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I have played alongside and against the best in the world – including the U.S. Women’s National team. I have played in 6 different countries, in two different Champions Leagues, and two different European Championships. What does it take to get to this level? What does it take to get to the World Cup Final?
What most people don’t realize is it has nothing to do with actual ball skills – it’s your mental game. In soccer, this aspect of the game is quite often overlooked but it’s one of the MOST important parts of your game. What do you think separates the players on the US National team and all the other professional American soccer players? With so many great players in our country, ball skill and physical strength and speed is something that all these top players have – you have to have this at that level. What really separates you and the other player at this level is MINDSET. So, let’s go back and look at this year’s Women’s World Cup and what our two finalists – Netherlands and USA taught us.
One of the best examples of mental strength and mindset is of our right back Crystal Dunn. Did you know she was cut from the team 4 years ago before the last World Cup? She was heartbroken - she told me herself. She told me how much it affected her mentally and how she struggled on the team because she was so worried about what the coach thought of her. But what did she do? She picked herself up and made herself better...and she stopped caring about what the coach thought. A lot of times we worry so much about what our coach is thinking, we forget to play our game and enjoy the moment. Every single one of those players has had setbacks and heartbreaks. What separates them from others is they refuse to give up. They will give their all every single day no matter what they are doing because they know that every small detail counts. Every single practice, they are focused and driven. And here’s the best part, they don’t take it easy on their teammates. They call each other out when they need it; they fight for every ball, on every inch of that field because they know they are making themselves and their teammates better.
And what about the Netherlands? Did you know that the last World Cup in 2015 was the very first World Cup that they have ever qualified for? So, in their second World Cup ever, they make it to the finals…oh, and they won the last European Championships. Is this because they are that much better than the other countries or is it because they found a way to work together as a team and FIGHT for each other.
What all these lessons teach us is not just about soccer. It’s about life. In any part of your life, you are going to have to work hard. You will have setbacks and heartbreaks – this is a part of life. But can you keep going and giving your all? Even if you don’t want to become a professional soccer player or be on the national team, know this – your hard work when you’re training and playing will make a difference in your life. It will teach you focus, will power, hard work, and the true meaning of grit. Your teammates will respect you, your coach will respect you, and your fans will respect you. And here is the best part - those days when you feel like things didn’t go your way or when you have that heartbreaking loss – you will be able to walk off that field with your head held high knowing you gave everything you had.
Enjoy the game – Trust the process