My Job and My Hobby

Brazil's Marta, left, and Christine Sinclair of Canada are two of the players on sabbatical from the W.P.S. Western New York Flash to play in the FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany.

How can this game make us feel so terrible one moment, and so wonderful the next?

This question often arises for me, and as I drove home with my boyfriend after his men’s league game, we talked about it yet again. The Western New York Flash got a week off, and I went back to Chapel Hill, N.C., my “home away from home.” During the week, I played pickup, and although it’s “just for fun,” I found myself characteristically depressed one day after I had not played well. On the other hand, even in that casual atmosphere, there are so many days I finish playing as if I had won a crucial game, thrilled because of how capable I felt.

As much as I love to play myself, watching my boyfriend’s team play helps me to appreciate yet another nuance of the beautiful game. The relaxed atmosphere elicits nostalgia for the days of youth soccer, when personal pride was the main thing riding on results and performance.

Even though the guys show up only 15 minutes before kickoff, and sub themselves in and out, their games are strewn with intense tackles, tricky combinations and skillful finishes. There are an array of body types, playing backgrounds and fitness levels, but that makes it even more entertaining.

My week of pickup futbol and taking Gatorade to the sideline of the guys’ games is over.

We are back in western New York, preparing to face the Philadelphia Independence again on July 9. We suffered our first defeat of the season to them, 1-0, right before our break, so we are motivated to get back to work to prepare to play them again.

The team that has returned to Orchard Park, however, is slightly different than the one that left. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve slowly said goodbyes and good lucks to our teammates playing in the World Cup. We are missing Alex Morgan (U.S.), Christine Sinclair and Candace Chapman (Canada), Caroline Seger (Sweden), Ali Riley (New Zealand), and Marta and Maurine (Brazil). Those are seven important players, and as they battle it out in Germany, those of us playing for the Flash will be doing so with the same dedication and intensity.

While a few names on the back of the jerseys on the field for W.P.S. teams will be different, many high-caliber players have been training hard and waiting for this chance to step into the starting lineup, or get some time as a sub that they may not have seen before. So while we will miss our World Cuppers dearly, W.P.S. competition is still at a high.

Here’s to everyone who has invested him/herself in this sport enough to give it that power to make or break your day — whether it’s playing on the world stage or kicking around for fun!