'Tis the Season

The NWSL season has officially kicked off in the form of preseason training camps. For anyone who doesn’t know what preseason means, it means the season before the season. Life as a soccer player is literally just seasons before seasons before seasons. We have offseason, pre-preseason, preseason, season, post-season. It’s ridiculous. There are times where I cannot precisely identify which time period I’m in. 

Anyway, I know I’m in preseason because it says it on our emails from our coaches. For the Washington Spirit, preseason consists of several different factors that all tie together. We are physically putting in the work on the field and in the gym, mentally learning styles, formations and all the tactical goodies that come along with the game and all the while meeting new people, learning their tendencies as people and as players. Oh, and also trying to stay sane and not get injured.

A successful preseason is one where a player makes the team, improves their game and fitness level, learns the tactics and gets to know their teammates… and doesn’t get injured. Last preseason I was close to having a successful preseason until the last little bit snuck up on me. During the last week of preseason I tore my ACL in a training session. I went to take a shot, planted (scored) and felt my ACL disappear like a real bad magic trick. Like sawing the woman in half, but for real, sawing the woman in half. 

So that was almost a year ago. In that year, my ACL has been fixed, my mind has been strengthened and my body is starting to get back to where it was before, maybe better. 

Training on my own was pretty standard. I knew what I was doing, everything was very controlled and I didn’t have anything off to the side tempting me.  Since I’ve been back training with the team I’ve experienced a lot of different things.

Now, I get to warm up with the team. (WHICH IS AWESOME). Then I get to do some small technical drills (WHICH IS REALLY AWESOME). Then I get to do some possession drills or keep away where I’m noncontact and I can just float around and not defend (DREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS STUFF). 

But then I have to go off to the side and do a different workout while the team gets to play to big goals or do 2v2s or play full field, or an intersquad scrimmage. I look to my setup of cones and balls and lines of running and then look back over to the team playing and feel like the puppy that no one wants to throw a tennis ball to. 

After a while I get over it because I’m breathing so hard that my vision is out of focus, but for a little while, it’s torture. 
I’m at the point where I feel really close. Like it’s in reaching distance. I see where all the work has gotten me. I see the value of doing the little exercises and icing and resting. I appreciate the fact that I can play, even just a little, because at one point I couldn’t even get out of my bed without my mom’s assistance.  

Patience.  Even more so than hard work and mental toughness, patience is going to be the key to getting back to a point where I’m good enough to be out there without risking re-injuring it. Patience is going to keep me sane while watching my team’s games and doing my extra fitness alone. 

Patience, with myself, and my sometimes- though rare- bad touch or missed shot that might occur as a result of coming back from an injury. 

I have to remind myself to go easy on myself sometimes. 

Patience. Is a virtue. Is an idiom. Is real. 

I’ll end with this. I write so that the world can be a better place. And because my friends don’t listen to me anymore. JK. They have to. 

If you’re a player or a coach or a parent or anything and you see someone coming back from an injury, if nothing else, just ask how he/she is doing. Once someone is able to walk and run and even play, it looks like nothing is wrong anymore. But from experience I can tell you, that long after things look good physically, the body has ways of reminding you that you had surgery. That things aren’t really the same. 

Maybe I wouldn’t have learned this if I hadn’t gotten injured and sometimes you have to walk (limp) in someone else’s shoes to get to that point. But I’m glad this happened now. I know I’ll be better from it and I hope I can help other people be better too.

Major shout-out to people who have been through a lot in their careers, especially you Jordan Angeli, you’re a hero kid.