I feel as though most of the life lessons that come from playing soccer may come across as cliché to many. Sometimes that scares me when I start a new blog. Like of course we will be more confident women and of course we will work well with others, we play a team sport. Then I remind myself that it’s not always about the message, but about how it’s delivered, and I can say confidently that, like any side-armed pitcher in MLB, my delivery is anything but typical. With that said, one of my favorite acquired qualities from soccer is the idea of being bigtime.
Notice I said the idea of being bigtime.
It’s no surprise to anyone that we don’t make killer salaries and live in mansions with waterfront views. (If that is a surprise, I’m sorry to shatter anyone’s false images). We do, though, get to play soccer for a living, which technically qualifies us as professional athletes. When people think of professional athletes, they think of all that comes with it… the money, the fame, the houses and cars, the Nike contracts and Gatorade commercials. That is very much the reality for thousands of athletes, but not for the majority of women’s soccer players.
It was 2007, and I had recently signed for the SoccerPlus CT Reds (my all-time favorite group of players after the 2005 Nittany Lions). It was during my preparation for the WPSL season that I met Mike LeGates. According to Mike and everyone who knows him, everyone reading this should know him, so he doesn’t need an introduction of any sort.
The reason I want to talk about Mike is because I met him at a crucial time in my life; I was a year out of college, was in and out of USWNT and U-21/23 camps and had no idea how to prepare myself for these events. Mike, among many other things, has been my soccer-specific strength and conditioning coach for the past four years. At a time where I felt lost, I found the person who would help me get to the next level, physically and mentally. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
But the thing about Mike that’s so telling is not the incredible sessions he comes up with, or the motivation he instills in his players, or even the fact that strength and conditioning is just a side thing he does because he loves doing it. What’s so telling about Mike, is how he conducts himself and the message he wants you to walk away with, a message that is so much stronger than moving your arms when you run, or landing quietly on box jumps.
Mike has taught all that have known him that being bigtime doesn’t have to be something that comes with money or fame. Being bigtime is a state of mind that people can achieve on their own personal level.
Some of my favorite Mike LeGate’s stories include such things as: giving money back to clients who he felt just didn’t fit his mold; bringing his high school soccer uniform to school in a dry cleaners bag; handpicking players from Connecticut that he wants to work with and having a pair of ¾ adidas pants that only come out in the summer.
I felt like this was exactly what I needed in life, and not in an arrogant way. I learned quickly from him that if I was going to do something in life, I might as well do it up as big as possible. What’s the point of doing something half-assed? So when I asked his advice on getting an agent for WPS he said confidently, “absolutely, that’s so bigtime.” I received similar answers for my contract with adidas, playing in Europe, having my own website, being featured in different news mediums, getting a customized “OCHO” license plate and so on.
When I look back on my career, I’ll be able to say I lived life as a professional athlete to the best of my abilities. I lived it up. I did, and continue to, do all I can with what I have. And I think that’s something people tend to forget. A lot of times I like to give my mom money, because that’s what many NBA and NFL players do when they get professional contracts. But instead of two million, it’s usually like two hundred.
In case I did a bad job getting the message across in this one, let me sum it up real quick: if you’re going to go to a concert; sit in the first row. If you’re going to rent Saw, rent all of them and watch them in one day, and if you’re going to be Batman for Halloween you damn well better be walking around with someone dressed as the Joker or Robin. Why not?? Do it and do it big. You won’t regret it.
In fact, I promise it will make for a better experience and a hell of a story when you’re older.
And though I know I still have a long way to go before I’m at Mike’s standard, I am thankful for all he has bestowed onto me and very content with the title LBT aka Little Bigtime, until further notice.