30 Years Later

In the fall of 1989, a few months after the release of Batman (1989), a conspiracy began. I was 5 years old at the time and I didn’t know what the word conspiracy meant. But I do now. And I see it all very clearly.

The Alchemist made this easier to explain. “And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I have felt this for 30 years.

My parents put me in soccer when I was 5. I remember my first practice on a grass field in the back of a community college in North Haven, Conn.

The first few years of my playing days, I played soccer like everyone else did. Casually. For fun. I went to practice. Because it wasn’t training yet. It was practice. It was a hobby. I wore my shin guards over my socks. And cleats from Bradlees. My family was adept in areas like hockey, basketball and oddly enough, Jai alai.

Not soccer.

They knew nothing about soccer. So, from the start I knew more than they did about the sport. It was weird to know more about something than your family, especially at a young age. It still is to an extent.

As I grew, this hobby became an obsession. My mom told me that around 8 or 9, things changed. She doesn’t give me the details that I crave. She makes claims like “the 90s were a blur,” and “I don’t know what I did yesterday,” but she says it became serious; she says I couldn’t miss practice.

I remember some things. Being in my front yard with the ball. I didn’t have cones. Or videos. Or a personal trainer. Just one ball and me.

I watched VHS tapes of old World Cups. I can’t tell you how many times I watched the 50 Greatest Goals of the World Cup.

In 1994, I vowed to never hit a PK over the crossbar in a game. I never did.

I started counting my juggles and becoming consumed with numbers. I have pieces of paper with random numbers on it and then crossed off. I have pages of games that I played, goals I scored and assists I had. Then at the bottom the totals are all added up.

I remember going to soccer camps and being nervous every time, almost to the point of not wanting to go. My mom would push me to go. To try it. I never wanted to leave by the end of the week.

I remember people telling my parents I would get a scholarship to play in college. When I was 10. I wanted to go to UNC like everyone else. I wanted to be on the National Team, like everyone else.

But I didn’t think about that stuff from day to day. All I thought about was the ball. I just wanted the ball.

During these years, I celebrated Halloween by wearing the same costume almost every year. Batman. I had to be Batman.

(Exceptions included the year my dad hand-made a Marvin the Martian costume and being a Ninja Turtle once or twice).

I had no clue why I felt drawn to this fictional character. He was like my first hero. He was so cool. And dark. And mysterious. He would often save the day. Beat the bad guys.

I don’t have a childhood explanation for it. But my adult explanation is that he lived two lives. And I could relate to that. He would save the day. And I wanted to relate to that.

During the day, I went to school. I was social. I had friends. I did homework. I played. But then a switch flipped and I was a soccer player. Consumed. Obsessive. Intense. Scoring goals for fun. Winning games for my teams. Feeling untouchable at times.

I was two different people. I was living two different lives.

Like most kids from the 80s, I played my favorite sport in high school. I was good. Unlike most kids from the 80s, I got a scholarship to play that sport for free in college.

High school really showed me how different I was. The morning after prom, my mom picked me up at a hotel room at 6 to take me to a tournament. I didn’t care that everyone was going to the beach. I could flip the switch when I wanted to.

College was fun. I played well. I scored goals. I remember driving in my car on campus after we won our Elite 8 game to go to the Final Four. I felt like I was on top of the world for a brief moment.

It was at Penn State that I realized this obsession was going to become a career. The switch was almost always on.

When I graduated from Penn State, there was no pro league in the US. I played in the WPSL for a few years. Then headed to Finland to get paid to play for the first time.

I was officially a pro. It was 2008. There was just one side to me at this point. And it stayed that way for 12 years.

Twelve years, 14 teams and 6 countries later and here I am. It is time to flip the switch back a little.

I didn’t think I would “get around” so much. I didn’t think I would tear my ACL. I definitely didn’t think I would never recover from it. I didn’t think I would be cut so many times. I didn’t think I would sit the bench so much. I didn’t think I would have such a hard time leaving my family all the time. I didn’t think about the bad things that would happen.

When I started, I thought two things: one was that I was going to be very successful and two was that I was going to love getting to play soccer every day. Both were true, but not in the way I expected.

The most important thing I want everyone to know is this. I didn’t have the perfect pro career on paper. I didn’t achieve all of my goals. I didn’t make much money. But it was beautiful. It was all so beautiful. There is so much beauty in imperfection. I doubt I would have really known that unless I played the game the way I did.

So, stopping my journey, here, with all those games and training sessions behind me, is ok. I am ok. I cried a few times, but I think it’s just because change is hard in general. Not because my pro soccer career is over.

In my mind, retiring from pro soccer was dramatic.

In reality, it’s not.

It happened in similar fashion to when Forrest Gump stopped running in the movie:

“I’m pretty tired now, think I’ll go home now.”

“And just like that, my running days was over.”

I’m not sure what comes next exactly. I will always be a fan of the game. I will always play the game and be open to training and games and pickup and anything else people have going on.

I will put a lot of my heart and soul into Duktig Brand, because I have been able to combine two things I’m dearly passionate about (soccer and writing) to create a company I’m really proud of.

I will help players reach their goals. I will be a mentor. Nah, I hate that word. I will be someone that young players can relate to and reach out to and get help from… any age, any level.

If I look at my life as a room as described in my favorite book Letters To a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, then my soccer career has afforded me to know only a small section of “my room” which he refers to as who we are inside. But now that I am basically free to roam, I am also free to get to know other parts of my “room”. This is of course scary, but also exciting. I want to know other parts of my room. I need to kind of get to know the Bruce Wayne side a little better.

I think the fact that this is both scary and exciting is probably a good sign. One or the other would likely mean I wasn’t ready for it. The combo of the two makes me think it’s a good time.

So, here is a huge, huge thank you to every single person who has been a part of this. There are so many people. Coaches. Teammates. People I’ve met along the way. So many teams. So many places. So much love. I think of my life as the movie Big Fish. It doesn’t sound real when I tell people sometimes. It was all pretty magical. And now it all exists in the form of the person I am today.

Finally, I couldn’t have done any of it without my family.

My biggest fans. They know I-80 in Pennsylvania as well as any truck driver knows it. They would wake up early on weekends to listen to Danish, Swedish, Finnish commentators say a bunch of gibberish for 90 minutes and randomly chime in with a “Tiffany Weimer”. They came to games when they knew I wouldn’t play. They talked shit on all the coaches I’ve had (many deserved it). They did it all. And they are sad to see me stop.

I remind them who Brett Favre is.

They get it. I hope you do too.

My grandma said this the day I told her I was going to retire, “thank you for giving ME so much all of these years… I never would have met so many people, and saw so many places if it wasn’t for you.”

I cried. I didn’t expect that.

But I have learned that supporting people in their journey to achieve their dreams is one of the best moves you can make as a human. We are all here doing whatever it is we think we’re supposed to be doing. We can’t do it alone. We need each other. It works both ways.

Plus, there is literally so much upside to following your dreams, to doing what you enjoy doing.

And that is all really.

Soccer is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

And this above all else will hold true: I will still meg the shit out of everyone. For as long as I’m physically capable. This was my calling in life, I found it, I answered, and I will never feel sorry for doing it as long as I live.

I have loved every second of it.

I hope I played even a small part in others loving it too.

So, thank you for your support and for reading this. I am eternally grateful for your time and attention.