PISCATAWAY, N.J. — I forgot how much fun it is to play at Yurcak Field in front of a home crowd! As I drove up the gravel driveway and into the parking lot for Sky Blue F.C.’s home opener last Sunday, I had this eerie feeling that no time had passed and we were picking up right where we had left off at the end of last summer. I walked into the familiar locker room, the uniforms hung in their usual places and sat in the same seat I had last year. But as much as it was all so much the same, it was also different.
None of the players who had sat alongside me on the far side bench are still on the team. I went to take my jersey off its hanger and I took the No. 13, rather than No. 10. I looked one more time at the lineup, and felt proud to see my name — quite a different start from last year’s home opener when I didn’t see the field. Despite these obvious differences, there was also an intangible change in atmosphere. There is a confidence about our team this year. It comes from a combination of factors. In part, it is that we are defending W.P.S. champions, but more that we know we are well prepared and each of us understands, and is capable of, our individual role. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of the tension from the previous season — the pressure of constant sub-par performances, both individual and collective.
But all it took was for Rosana to play our team’s ritual Brazilian song, and all the good, funny memories rushed back. Even as I write, I realize how scattered my thoughts were at the time. As I fought back some unpleasant memories and tried to move forward to a fresh start, it was a sentimental moment playing again in our home stadium.
I lay on the locker room floor for a few minutes, with my legs elevated on the wall. Hanging above me was a poster titled, “Moments.” It’s funny how sometimes you see or hear only what you need and the timing couldn’t be better. I’ve read this quotation more than once, and even have the same poster at home, but it wasn’t until reading it then in the locker room that it really hit home for me. It’s much longer than this, but here’s the gist of it:
“In every game there are moments that define us. The moment the ball is in front of you. The moment it goes by you — the moment it hovers in front of the goal. … How do these moments define you? … The time is today, the opportunity is now, the moment is yours. Take it. …”
– Trevor Moawad
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of the day, the pressure looming from last year, the family and friends in the crowd, TV cameras, coaches — but the quotation on this poster made complete sense and reminded me of the importance of being here, now.
In every aspect of life it’s so easy to get caught up in past emotions or future worries, but I’ve become a lot more aware and appreciative of the instants that ground me, and bring me fully into the present. This was one of those moments. It freed me to enjoy what was going on simply for what it was — music and hanging out in the locker room, a warm-up that we’ve done many times, listening to the national anthem and feeling thankful, noticing an interesting cloud and the pretty color of the sky, playing the game I love under the lights in front of a home crowd — ,and nothing more than that.
We went up, 1-0, against the Chicago Red Stars in the sixth minute of the game, thanks to a great finish from Tasha Kai. That took some of the pressure off of us, but we made the mistake of sitting back a little too much after that, so our team’s rhythm and possession struggled a bit. We were able to hold off the Red Stars for the rest of the game, though, and it was a great feeling to start the season with a win. It took us several games last year to get three points! I played 65 minutes at center mid, and although I was disappointed to come off, I know that it’s a long season. Last season my confidence struggled, so this game was very important for me to feel that I can be effective and make things happen. I did have that feeling at points, so it’s a good starting point for me.
We leave Thursday morning for California to play the Bay Area Gold Pride. My sister, Shira, goes to Stanford, so I’m excited that she’ll be able to come to the game. More after the trip.