From Childhood to a Soccer Career, Much Has Stayed the Same

I often write about change — the constant fluctuations in my thought process and reinvention of myself as a person and a soccer player. My environment and situation are constantly in flux. This year in the National Women’s Soccer League is no different.

Yet somehow, the path of progress is strewn with markers denoting the constants. Maybe more impressive than the ways in which I have changed over the years are the ways I have remained the same as I encounter each new twist and turn of the roller coaster ride that is my career and life.

Here are eight ways I am reminded I have stayed the same since I was 8 years old:

■ I Am, and Always Will Be, a Perfectionist From the little girl kicking my ball against the wall at the schoolyard to the professional player I am today, anyone who has seen me train can attest that I have no tolerance for not getting it right. The evidence is in the many outtakes of my backyard skill challenges on my YouTube Channel.

■ I Have a Competitive Drive For the most part, this is a wonderful attribute. But like anyone who is extremely competitive, there are days that my rage gets the better of me. During preseason training with theWashington Spirit, we had a 4v4 tournament and I was quickly reminded that I have certainly not conquered this rage. After my guttural yell after losing, Ali Krieger turned to me. “Are you O.K.?” she said, but her body language and tone were saying, “You have to be kidding with that reaction.” I ended up apologizing to my teammates for the outburst.

■ I Am Obsessed With Mastery From the first time I tried to juggle a soccer ball (my blowup “Lion King” ball that fell victim to deflation after I got frustrated and bit it) to this day, I am fueled and driven by striving for mastery. I train repetitions of mundane techniques for hours because I am always after that feeling of when it finally clicks. This obsession is often apparent when I am made to stop a drill in training before I or the team really gets it down. A feeling of fury swells up within me and often all I have to do is look at Lori Lindsey to know that I am not alone in my quest for that feeling of mastery.

■ I Am Single-Minded I always joke about how I’m not well-rounded. I am focused on a few, simple things in my life and that’s how I like to keep it. My parents used to urge me to expand my social life (“expand” is a relative term considering I had none) or try other sports. My decision on these matters was apparent on our recent team outing to the bowling alley. Let’s just say I would have hit more pins if I could have kicked the ball down the lane.

■ I Bounce Back Quickly Whether I have a setback or one with my team, I can’t stay bummed for too long. It’s as if my mind has a natural refresh button. Our Washington Spirit season got off to a rough start with a 3-1 loss in our home opener to Western New York. I couldn’t sleep that night. I replayed the game over and over in my mind before actually watching it in its entirety at 4 a.m. All it took was getting back onto the field for that next training session and I had a different feeling. The motivation to be better and the energy of the team were contagious and the first game was erased, just like that.

■ I Love When My Parents Come Watch Me Play From my first soccer game, which had no goalkeepers, to this day, it means the world to me when my family and loved ones can watch me play. When my parents drove down from New Jersey for the Spirit’s home opener, it was the same. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m kicking around in a parking lot or suiting up for my professional team or with the U.S. women’s national team. Having my loved ones present to share my passion is everything to me.

■ I’m Sensitive About What I Do I have always craved and sought constructive criticism. As a person and a player, I need honest feedback to strive to be better than I am today. But that doesn’t mean I am not extremely sensitive at the same time. I care deeply about what I do and put a lot of time and energy into it. So when it doesn’t go as planned, the reality hurts. A lot. Whether it’s following our team’s first win against Kansas City or our loss on the road to the Seattle Reign, sometimes I dread watching clips of my performance. I have to be careful to strike a balance when I break down every aspect of my play — critique when it’s called for but also acknowledgment of what I’ve done well.

■ I’m Sentimental The reason I first started writing a journal was so that I could record everything I did and every thought I had at the time. I’ve always had a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for what I’m experiencing, both the wonderful and difficult times. It is my attempt to make permanent what seems so ephemeral and it comes in many forms — a quote that captures how I felt in a moment, a song that reminds me of living in Sweden, and my writing exploring how I continually change but at the same time always stay the same.