In one of our meetings during the week we took part in a very inspirational activity made by one of our coaches, Jill Ellis. We were given a rope and were told to stand in a circle holding the rope with both hands. After one of the girls read a special note written to us by our coaches, another was told to hold on tight to the rope but to fall back. She didn’t hit the floor because all of her other teammates were holding her up. No, this wasn’t supposed to be a magic trick to entertain the “little ones.” It showed that even if one or a few girls are having a bad training or a bad game or even just a bad day, her teammates will be there to catch her. We will never let each other hit rock bottom. Now we know that the “21” in the phrase “21 we are 1” represents the 21 players on the team, but with the character on this team we can break the phrase down into multiple pieces.
Let’s start with 1. We only have one chance to win the U-17 Women’s World Cup. My Nonni always says “Morgan, you’re doing it all wrong. Stop growing up!” Well Nonni, I am only 17 once and I cannot stop this whole aging process, so I’m just going to make the best of it. Using her words, I am going to say that “these are the problems of the living” and take on these make-or-break situations. We have to leave everything out on the field every single game or we won’t be there for the next game. My parents always told me that I would have plenty of time to recover after the game. When I was younger I used to be so exhausted after my games that my mom would take off my cleats for me. She soon learned that the risk of passing out from the stench wasn’t worth it, and she let me fall asleep with my gear on. The point is that we have to leave our souls out on the field and pick them up later when our bodies have recovered. That is the only way we are going to win this World Cup. Our minds have to be set on our goal and then our bodies will follow.
Number 2 represents my two biggest supporters at home, my parents. We may fight, and yell, and disagree with just about everything on the face of the earth but that doesn’t last long because we know that the love that bonds a family can heal any wound. My wrist has been shattered, my spirit has been damaged and my heart has been broken many times before, but without the love and care of my parents I would not have healed. I may heal now alone, but if it wasn’t for them, I would have never learned how to do it by myself. Without those two supporters the process will take longer and it will be more difficult, but I know that I will never be alone simply because they have been in my life. I know that every single one of my teammates has some sort of support system at home just like mine. We take the good times in stride while we kick the difficult times to the dirt.
Number 3 represents my belief in my team having the three best goalkeepers in the world at our age. Yeah, you can call me overconfident but you would have to pry those girls’ hands from the net and chain them to the bench to get them out of your way of the goal. They are fearless; fearless of bending shots, driven crosses, and public humiliation. (They’re a riot to try and have a conversation with.) Man, you think they’re loud on the field? Try, taking ice baths on the same floor!
That leads us to Number 4, which represents the number of cycles of contrast baths we take a day before game day. If you are trying to get your legs ready for the ultimate challenge, try burying your body in ice for two minutes then switching to hot water for three minutes. Don’t worry the burning, stinging, and itching is normal. We’ve learned to ignore it. Well…we’ve tried at least. Blasting Katy Perry tends to ease the pain.
Number 5 represents our forwards, 6 our midfielders, and 7 our defenders. If you have read my other entries or if you keep up with this team at all, you’ve learned about all of our positions and how we play, so there is no sense in repeating it. All you have to know is that everyone on this team has a job and does it to the best of their ability. You will never see a team sweat as much as we do because of how hard we work to become the best. That’s why we wish we could do a little more laundry than our 8 items allowed every month.
Number 9 represents the player who spread the women’s game around the world. She, alongside her teammates put the United States on the map for soccer. You guessed right: Mia Hamm. She was and still is every little girl’s hero. Even if you don’t know a thing about soccer, you know who Mia Hamm is. She is what every girl on this team hopes to someday be; the face of soccer, the winner, the hero.
Number 10 represents my number. Right before our first game against France we walked into our locker room and saw our jerseys for the first time. We saw our names on the back and realized that it’s not just your jersey, It’s your family’s jersey. Andrews represents the five different people of my immediate family, not just me. The crest on the front of the jersey, however, represents a whole country.
This team is a deep squad, and by that I mean anyone can step on the field without changing the speed of play or changing our play for the worse. This is why our starting 11 is constantly changing! Injuries happen. No one likes to be hurt but the team never lacks confidence because we are never down a man.
Number 12 represents our 12th player, A.K.A. our fans. Azerbaijan has been beyond kind to us this whole tournament so far. It is hard to imagine a more welcoming place! Both of our games so far have been packed with excited fans eager to watch a good game. As I was warming up on the sideline I picked out a young girl in the stands waving at me almost falling out of her seat! Of course I waved back. Waving back is just a kind gesture. Let’s be honest…we all wonder why that cranky neighbor down the street won’t wave back while you drive past them.
Anyway, my eyes shifted to the woman next to her who pointed to the girl and put her hands over heart, almost to thank me. I realized what it meant for this country to hold such an event then. I thought to myself ‘that little girl wants to be in my position in a few years. I was her not too long ago.’ I nodded my head in understanding and in response she blew me a kiss.
For now that is all I can write seeing how my curfew is in 6 minutes! Stay tuned tomorrow morning before our game against N.Korea to see the final numbers of my break down on “21 we are 1.”
Morgan Andrews is the captain of the U-17 U.S. women’s national team. The U-17 U.S. women play North Korea at 8 a.m. ET on Saturday with the chance to advance to the quarterfinals.
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