This summer I was supposed to be playing for the Atlanta Beat in W.P.S. Last week I was supposed to be flying to London with the Olympic team.
I was supposed to start coaching once my playing career finished.
I was not supposed to be working at anything besides being a professional athlete.
I was definitely not supposed to be playing in the W-League, the same league I joined as a 14-year-old.
This summer I found myself traveling a route I had not programmed into my personal G.P.S.
But … I’m trying to follow the words of Theodore Roethke in the headline of this posting.
Playing for the New Jersey Wildcats of the W-League turned out to be exactly what I needed for my playing career.
I was able to play 90-minute games with relatively little pressure, and just play. There were several mental habits I had developed in the past couple of years that I needed to break. I realized after a game or two that every time any substitution was made, I would immediately assume it was going to be me. Sad, but true.
I had to untrain myself from the notion that if I made a mistake or two I would be taken off. I am actually proud of myself that I got used to trying things and being O.K. with messing up. I was able to mentally applaud my effort, as opposed to getting angry or frustrated with myself. I also got accustomed to not always playing one or two touch.
I worked a lot on facing up in the midfield, and doing more than I would usually do. I tried to take a lot of responsibility in the attack, and in doing so, scored often and had a good number of assists. While I’m ready to play at the professional level again, the Wildcats allowed me to take a step back in order to go forward.
I’ve always had the dream of one day starting a development academy. I like working with individual players and small groups who want to get better.
My focus is on technique and mastering the ball. Early in the summer, when I began training some players individually, I resented that I was out in the heat using my energy, and not doing my own training. I didn’t want to do what I considered work yet. But soon I realized I was learning while I taught.
I developed my own coaching methods that I will use in my academy one day. I came up with progressions to work on certain skills, and figured out ways of breaking down techniques to teach to various levels. I also enjoyed connecting with my students and making training fun for them. I was also often inspired as I attempted to inspire others.
I train an 8-year-old girl who is absolutely phenomenal. I saw the game through her eyes — the excitement of beginning her journey, the endless possibilities for the future, and the freshness with which she approaches her training. She helped me to reframe my thoughts and focus on just putting in the work, as opposed to worrying about results.
I’m looking to play in Europe this fall. I am excited to play for a top team in a competitive league. Be on the lookout for an announcement about what club I will be joining! I’m hoping to know in the next week or so.
So, I took an unintended route. But in so doing, I realized that the trajectory of my life and career is supposed to be exactly as it is; not the way I planned it.