If, like millions of fans around the world, you’ve spent the last few weeks absorbed by the Women’s World Cup, you now have quite a bit of valuable information at your fingertips. Aside from the pure enjoyment of following this competition as a cheering fan, watching the best in the world can also pay dividends in understanding how to improve your own game – and how to face the challenges that lie ahead.
Each of the women competing in this year’s World Cup has fought tooth and nail to make it to the world stage, overcoming personal challenges, setbacks and inevitable droughts to reach the top. As you pursue your soccer career, these outstanding female athletes can serve as inspiration to dream big and work hard to achieve your own success. Here are some words of advice to guide you.
It’s hard to believe that the first Women’s World Cup took place less than three decades ago. When the United States won their first star that year, almost no media covered the tournament. This year over 1 billion fans tuned in to watch the final and, as I write this, the champions are gearing up for their ticker-tape parade in New York City. The US Women’s National Team is a wonderful example of where hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and a commitment to giving your all can lead. Whether you want to play in the next World Cup or just make your high school team, the lessons are equally applicable and valuable: Set your sights on the biggest prize you can imagine and work hard to make it reality.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
Jessica McDonald found obstacle after obstacle in the way of her athletic success. The lone mom on the USWNT, she battled childhood abuse and household instability growing up, finding much-needed solace on the pitch. Jessica attended junior college, trained until the birth of her son, and found herself traded and cut numerous times in professional leagues. Jessica’s most recent setback threatened her very future as an athlete: She suffered a tendon rupture that is usually career-ending. Despite all of these challenges she kept fighting – believing in herself and her dream. Whatever hardships you may face, remember that roadblocks will inevitably present themselves. Maintaining hope, keeping perspective, and consistently putting in hard work, is critical.
Run Your Own Race
It can be tempting to look around and compare how much stronger, faster, or more successful other people seem to be. We’ve talked about how to manage expectations and your own rate of development, but this is an important point that bears repeating. Rose Lavelle has become a household name with her stellar play this World Cup, yet she earned her first cap barely two years ago. While Carli Lloyd was named the tournament MVP during the last World Cup, she was largely relegated to the bench this time around. Here’s the takeaway: Focus on what you can control – you! Avoiding comparison will help protect your mental outlook and your game. Tracking other people’s progress won’t get you where you want to be, but a positive attitude and relentless hard work will.
Learn from Your Mistakes
Making a poor pass, not marking your man who scores the goal, missing a penalty kick at a critical moment – these are all mistakes that you will make, if you haven’t already. While you can be upset at yourself, you’ll need to rebound quickly if you want to learn and do better the next time. No one is a better example of this than Christen Press, who famously missed her penalty kick in the last Olympics. Christen has called the moments after that miss the ones she’s “most proud of.” Using her failure as fertilizer, she refocused and worked hard, returning to the world stage this year in France as a dynamic goal-scorer and change-maker.
These are just a few inspiring examples of sportsmanship and courage that I took away from the last few weeks. Hopefully you’ve made your own list of inspiration and are incorporating those lessons into your future plans. No matter your goal, the examples of perseverance, focus, dedication and resilience modeled by the 2019 Women’s World Cup athletes can serve as a valuable guide as you seek your own championship moment.
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.