We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there, too. — Kristin Martz
For people who are passionate about something in life (and I believe that everyone, in some way is), the quotation above will hold great truth. What I do every day as my job is about so much more than the physical action.
As a professional soccer player, I repeat techniques until they are habitual, spend time in the gym working on strength and balance to prevent injury, and condition my body to withstand 90-plus minutes of intense competition. But I continually realize that it is equally important to train my mind. A successful, enjoyable performance can only happen when the mind and body are both working to their greatest potential.
Consistent Confidence Consistency on the field is largely because of remaining level-headed, whether as a team or as an individual. My identity is tied closely to how I feel about my performance. I realize that I am sensitive to changes in my confidence and this is something to which I’ve had to pay close attention. I easily get euphoric or down on myself, caused by what can be a matter of a simple detail that I’ve (sometimes wrongly) read into. Managing the mental highs and lows is an ongoing struggle. I’ve learned to use specific moments to break up my mood and bring myself back to equilibrium.
For example, when my team, Kopparbergs/Göteborg, won the Swedish Supercup on penalties, I felt extremely proud and accomplished. But early the next morning, a new challenge lay ahead as I traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, to meet the United States women’s national team. I allowed myself to relish the victory until I went to sleep the night after the game and then promised myself I would refocus and prepare for the next challenge. Conversely, I usually have a session or two every training camp with the national team in which, for whatever reason, I feel down or frustrated with how I’ve done. That’s completely natural. No one in that environment is at her best every single session. It’s so easy to allow a bad day to begin a downward mental spiral. Sometimes something as simple as me reading into the teams that Coach Tom Sermanni makes for training can cause a blow to my confidence. I now know myself well enough to try to manage that feeling. I’ll tell myself, “The first time you touch the ball, let that negative feeling be erased from your mind.” Or after a bad session, “You may dwell on it until you get out of the shower, then move on.”
Maintaining Energy and Motivation In the last couple of months I’ve had some important games with the national team, competed in thequarterfinals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League and played in the Swedish Supercup final against powerhouse Tyreso (home to Americans Christen Press and Meghan Klingenberg, and the international stars Marta,Verónica Boquete and Caroline Seger).
It’s easy to be motivated for those games. They are the kind of situations in which you feel short of breath and your heart pounding in your chest before you even begin to run. Now we are about to delve into the Damallsvenskan(Swedish women’s league) regular season. The first couple of games will likely naturally breed the same excitement and nerves, but after that, motivation takes a bit more work. Game day always feels special, but it will take extra focus to remain sharp while facing a weaker team or in daily training sessions that at times can be repetitive.
Treating Yourself Like You Would Treat Others You’ve likely often heard the phrase, “treat others how you’d like to be treated.” Well, I’ve developed this concept in reverse. I try to treat my performance in the same way I would treat a teammate’s. This often means being particularly forgiving of my mistakes. The environments in which I played for many years held me to a high standard, so it’s interesting playing in a place where I have minimal feedback and I can’t understand what the coach is yelling from the sideline. It’s difficult to find the balance between holding myself to that high standard and also being forgiving and relaxed about trying new things. My rule of thumb is to only harbor thoughts of my performance that I would express to teammates about theirs. If my teammate had a rough day I would never say, “You suck! How could you play that badly?” I would encourage her to let it go and let her know that she can do better next time.
This sport has inspired, confounded, and obsessed me for years. I continually lose myself in its tumult. As I mature as a player, I find myself within this mayhem and am grateful for the challenge to constantly be able to reinvent myself as a player and a person.