Flashback 13 years and imagine a hot summer’s day is beginning. The sun is just rising past the peak of the enormous pine trees, casting puppet-like shadows on the green floor below. The buzzing of heat bugs, at the time thought to be the sizzle of the dewy grass being dried by the sun, as if in a frying pan, increases.
A little girl in a yellow tank top and “God only knows what color pants she was wearing” keeps stride with her older brother. Like every little sister, she wanted to do everything that her older brother was even thinking about doing. (Now, yes, this girl did take a few too many falls off of her neighbor’s desk chair as it was pushed down the neighborhood hill but that’s beside the point and definitely another story.)
On this blazing hot morning, she followed her older brother to a summer soccer camp. He was embarrassed, but that only meant that she was doing her job, right? He was finally checking in with all of his guy friends and cracking cheesy jokes from the 90’s like, “make like a tree, girl, and leave.” Ouch… quite the burn now that I think about it.
Anyway, the jokes never stopped the girl from begging her mom to sign her up next to her brother. If you were to ask her brother, it wasn’t worth the fight because she was going to do what he did, no matter what. The only requirement..? “Is she potty-trained?”
Brushing off probably the most insulting question a 4-year-old had to answer, the girl took in her surroundings as her mother checked her in for the summer camp. The dirt path on the outskirts of the grass kicked up dust as kids chased after running soccer balls that flew past the net. The grass itself felt matted, as if it were the kind of grass that cows grazed on. It might have had something to do with the fact that the field was literally cut and shaped out of a cornfield on a farm. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – ‘Is New Hampshire really that hick???’ I refuse to answer your question! However, the head coach had a trained dog on his left side and a trained pot-belly-pig on his right side.
Yes, I was that little girl following her older brother around. I probably still would be, if I could, but I don’t think I’d be able to handle the military life as well as my brother. The early mornings aren’t as kind to me. Just last week I “woke up” at 4 a.m., sneezed, and banged my head on the sink counter… Anyway, I chose to stick with the sport that caught my eye that one morning. Eventually I fell in love with the sport and realized how many deeper levels there were to it. There weren’t just the “rec” leagues, school leagues, and elite leagues. The sport had different styles and cultures. Sure the Italians are going to tell you they started it all (right dad?), but soccer has so many different backgrounds and different perspectives.
The Portuguese and Brazilians think that playing is like dancing. Every step, every move has a rhythm. The game is a performance to them. This is also the case with many Hispanic countries. I found this when we traveled to Guatemala. There were crowds watching the smallest game of street soccer but the players looked to not only please themselves, by playing with heart, but to please their audience by playing with passion.
Style changes all around the world, though. The Europeans look at the game as more of a team effort than individual skill. They make the ball do the work. Obviously, you have to perfect your touch to make that happen. So no matter what style they play, there is always a great amount of skill. That skill and my teammate’s skill have brought me to where I am today. I’m in Europe traveling from Croatia to Slovenia and over to Austria. We learn something new every day from all of these different cultures. It can be a lot of information to take in, from time to time, and it can be easy to forget where we are.
But we are progressing as a team and every day we are a few steps closer to achieving our goal. We are that much closer to taking the World Cup and turning it into OUR world cup. What we must never forget, rather…who we must never forget, is that little girl who first started playing the game. It doesn’t matter if she was wearing the ugliest jeans her mom could have ever picked out for her. It mattered that she made the decision to step onto the field and to STAY there. That little girl never gave up. I’m no longer that little girl but I will never forget her dreams. As I finish my finals days of national team camp in Europe, I’ve realized that I have made many of those dreams a reality. However this girl, the one I am today, has new goals to accomplish and new dreams to reach. The time is now…
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