As much as I love this sport, and as much as I am living my dream every day, sometimes it isn’t easy and sometimes it isn’t fun. Last weekend Sky Blue F.C. traveled to Boston and got rocked (for lack of a better word) by the Boston Breakers, 4-0. The last time I can remember losing by that kind of margin was to a boys’ team. What they don’t tell you when you’re a 9-year-old juggling in your backyard, fantasizing about becoming a professional soccer player, is that for every wonderful day, there is likely to be one just as difficult. The challenge is to make both equally worthwhile. Easier said than done. But as the cliché goes, all you can do is “control the controllables.” A couple of weeks ago in Atlanta, I roomed with my former North Carolina teammate Kendall Fletcher. Sky Blue F.C. was in dire need of a win, and as Kendall and I lay with our legs up on the wall (resting them in an attempt to make sure we were fresh for our game the next day) we discussed personal and team difficulties.
Kendall was a member of the St. Louis Athletica before the team folded. She was picked up by Sky Blue F.C. as a developmental player and has now worked her way into the starting lineup. It’s easy to think you’ve had a difficult season, but it’s often humbling to listen to other players and realize that you’re not alone. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that all of us live relatively privileged lives, and that not winning or not starting are far from the struggles that many people in this world endure. But as W.P.S. players, this is our livelihood, this is our passion — and with ambition can come pressure and the risk of disappointment.
What Kendall shared with me is an important element of her mind-set throughout this season. She focuses wholeheartedly on getting better every day. Something really struck me about this. Striving to get better is something that I love about this sport, about anything in my life really. This is what excites me, motivates me. This is why I love to play, to spend countless hours performing simple techniques over and over. And this is something that every player and every team can control — no matter what. Despite how difficult or adverse the situation, there is something to be learned and improved upon. Likewise, when things are flowing and going well, there are lessons to be taken from that feeling as well.
What we all search for as we ride the roller coaster of our own ups and downs is a constant. Some find it in religion, some in a particular philosophy or idea, some in a combination. Kendall reminded me that she does this, in part, by focusing on personal improvement. But at least now when someone said, “Control the controllables,” instead of rolling my eyes, maybe I’ll think, “just get better.”
Our next game is at home Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Independence, an excellent team that is solidly in second place. When I think about the way they have been playing (many of those players are my friends, and have been my teammates in various situations), I give them a lot of credit. They are a great team, and look confident at the moment. That being said, I wouldn’t mind Sky Blue F.C. putting a damper on their enthusiasm!