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Ashleigh Gunning Blog: Letter to a 16-year-old me

Ashleigh Gunning

I often get asked: ‘Why do I play football? Is it hard to be away from your family and friends for so long? Does it get lonely? Are you actually making enough to live after playing?’

I’ve got a confession to make: No woman footballer plays because of the large paycheck they receive. It’s not about the glamor or the celebrity of it. We play because there is something deep inside us that drives us. It’s what enables us to rationalize missing family holidays, getting paid in peanuts, missing your best friend’s wedding and living out of a suitcase. For any young girls who are dreaming of playing professional one day I want to encourage you to pursue the dream because it really is #thegoodlife!!

So, here you go. I’m going to let the truth out and share with you my two cents, for whatever it’s worth. This is the letter I wish I would have received when I was 16 and dreaming of being a professional football player:

I’ll let you in on a little secret that it took me a long time to figure out… everything you do, every training session, every game, every extra run– there’s got to be a bigger reason that you do it. It’s about the people you meet, and the impact that you can have on their lives. If the only reason that you play is to score goals or to start a game then you are going to be disappointed because you can’t always start or win. But, you can always make someone else feel better. It’s about taking the time to lighten the load for someone else. Sometimes that means communicating really well on the pitch so the person next to you can perform better. Sometimes that means picking up a teammate when they’re having a nightmare of a game. It can mean making a 90 meter recovery run for someone else or it can even be as simple as smiling at those around or telling someone what they mean to you and how they’ve helped you. Football is just the means to an end.

You’ll be given the opportunities to walk out on contracts, to throw others under the bus, or choose money over individuals– don’t do it. Always stand up for someone (especially if they can’t do it for themselves). If someone asks you about a teammate or a coach, even if you don’t like them– only answer with a positive (even if it’s something small) and leave out the negatives. Being a good teammate is just as important as being a good footballer because it liberates those around you to also be their best.

I’ve got a feeling that you will be playing for years and years to come. You’ve got such great talent, abilities and the drive and willingness to improve. But, more important than any of that, you’ve got character and no one can ever take that from you. Have confidence that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. The Lord is protecting you, even when it seems that you are stuck somewhere—it’s going to work out, keeping doing what you know is right. One day it’s all going to make sense.

Previous Ashleigh Gunning blogs:

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