronaldo.”). Like the soccer moms of the world, I sometimes find myself kicking air when watching a scoring opportunity or experiencing the vicarious nervousness of the striker on a fast break. So, even though I was not actually on the turf on Saturday, I could feel the frustration emanating from the usually smooth running yellow machine that is Tyreso. There is actually a sign in our locker room that reads: A … Yellow Machine!” (An adjective is missing, here. but let’s just say, that inclusion of such a word would be grounds for serious detention at Lunada Bay Elementary School.) Well, far be it from me to dispute the graphic characterization of the usually tenacious "engine" that has rolled over more than a team or two in Damallsvenskan, But there are times when I picture this “yellow machine” more like the school transportation of my youth: so welcoming and reliable, I couldn’t wait to take my seat! On that particular day, however, unable to physically contribute, I played bystander as the wheels fell off the bus.
On the pitch (and off) when things go wrong, we often turn inward. When the pieces to the puzzle don’t fit together, we, as individuals, do our best to force them. Collaboration often seems like the more difficult option. However, as in the case of Tyreso vs. Umeå, the solution to a problem with flow and rhythm cannot be achieved through individual effort. When things aren’t going well, fixing what’s wrong requires trust, understanding, and simplification.
I have come to love the simplicity of many of my interactions in this English-is-a-second-language land. In the uncomplicated terms of a Kindergarten teacher speaking to her class, my teammate spoke about what to do when a great team is playing not-so-great, ‘if we just trust in a few players who know the game and know the team, then we will all know our role.” Hmmm… Maybe my first grade teacher’s comment, “Plays well with others” was the perfect report card after all.
Football is like the big yellow bus of life. Playing and riding are a lot more enjoyable as a group. And they both run much more efficiently with the proper alignment. Yes, there are going to be many bumps in the road, but learning to rely on one another is what makes the wheels on the bus go round and round…