The Never-Ending Path of Ascension

The other day, my team (Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC) got crushed 5-0 by LdB Malmö. Even worse than the score-line was the feeling of being completely dominated and ineffective at something you train for every day. Although everyone hopes life’s highs outweigh the lows, we have all traversed the valleys as well as the peaks along our journeys.

I can’t control everything about my life as a professional soccer player. I may have to switch teams/cities each season, or even midway through a season. I may play 90 minutes or notstep foot onthe field. I do all that I can to stay healthy, but I may miss time due to injury. Coaches or observers may love my style or performance, while others may criticize it harshly. My team may prepare thoroughly for a game and still lose or I may be subjected to a system of play or method of training with which I don’t personally agree.

But to refer to a Victor Frankl quote that encapsulates one of the University of North Carolina women’s soccer team core values, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Frankl’s analysis came from his experience in a concentration camp, which he describes described in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Surely we can all manage to stay positive with the much smaller obstacles in our daily lives.

Like the years I’ve spent honing technical skills and physical fitness, mental training for me is an ongoing process. And every time I think that I’ve arrived at a new epiphany, something eventually shakes my mindset. My confidence, contentment, and courage are constantly put to the test.

Sometimes it is nearly impossible to enjoy the moment or feel confident in the face of a huge failure. There is one stable element, however, that has allowed me to stay faithful to my dreams over the years. It is a philosophy I took from my father growing up and something that Anson Dorrance, coach at UNC, put into simple words. “We should aspire to live on a never-ending path of ascension.”

At the end of the day, it’s terrifying to do your best and possibly still come up short. And sometimes it feels that failures outnumber successes along the way. I often bring my focus to my development as a player and a person. As long as I feel that I am still getting better, then I know I am on the right track.

I am no longer considered a “young” player. But I still feel that I can be so much better and more dominant than I am. I hold onto thatdissatisfaction and the notion that there is another level of play within me that inspires me to keep pushing.

During the Swedish class that I recently started, I observed a personal characteristic that has played a large role in molding my journey. It is the way I learn. I have an obsession with mastering the basics. My mind and body will not let me move forward until I feel that I have fully grasped the foundation of what I’m doing. Sometimes it can make me feel like I’m getting off to a slow start, but philosophically, I believe that the wider the base you are able to build, the higher your pyramid of learning can reach.

When learning Swedish, I have been obsessed with fully understanding not onlyhowthings work and are said, butwhy. I have trouble making myself try to speak until I understand exactly what words I am saying and why they fit together the way they do. I’m slow, but making progress. Jag pratar lite Svenska!

Soccer has been the same for me. I have spent years mastering basic techniques and building my platform of physical fitness. Whereas other players maybehave more game experience or less fear to just try things in the moment and make mistakes, my approach has held me back at times from doing that. That’s why I feel that, at 26, I am just entering the period of my prime playing ability. I still work incessantly on building my base, but at the same time I am now adding other elements to my pyramid to help take it to new heights.

I have and will hit many stumbling blocks along the way—individually and team-wise—but as long as I continue on my ascension, I feel great about the process. After all,with this philosophy, I can always control my own improvement.

On that note, I will leave you with my personal motto that I’ve finally condensed into a simple phrase: “Pursue your dreams with every ounce of your being, but above all, love the journey.”

Season update: Kopparbergs/Göteborg remains in third place in the Damallsvenkan (Swedish women’s league). I will be traveling back to the U.S. for a week to represent the USWNT against Mexico in DC on September 3. We still have eight games left in the season and also Swedish Cup games to be played, so there are many chances to avenge our recent defeat!