On June 8, 2019, I’m celebrating a milestone. I’m one year into my footballing career. Now, considering the level of women’s soccer in the US, I doubt I’ll be called up for the World Cup, but I’ve spent the last year reclaiming an identity I put down after high school: athlete.
We all have a vision of soccer moms—they drive minivans and pack snacks and cheer their precious pumpkins on to victory. I suppose that’s me too, sort of. I drive the carpool (but not a minivan!), and I’m all about the good snacks and the pump-up songs (Metallica rolling out of the parking lot anyone?), but I got tired of sitting on the sidelines. I’m a method actor—I learn by doing. And I really can’t back down from a challenge.
My life is so distributed, I have a house in one place, by my work travel time means I don’t have a traditional community in my hometown. I’m fortunate to be connected to a worldwide community. I’ve watched a whole lot of soccer in the last few years as a newcomer to the sport—my footie fluency has even impressed more than one cranky Brit. I really enjoy the beautiful game.
But how do you move from the couch to the pitch? Enter a friend with a challenge. She’s played for years, and she invited me to an over 40s, no contact league Seemed safe enough for a beginner. Admittedly, I’ve practiced with my girls for years, and I have the good fortune of an in-house coach who is a lifetime player and a great teacher. I’ve even coached when no one else showed up. I’ve always taught my girls to show up and help when you can.
Slipping on the socks and the boots for the first time is very very different. People are watching. Most of them have played for 30+ years at this point. They have no idea why you look like a spastic giraffe who panics when you touch the ball. But I kept practicing, I kept showing up, I kept working. Get up, dress up, show up. For me, slipping on those soccer socks (I have 3 pairs, hot pink, electric yellow, and my Chelsea orange ones—life is too short for boring socks), which I only wear on the pitch, transforms me. When I wear them, I’m a footballer just like everyone else.
So why am I sharing all of this? What I’ve learned over this year on the pitch has been as important as anything I’ve done in the second half in my life. I can still learn new things. I’m building a local community of people from around the world. I’m a better parent to young athletes because I KNOW EXACTLY HOW THEY FEEL when they have a rough practice or game. They don’t doubt me when I say I get it.
On the precipice of my anniversary, I’m getting coaching from two of our veteran players. They come early and stay late to teach me. Mentoring feels the same at work as it does on the pitch. It’s amazing and I’m so grateful for it. So my unsolicited advice for anyone still reading at this point: don’t quit. I’ve wanted to walk off the pitch. I’ve wanted to cry. I’ve wanted to burn my beloved Adidas.
Don’t quit. Be brave. Find a way to get better. Work hard. Try something new. It is an amazing gift to reinvent yourself in the middle of your life. Find something challenging and go after it. I believe in you. I know how to drop a ball to my feet now. I can receive a pass and turn. And I’m a striker at heart, surprising no one who knows me—goal hungry and left footed, willing to run off the ball until the opportunity to score strikes. My first goal? Everyone on the pitch celebrated with me. One year in, I’ve had two hat tricks.
When things are rough at work, or as a parent to two brilliant teenagers, I can slip on those socks and claim my other secret identity.