“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle
GOTHENBURG, Sweden — I’ve seen the quotation above dozens of times, but recently it struck me with renewed meaning and strength. Perhaps it’s because I am beginning to unfold a phase of my journey in another country. Suddenly, my habits don’t seem quite as normal as they used to, and I am being exposed to new ways of living.
Gothenburg is a wonderful city. It’s beautiful, there is a lot going on, and everyone is friendly and speaks English. The transition has not been a tough one. As my days here pass and I no longer feel like I am on vacation, however, the process of adapting to actually living here has taught me some things about myself, cultural influences and life in general.
We are what we repeatedly do. I first noticed this on the field. The Swedish women on Kopparbergs/Goteborg are impressively proficient in possession. Whether it’s 5 v 2, one touch, whatever the restriction or dimension, it’s normal to connect 10 passes (which is often typically the aim once or twice for the entire time playing when I’m back home). The players have mastered the techniques and decision-making to make games like this feel easy. Interestingly, though, a simple American warm-up series of traps and volleys (which you would think would be a breeze) seemed challenging when I watched my teammate Christen Press try to teach it to one of our more technical Swedish teammates. It has nothing to do with the players’ ability. We simply become proficient in the things that we make habitual.
I enjoy bike riding, but my quads don’t. After a few days here, the club bought bikes for Cami Levin and me (the two new additions to the team). They are both purple and have baskets in the front, and little bells to alert other bike riders when we are approaching, which is typical here. I loved my bike from the moment I saw it. And riding it on a sunny day to and from practice was fun! After two days of bike riding everywhere, though, my legs were heavy and tired. I’ll have to ride the tram instead on occasion until I get used to this new additional exercise.
The No. 7 in Swedish is physically impossible for an American to pronounce. I am not fluent in any other languages, but I consider myself decent at picking them up. I am usually fairly good at pronunciation, especially when I am just repeating after someone. But I am not confident I will ever be able to speak Swedish. I have hope that maybe one day I will be able to understand it, and even possibly read some, but there are sounds in this language that are impossible! If you are American, and have mastered being able to say “seven” in Swedish, please contact me (my Twitter address is below)! I may request a Swedish lesson over Skype.
Check out how to say some difficult words in Swedish here.
Swedes have a different attitude toward work. In my two weeks here, I have noticed that while the Swedish people I have met and observed are hard-working, they have a much more laid-back attitude toward work than I am used to in the U.S.
On and off the field, quality is valued over quantity, and enjoying what you do is top priority. Training is always just enough or leaves me motivated to do a bit more. Efficiency is valued on the field, but Swedish people also much appreciate their free time. On a nice day, many people are out relaxing in the park, getting coffee or lunch with friends, or walking and biking around the city. I could definitely get used to this!
“Do not expect rewards for football, football is the reward.” I saw this written somewhere and immediately loved it.
What a wonderful reminder. I have come to Sweden to learn, add pieces to my game and help bring me closer to my goal of playing in a Women’s World Cup and Olympics. But what is most important is that I enjoy every day here and treasure each time I get to step onto the field. I laugh a lot at practice, even though half the time I don’t understand much of what is being said. I believe that when I am truly and wholly happy playing this sport I love, and only focused on doing my best in the training session or game, then my dreams will find me.