WCSS Speech

Last night I had the privilege of speaking at the Western Canada Soccer Showcase run by girlsCAN Soccer Development.  The theme of the speech fit perfectly with what I'm trying to do with this blog, so I wanted to use this entry to share it. ________________________________________________________________

When Ciara begged me to be the keynote speaker at tonight’s event, after saying no several times due to prior commitments (not really, but I had to keep her on her toes) I finally said I’d do it.  My next thought was: what would I talk about?

I thought I could talk about working hard and putting in the extra effort; or making your dreams come true or not taking things for granted.  Then I thought well, those are things I’m sure you’ve all heard before… and I don’t want anyone falling asleep tonight.

So instead, I decided to talk about love.

Now, I know some of you might be thinking what Tina Turner was thinking in the early 80s – if you even know who Tina Turner is- but “What’s Love Got to Do With it??”

I’m not sure if Tina ever got her answer, but I’m hoping you will get yours right now.

Some people spend their whole lives looking for love. I didn’t know it until a few years later, but I was lucky enough to find it when I was five years old.

I was a shy kid until I started playing soccer.  It was the game that made me confident and outgoing and gave me swag.  The more I played the more these things became staples in my personality and with that, the love grew deeper.

I craved what soccer gave me and how it made me feel.  I wanted it all the time and when I was younger, it was all I did. .  And this made everything else in life so much easier.

When I was little, if I finished my homework I’d have more time to kick the ball around.  In high school if I didn’t go to school I wouldn’t be able to practice that day, and in college if I didn’t keep my GPA up, I wouldn’t even be on the team… so those things were always easy for me, because I had one goal in mind: to play.

I remember being in 8th grade and spending my Friday nights in a gym – training with three different teams for three hours back to back, every week. Nothing else appealed to me.

I soon caught on to the fact that what other people considered sacrifices (not hanging out with friends, missing school dances, not going on Spring Break) weren’t sacrifices for me.  If I missed soccer for something else, that was the sacrifice.

But what all this boiled down to was the love I had for the game.  When you love something, you put your whole heart into it; you put yourself out there for a possible disappointment.  It’s risky to love with your whole heart, because WHAT if you get let down? What if say, the love isn’t reciprocated?

With soccer – that happens all the time.

I’ve put in a lot of hours, juggling, kicking against walls, running, lifting, watching soccer on TV, analyzing my own games, rehabbing injuries, you guys all know what goes into playing.  But there’s that risk we take that – maybe we don’t win, or maybe you don’t score that goal or make that save, or maybe you don’t even make the team.  Those things are going to happen, but you have to believe that there’s more to it.

When I was 14 years old, I was absolutely gutted when all my friends were making the U-14 Regional Team and some even the U-14 US Youth National Team.  For a moment I thought that if I wasn’t making the team, I wasn’t good enough and I never would be. I was never discouraged enough though, to stop playing.  Because that love was still there.

I sometimes think how different my life would have been had I stopped playing at 14 and how much I would have missed out on… I’m always thankful I kept going.

But that would become a theme in my life – I didn’t make a Regional Team until I was 16; I didn’t make a Youth National Team until I was 21, I didn’t make it into camp with the Full Women’s National Team until I was 23 and I didn’t play professionally until I was 25.  So, it took me a while to do everything.  But with each team I made, I felt that satisfaction that I got back all that I put into the game.  The love was returned.

And now, I’m 27 years old, still playing and still loving the game and all that it does for me.  I wake up every morning and I do what I love for a living.  I don’t know how many people in the world can truly say that.

The reason I wanted to talk about love was because it doesn’t have to be just soccer.  Some of you will grow to learn that you love being a teacher, or a doctor or a musician.  If you love what you do, it makes everything else in life so much more worth it.

I’ve lived in five different countries around the world, been away from my friends and family for most of my life and missed out on a lot of things, but it’s always worth it because I’m playing soccer – but I won’t always get to do what I love because physically, it just won’t be possible. And although that is scary to think about, it will also open the door for something else.

I’ve met people in my life who say they don’t take risks because they don’t want to be disappointed if it doesn’t work out.  In my opinion, that’s no way to live your life.

I take a risk every single day that I walk out of my house with my backpack in my hand.  I take a risk pulling up to the gym or the arena or the field or the track.  Every time I slip my foot into a cleat and strike a ball or run a sprint, I’m taking a risk.  I’m risking putting my whole heart into something, with a possibility of receiving nothing in return.  I’m building myself up with so much hope all the time and so much belief in myself that it’s very possible that it all comes crumbling down on me one day…but that, to me, is living.

That, to me, is what love is all about.

I remember living in Brazil when I was playing for Santos FC – the same club that Pele` played for.  I had to pay my own way down there and would have my food and living arrangements taken care of.  That was all I knew.

I lived in a house with 20 other girls on the team… shared a room with two sets of bunk beds and three other girls… and $20 in my bank account. None of the girls spoke English well enough to hold a conversation and we were only able to use the Internet certain hours during the day.  I had no cell phone or car and the area wasn’t safe enough to walk around alone.

For Thanksgiving that year I had a chicken leg, rice and beans.  A far cry from what my family was enjoying at home.  I felt like I had no one and I wrote in a blog during that time a quote from The Fray – “when you are older you will understand”.  Because at the time it was hard.  I knew I loved the game and would do anything for it – but it was another situation where I thought I wasn’t getting back what I should.

Two months later, after three months of living in Brazil, I had a combine for WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer league in the States).  I did well enough at the combine to be the 17th overall pick in the WPS Draft that year.  That’s why I went to Brazil.  That’s why I had to go through the bad – to get to the good.

And that’s why love is such a difficult emotion.  But something that makes so much more sense to me because of soccer.

If you love something enough, and you commit yourself to that love, then anything is possible.  No one ever said it would be easy; they just said it would be worth it.