Confession: I've often wished I played an individual sport. I enjoy training on my own and like the idea of being solely responsible for my own successes or failures.
Since I was 8 years old, I’ve been part of a team. As a youth player, my team was a temporary group that supported my development until I was ready for a new challenge. I played up on older teams, was the only girl on a boys’ team, and spent a lot of time guest playing. So, while the team was a group to collaborate with on the field, that was about all it was for me.
Through my years as a soccer player, the meaning of “team” has changed a lot for me. During my high school years, I first gained an appreciation for the support and camaraderie of my teammates when I had a falling-out with my coach and was being ostracized by the coaching staff. That was the first time I needed my teammates in a new way, and was pleasantly surprised by their support and friendship, which was something I easily did without in the past.
College was the first time I truly felt a full connection with my team. They became my family and saw all of me, the good and bad. We cried together, laughed together (hopefully more than we cried), and accepted one another for all our weirdness, flaws and amazing strengths.
Since college, I’ve been fortunate to have had a slew of phenomenal teammates, a lot of whom I consider my closest friends. Once again in my career, though, the meaning of being part of a team has shifted for me.
Earlier this season, I went with the Seattle Reign FC to see a play called “The Wolves.” I’m not an avid play-goer (although I did take my fair share of drama classes in college, mostly because they were easy) and the idea of watching a play based on a soccer team made me very skeptical about the whole experience. The play was funny—it caught us all off-guard with very graphic and profane language, extreme events, and an interesting depiction of what we, as players, do every single day.
“The Wolves” shows a group of young women who embody everything I feel is valuable about a team - they make one another laugh, they ask tough questions, they express insecurities, and they come together surrounding tragedy to pull each other forward.
We all have our various “teams” in life. It may be an actual sports team, family, friends, work colleagues, internet folks, or even pets. I’m reminded all the time how tough life can be. I have a number of close friends facing struggles of all sorts. And no matter our struggle, everyone needs a team. It can be a team of one or a team of thousands, but more important than the size of the team is the support it provides.
This year is the first time in my career that I’ve been a member of a team and not physically able to contribute to the team’s mission. Through my battle with an Ulcerative Colitis flareup, (you can read more about that struggle here), It’s been tough for me because I’m new to the Seattle Reign FC and I want to contribute, but a lot of days I haven’t even been able to go watch training.
What I have felt is how incredibly valuable being part of the group is for me. It’s almost like I’ve made a full 180 from my youth experience on teams. Being part of The Reign this year has had zero to do with the soccer field and everything to do with being part of a new family. When I get to see my teammates, it brings joy to my day. They make me laugh, and for a brief time I can forget about my struggle and concern myself instead with watching video of the previous game, or talking through the technique of driving the ball rather than flighting it.
“The Wolves” reminded me of how fortunate I am to have a full array of teammates in all areas of my life. I am immensely grateful for my teams.
Who/what is your team?