$200,000. I was “worth” $200,000 in college, give or take. It was more than I could have dreamed of. I didn’t come from a lot of money and I had no idea that I would get an opportunity like this one. Ironically, one full athletic scholarship later, with all costs covered, I felt empty. I felt discouraged and worthless. I felt like I had let my program, my coaches, and myself down. I felt like I was not deserving of that award, after the ups and downs of injuries, confidence dives, more injuries, and more blows to confidence. Why?
As a youth player, I had so much confidence in my abilities, my skill, and even my identity. I spent the majority of my time at fields by myself. I didn’t care what I missed out on because, like many of my fellow athletes, I believed it was my life. It was my hope and my future. Soccer was all I ever really knew and I was determined to not let anyone or anything get in my way. It sounds crazy, but I think I loved the game more than I loved myself.
As a college athlete, I rarely thought I was good enough, not only as a player but as a person. After I broke my leg, months before I left to play in college, I spiraled. I believed that I did not deserve to be playing at a D1 program. Even after the hours, days, and months I spent working on recovery, I could not get past the mental roadblocks I created for myself. For those four years, I put an extreme amount of pressure on myself to perform at the highest level. I knew $200,000 was not “average” or “ordinary”; it was unfamiliar and it was extraordinary. I kept punishing myself, thinking that I was only valuable if I could live up to the monetary value of my scholarship. I used to tell myself, “you can’t even do the one thing right that you have been doing right all your life.” If that persists for four years, you will start to truly believe you have failed.
I placed a dollar amount on my value as a person. The sad part is, I forgot, even after being reminded by others, that I had earned that scholarship through years of preparation, training, and perseverance. By the end of my career, I barely enjoyed kicking the ball anymore because I associated the soccer with failure.
I will say that I was so lucky that my support system at school was great. I had a strong team of coaches, advisors, and teammates. I had always hoped that someone would believe in me as my college coaches did. I owe all of my coaches, from the club to collegiate level, my career. Someday, I hope I can give back to them as they have provided for me!
We don’t ask you to take it easy on us because we can handle the pressure; we know we signed up for it. We do, however, ask that you show up for us, especially when we struggle to show up for ourselves. Your hope in us is what continues to inspire us.
Someone once told me that where we focus our thoughts is where we focus our lives. Belief and faith, in ourselves and others, is what keeps us strong and powerful.
Person first, athlete second.
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