With this being the end of my 5th year of Professional Soccer, I have to say that I have been pretty darn lucky. I have had the honor of playing with and against some of the best players in the World. From the likes of Alex Morgan of the US, to Sonya Bombastor of France, to Lotta Schelin of Sweden, Christiane of Brazil and more.
There are so many greats that come to mind, however, for me it is more of the “unsung” hero’s that have left an everlasting impression. So when I read the article about the next 11 “unsung” heroes of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) it got me thinking of the people that have been that to me. Of the players that have been heroes in their own right.
A hero is defined as someone who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
From a rookie, to middle of the pact, and a veteran, these women are whom I admire and make this crazy journey of futbol make sense.
Lets start with the Rook: Carlie Davis from Baylor.
She is someone that I met last winter in Chicago. At that point in time she had no idea if she was going to be drafted or not. The only thing that she was sure of was that she was willing to do whatever it took to make it into the NWSL. What a journey it would be.
To summarize her next couple of months I can only think of the MasterCard priceless commercial…
5 round trip plane tickets: $2,500
Rental Car for Portland: $1,200
Yes you read ALL the numbers correctly.
Carlie ended up not getting drafted yet she refused to quit. She flew from the Portland’s open tryout to DC’s to Kansas City. In KC she was asked to stay for two weeks to train but was unfortunately the last one cut.
After that it was back to Baylor to try and finish her classes (this is a dilemma that many of the Rookies face with the league starting in the Spring) however after all her travel it was too late for her to catch back up. So as she returned she did the only thing she knew she could, kept on training, and preparing herself for the unknown.
Well her hard work paid off. A couple weeks after her arrival back on campus, Portland gave her the dream call to come back and train with them for the summer. Carlie did what any fighter would do, bought a one-way ticket, and packed her bags.
Her summer consisted of training twice a day, once with the Pros and the other with the W-League team. She had no choice but to rent a car to get to and from the trainings (remember this was ALL without a dime).
Her season ended with being able to dress for two games with the Thorns. That might not sound like a lot to many people but for her made it all worth it. She only talks about her experience with a smile on her face. With memories of playing in a 3 v 3 tournament with Alex Morgan and Allie Long or having to defend players like Christine Sinclair every day… it was her dream coming a reality.
Now she finds herself back at Baylor with the same question as many of us; what is next? How important and significant is the dream of playing professional footy? And as she asked me this, with tears in her eyes, my only response could be “what would you do if you were not afraid? “
I say that as someone that looks back on my own career with experiencing the same doubts and questions for the same dream.
I leave Carlie’s journey with this. If there is one thing that I have learned, in the last couple of years, it is that it takes a very special someone to embody the resilience of a hero. To me she has already become one because she refused to quit.
Next we have Angela Salem. Ang is someone that really stuck out to me in my 2nd year Pro. She was playing holding mid for Atlanta in the WPS and was the engine of the team. She played simple, worked hard, and just did her job.
After she left Francis Marion University in 2010 she was picked up by Sky Blue on a developmental contract. She decided that even with graduating with a degree in Phycology and a concentration in nursing, she wanted to pursue the dream of being a Pro.
3 years later she is not only a WPSL champion but also a member of the WNY Flash for the championship match this season. She is now back on the grind of the “off season” with being in her hometown of Akron and trying to figure out what she can do for the next 6 months. Of course she has already taken into account that whatever she decides to do has to concede with her training schedule and allow her freedom to leave when pre season begins.
She has done the over seas stunt of playing in Finland and Australia and has even been accepted to graduated school for an accelerated nursing program. However, she feels she is not done playing and has chosen to defer. So now she is focused on making the ends meet and preparing for next season where she will be back with the Flash.
Her story is one that I think defines what the league portrays… hard work, grit, belief, and courage.
I want to finish this post with speaking about Julianne (Lu) Sitch and Michelle Wenino from Chicago. I have seen them fight and earn everything they have dreamed of throughout the last Pro leagues. I have seen them show up for training at 10 am with already working 3 hours before and then watch them rush out after to finish there day around 6 pm or later without a single complaint.
These women above and so many others in the league have pushed through the “pain” of the off-season to simply keep their dream alive. They have gone through the humbling aspect of being a Pro Athlete to moving home and starting from square one in a restaurant or coffee shop. Yet, no matter what, they have found themselves back in the league because they simply love futbol.
They believe and understand that the reason they are playing is not for themselves but for the young girls, their own daughters one day, that dream to be great in this beautiful game that unites the world.
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