“Passion is a huge prerequisite to winning. It makes you willing to jump through hoops, go through all the ups and downs and everything in between to reach your goal.” – Kerri Walsh, beach volleyball Olympic gold medalist
Professional sports… supposed to be glamorous, high rolling paychecks, highlight reels making SportsCenter, and agents going above and beyond for their athletes and contract negotiations. This is the case for the majority of pro athletes, especially those in the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, WNBA, and for the most part, any Olympic Athlete.
However, what is the reality for all those other professional athletes? The ones who aren’t on ESPN every week or making the headlines of various magazines and social media sites? Are they even considered professional athletes; you’ve got to be making the big money to be considered a Pro right?
This was one of the prominent questions that ran through my mind for the last 3 years and even still today. Questioning if the sweat, extra work, sacrifice of social life and financial stability was worth it. I was never going to be on major sports channels with my games being broadcast live, I was not going to be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, let alone an annual salary. I was not going to have the option of playing near my hometown in front of family and friends, or to even make weekend trips to friends’ weddings or family events. So why? Why did I continually work my body, mind, and heart to continue playing soccer? Doesn’t seem worth it for all the things I had to give up or miss out on. Fortunately enough, the love and passion for the game continually motivated me and forced my mind out of a progressive pessimistic tornado. There is a choice just about any athlete has to make: Is the sacrifice, the pain, the sweat, the tears, the ups and downs… worth the satisfaction of reaching a goal? Is it worth the grind in hopes of holding up that trophy, getting a contract renewal, seeing the young girls attending every game absolutely idolizing every move you make, or the simple knowledge that you made a difference in a teammate or coaches life because of a simple encouraging statement?
The answer… ABSOLUTELY!
The journey to play professionally in the states and overseas in Sweden was not easy. It had many peaks and valleys, hardships and setbacks, times of doubt and times of pure grinding motivation to prove everyone wrong. But it was it worth every second! There’s no easy way to explain the full scope of the experience. New countries explored, new friendships and relationships created, the chance to only focus on preparing your mind and body for the game each week, the new cultures experienced and values learned. The immense appreciation of the place you come from and the people who helped make your dreams a reality. This is just a mere glimpse of the full snapshot. Growth is the word I would choose to sum up my journey and the years playing overseas, as a young adult, a soccer player, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a coach, a teammate. When you’re will is tested, when you miss family and friends, when you question if it’s all worth it… you find out what the depths of your heart and soul will hold.
I realized how deeply rooted my passion of the game was within me. I realized how much I was not alone even when it felt like it at times. I had family, friends, an ASF team, my faith and hope that kept me going when I simply wanted to give up.
To any young girl dreaming of playing at the next level, whether that’s high school, college or professionally, I encourage you to take on the challenge full force. Ask for help when you need it, put in the work and extra hours of practice. Understand the sacrifice is worth it in the end because the amount of lasting friendships created, life lessons and values learned from the growing process, is priceless. My chapter of playing professionally is complete, even though Sweden and my team will always have a piece of my heart and life. But now I have the blessing and opportunity of coaching and supporting young athletes in the pursuit of life journeys. I consider myself lucky to have the chance to coach at Adrenaline and to return to my alma mater of Lakota West to pay it back into the lives of those high school girls. I thank everyone who played a part in my success and my journey, who pushed and challenged me to reach past limits, pick me back up when I thought I was done, and support me in my very geographically sporadic path.