Unless you've been living under a rock lately, the Women's World Cup just finished up yesterday with an amazing performance by the United States Women's National Team. Behind the golden foot of captain Carli Lloyd, the USWNT won the whole dang thing, 5-2, over Japan (who had beat the US in the final in 2011). If you get a chance, watch the highlights and prepare to be inspired. Watching other women gut it out at the highest level with millions of people watching is nothing short of ah-may-zing.
One of the unifying hashtags that US Soccer has used throughout the tournament is #SheBelieves. The USWNT was ranked #2 coming into the tourney, with Germany and Japan being heavy favorites to win it all. The players on the US team have been adamant, even through lackluster performances and doubts about the coaching, that 2015 was their year. And nothing was going to stop them. They know the power of belief.
It's no secret that I am a soccer fanatic. Since the tender age of 4, I have been in love with The Beautiful Game. My love affair runs so deep that I got a soccer ball tattoo on my lower back during the 2002 men's World Cup. To say that I am obsessed is an understatement. ;-)
Soccer has been a great teacher to me over the years. It has taught me that resiliency and persistence are the greatest qualities you can possess to reach your goals. That you will get knocked down (both literally and figuratively), but the ones who win are the ones that keep getting back up.
Although I was never the most talented on any competitive team I was on, I still dreamt of playing in college. I was willing to do whatever it took. Blood, sweat, tears, grass stains, and all that.
I hit the gym with my dad starting at age 12, lifting weights before it was cool. I ran sprints and practiced ball skills in my front yard everyday. I read every book I could get my hands on (this was the time before blogs --- ha, showing my age!). I worked with a personal trainer and a private soccer coach at various points.
But the one thing that I had to do, and was the most difficult, was to believe in myself. Even though I had coaches through the years that wrote me off and teammates that were less than friendly, I had this belief, at first a tiny ember inside, that burned with the belief that I could do it. No matter what I had to deal with in the meantime, no matter who doubted me, no matter what setbacks and failures and obstacles I faced --- I would eventually get to that college stage and live out my lifelong dream.
Spoiler alert: I did it! I played 1 year at St. Joseph's College in Indiana (Div. 2) and 3 years at McKendree University in Illinois (NAIA then, now Div. 2). No, I wasn't a starter with a big scholarship, but I played. I was like Rudy, busting my ass in practice relentlessly and getting whatever playing minutes I could. I scored a few goals and dished out a few assists. I struggled mentally, emotionally, and physically. Although my ultimate experience playing in college wasn't all that I had dreamed of, it still was some of the best experiences of my life.
Everything I had fought through to get there helped me cope and succeed once I was there. Every time I get down on myself and think I suck and I'll never hit X goal, I think of that experience. None of my other athletic cousins and relatives tried to play after high school. I was only 1 of 3 seniors (out of 11) from my high school team who moved on to play in college. One of the small minority out of the entire school.
I played for 4 years, even after tearing my ACL playing with my club team the summer after freshman year. I played through injury, illness, and a hypothyroid diagnosis with crushing fatigue. I played even after my friends on the team quit, one by one, fed up by the politics on the team. I played even though my college coaches doubted me. I played even though I cried and struggled and doubted myself at times. Giving up never seemed like an option.
This is the kind of relentlessness and persistence that you need to harness to get to your goals. Once you decide that you really, really, REALLY want it, commit to it wholeheartedly. Start taking massive action, day after day after day after day. And most of all, believe in yourself. Even though it seems impossible. Even though it seems crazy. Even though everyone else around you is doubting you.