Sometimes when I’m facing uncertainty or upheaval, I try to think back to what I expected life to be like as a professional soccer player when I first made that my goal. The truth is, I didn’t think much about the actuality of the profession. I remember when W.U.S.A., the first women’s professional soccer league in the United States, folded my father let me know that he would help to support me financially while I continued to pursue my dreams if after college there was no way for me to make a living playing and training. I think about that conversation often and how fortunate I am to be employed doing what I love.
Being a professional soccer player has afforded me invaluable opportunities and adventures. But with the pros (pun intended) come some cons.
There is a lack of stability that goes hand-in-hand with the lifestyle. I am in a continual tryout where I must prove myself. The discrepancy between where I am and where I want to be all too often bares its angry teeth and brings me to tears. I barely get settled in a place before upheaval strikes again and it’s time to move.
Love the journey.
Sometimes I wonder how I can possibly love this journey when the journey seems to be my most formidable opponent. It certainly can feel a lot less lovable than when I first coined that motto and jotted it down in my journal.
I waited by the phone on Jan. 2, eagerly anticipating a call that would inform me to which N.W.S.L. team I would be allocated. Would I be staying close to home or moving across the country? Would I live in market only during the season, or want to stay all year and make it my new home? Who would be my next teammates?
In the phone conversation with Commissioner Cheryl Bailey, the next chapter of my life was revealed. Once again, the excitement of a fresh start has me loving the journey. I am thrilled to be a member of the Washington Spirit! I will finally be moving out of my parents’ place and hoping to forge some stability in this tumultuous lifestyle. While I will no longer have my mom there to make my lunch, Spirit Coach Mark Parsons has been assembling a fabulous team and I have a lot of friends in the D.C. area.
In the next few weeks I will pack up and move. I will be take my belongings — my U.N.C. pillow and Kopparbergs/Goteborg F.C. drinking glasses among them — but also the cumulative effects of my previous experiences and emotions. At times the journey has dragged me down, devastated and exhausted me, but I am never left jaded. My intrinsic inspiration keeps my spirit resilient and fuels my relentless fire.
At times I may wonder how to love the journey, but it is this inspiration that makes the journey worth loving in the first place. All I need are a few momentary reminders. They come in the form of the excitement of a fresh start with the Washington Spirit; the courage it takes to not believe anyone who doesn’t believe in me; my disappointment that I’m not as fast as Sydney Leroux or as quick as Megan Rapinoe turned to sheer gratitude after seeing a woman in a wheelchair; a stack of essays that an under-11 girls’ soccer team wrote about me and my career.
How can I not love the journey?
Midfielder Yael Averbuch, a native of Montclair, N.J., is part of the player pool for the U.S. women’s national team and now a member of the Washington Spirit of the N.W.S.L.