A Valentine to Mom and Dad (Mostly Dad)

DURHAM, N.C. — As I threw my bag of balls and backpack over a fence, and proceeded to jump it to train on a muddy, middle school field Monday morning, I laughed to myself. Not because I am a professional player and have access to almost any facility, and here I am sneaking onto this tumbledown field that I happened to see while driving by; not because as I jumped over the fence, my shoes got lodged in the mud/straw mixture that was covering what should have been grass; but because I thought, “if my dad were here, he would be jumping this fence right along side me.” I feel strongly that he did these kinds of things with me when I was younger. Both of my parents instilled in me the joy of being creative and finding places to train. They are distance runners, and any time our family went anywhere — vacation or a soccer tournament — the first thing they would do is scope out a route to do their run. To this day, anywhere I go with my dad, we identify cool places to kick a ball around … maybe a lit parking lot, tennis court or a small patch of grass with a brick wall near it.

I learned the art of making it work not because I “should” or “have to,” but because that is one of the things I love most about my job and the sport I play. I don’t need a pristine, grass field. I thoroughly enjoy days like Monday when I find a random “field” (if you can call it that), pull my car to the side of the road, and lace up my boots. And I would have never known that joy or appreciated those moments if it had not been for my dad.