A Lesson about Being Yourself from The US Women’s National Team

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When the United States Women’s National Team made it out of World Cup group play, soccer experts the world over shook their heads and said they didn’t think it would be enough. The U.S had played excellent defense so far, and it had gotten them into the elimination rounds, but they would have to step up their game if they wanted to fulfill their dreams of a finals run and a championship victory. There was no way they would beat Germany playing like this.

We should have known better.

Last week, I watched the U.S Women’s National Team dance for joy as they put away one, two, three, four, five goals, and hoisted the first place trophy. I will admit, I didn’t think they would make it this far. In my defense, I was in good company. The experts didn’t think they would make it either.

I should have known better.

People are always going to tell you that you cannot do what you’re setting out to do. Some people will say it to your face. Some people will say it behind your back. If you happen to be an internationally recognized soccer team, people will say it in the newspapers and on the evening news.

And, yes, sometimes there are real limitations. But one thing my own experiences have taught me is that those limitations are a lot fewer than you might think.

I walked onto my college campus, sight unseen, for the first time in August 2013, and not only was I starting school, but I was starting life as an NCAA athlete. It’s fair to say that had I known what I was in for, I never would have signed up.

It stands to reason that playing soccer isn’t easy; I knew that much coming in. But what I didn’t know was how phenomenally behind I was, compared to every other girl on the team. Running a mile, in Texas, in August, isn’t exactly fun for anybody, but for me it was literally impossible. That’s a fairly enormous limitation for someone hoping to play college soccer.

I stuck with it; there wasn’t much else to do. I finished dead last in every test, pulled a muscle in my leg three or four days into preseason, and cried almost every day, but I stuck with it.

Now after two full seasons, I’m looking back on those first couple weeks and I don’t even recognize the girl I was then. The girl I was then certainly wouldn’t recognize herself now. I once told a friend that I was pretty sure I had died and come back to life. I still stand by that. I shouldn’t have made it through preseason, let alone the two full seasons after that. Yet here I am.

A good friend of mine, a junior at the time, and a leader on and off the soccer field, confessed to me at the end of my freshman year that she didn’t think I would make it. She actually told the coach that I wouldn’t last a week. I don’t know how many other people were thinking it, or saying it behind my back. And it doesn’t really matter. Because they were wrong.

I made it. And I made it because the people around me, despite what they might have been thinking, never did anything but encourage me and support me as I struggled through my first season. At times, they literally carried me. They carried me beyond my limits, and when I made it to the other side, I was a new person, with new abilities. I could run that mile, I could handle a ball, I could defend without fouling.

And at the end of my sophomore season, I got the award for Most Improved Player. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I never wanted to be MVP; I just wanted to be a soccer player.

When I was in elementary school, I used to watch this show called Liberty’s Kids, and there’s one line I always remember, and it came back to me as I wrote this article:

“Be who you want to be, not who people tell you you can be.”

It’s stuck with me my whole life. Obviously there are limits. If you want to be a serial killer, that’s a problem. But for the most part, it rings true. People are going to tell you what you can or should do your whole life. Even your own doubts and rationalizations will tell you you can’t do what you want, but if what you want is a good thing, go for it.

I became a soccer player.

The United States Women’s National team won the World Cup.

You are capable of so much more than you think. So whatever it is, go out there and do it. The world is waiting.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: VICTORIA NELSON

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As of summer 2015, I’m a rising junior at the University of Dallas in Irving, TX. I’m studying Philosophy, with an eye on a possible double major with English. I’m not sure what exactly I want to do with that yet, but I know I want to change the world, so I write a lot and talk even more. I have a lot of ideas that I’m excited to share with people. I try to be a writer, and I fancy myself a philosopher, but mostly I’m just a lover of life.

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