As I watched the World Cup final match so intently last night, I found myself reminiscing about my past personal soccer experiences. I was a fan last night. A fan of the sport. A fan of the inspiring women on the twenty-three player roster. A fan of the United States of America. But, a fan, finally.
Lori Chalupny, a current member of the U.S. Women’s National Team and 2015 World Cup champion, was my roommate in Bradenton, Florida at the age of 16. I admired Lori then, and I see her as a hero now. She was my teammate, friend, and roommate that week in Florida, but for all three years we competed together on the Region II Regional team.
Carli Lloyd, a former player at Rutgers University, stepped out on the field as my opponent while playing for Michigan State University in 2004. She was a star, then. It was her, who single-handedly put her team on her shoulders and scored two incredible goals to rally from behind and beat us in double overtime 2-1.
And, Ali Krieger, who represented the Nittany Lions of Penn State University, a Big Ten foe, for 3 of my 4 seasons at Michigan State.
At the age of 15, I was selected to attend National Camp at The Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. Then, U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Tony DiCicco, was present during the entire week of camp. I got a small taste of what National Team training was, and it was incredible. The fields were pristine, the gear was awesome, and the players were exceptional.
I recall vividly the time that Briana Scurry, goalkeeper for the U.S. Women’s National Team then, came to speak at Regional Camp in Dekalb, IL. Regional camp was an intense week of training and competing until the final day where sixteen players were selected to represent the Midwest region. Scurry was from Minneapolis, part of Region II, and I just remember staring at her in awe as I watched her get out of her car at the fields to watch us play. I was nervous, anxious, and inspired all at once. The very small amount of time Briana Scurry spent with us was a lifetime of memories. The next generation of heroes are my age players, former friends, teammates, opponents, and more.
People often ask, “Were you good enough to play at that level?” “Why didn’t you make it to the National Team?” After years of reflection, experience, and analysis, I have determined that, of course, there is a difference of ability, skill, speed, and strength, but more than anything, these players represent the epitome of psychological perseverance. The mental aspect of the game can be overwhelmingly detrimental to a player competing at the highest levels. The immense pressure to consistently score, assist, tackle, defend, time your run perfectly, receive a ball without error, and make a save day in and day out can be paralyzing. A player at that level requires balance — in training regimen, nutrition, family, friends, and life — which is, also, an extremely challenging aspect. And as a player, who accomplished many great triumphs in my soccer career, admittedly allowed the psychological factors to prevent me from performing at the level I aspired to reach.
If I could do it over again, I would enjoy the game. Play for pure fun and enjoyment. Not for the acknowledgement, honors, statistics, or validity. But, for myself. My mind was my nemesis.
I have one word to describe these twenty-three stars of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, and that is, HEROIC. It truly takes a lifetime of valiance to accomplish what these women did last night. My respect, admiration, and appreciation for their efforts is incredible. Thank you to all for allowing me to be your biggest fan!