Thinking Back to Teaneck Armory, and Playing for the Sake of Playing

“I remember watching you play as a high-schooler in the Teaneck Armory … be that player.” Sky Blue F.C. was in Philadelphia, ready to take on a team which has defeated us twice. We stood on the turf, in humid, suffocating heat under a scorching sun. We were coming off of two demoralizing losses and had just made a coaching change. Just before our team cheer, Jesse Kolmel, our new assistant coach turned to me and said the words above. Cliché? Possibly. Meaningful? Incredibly.

At the time, Jesse was most likely trying to simply get my mind off the heat and give me some momentary motivation to have a good game. But what he said to me has become the framework of my new career goal.

Upon reflection, I realized that playing indoors as a high-schooler in Teaneck, N.J., with my World Class club team was one of the last times I can remember feeling completely free. I could feel myself improving, I was confident, and playing with pure joy. I could try things, make mistakes, and I was unstoppable. Despite the environment, this is the feeling that I am in search of — that every athlete who devotes countless hours to training is likely to be in search of. This is the player who I want to be, and can be, inW.P.S. and for the women’s national team. I am aware that it will take time, but my mind-set is there. I am, from now on, every time I play, that girl from the Armory, who without a care in the world could feel the magic of the ball at her feet and create on the field without pressure or consequence.

Sometimes it takes a reminder like the one I got from Jesse to find that passion again. Mentally, the last couple months have been rough for me. I always work as hard as I can and do the right things for my body, but sometimes it can be too much mentally. There is a lot of personal pressure that comes with knowing you are doing everything possible. Sometimes it is best to let go, to feel the hard work paying off, and to focus simply on the joy and not the results.

As W.P.S. players, we love our job, but now, a little past midseason, we have practiced together more hours than I can calculate and played vastly more than 1,000 minutes of game time. I don’t know one player out there who doesn’t face mental and physical challenges throughout the season.

You never know how what you do or say can affect another person. Jesse, without knowing it, said something that really struck home for me. I could not be more appreciative, and no matter the scores of the coming games, and what national team rosters I do or do not make, I will seek to forever be that 16-year-old girl who loves playing just for the sake of playing.

I plan to take that mentality back to the field in our next home game against Chicago at Yurcak Field on Sunday.