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Step Past Believe

As a young girl, I played softball for several years, tennis, volleyball, and I was in track. I tried out for the basketball team, but I quit after learning that in 6 on 6 style play for girls I wasn't allowed to run and dribble with the ball. I couldn't wrap my head around the idea that I could only take two steps and then had to pass the ball. In high school, I was a cheerleader. I only played intramural sports in college, until my senior year. That year, I tried out for the women's varsity soccer team and made the team as a walk-on.

I thought that my whole experience trying out for the soccer team was a great example of believing in myself, knowing I deserved to succeed and setting up a plan for success. I should predecess this whole discussion by letting you know that I never played soccer before I tried out for the varsity team, other than in P.E. class in junior high and high school and pick-up games in the schoolyard. I grew up in the Midwest in the 1980s, and soccer -- especially girls' or women's soccer -- was not a regular team sport at most schools in our area. I actually became a soccer fan because the school I attended my freshman year of college did not have a football team, but they had a really good soccer team. So, I attended a lot of games. 

As I mentioned earlier, I played a lot of intramural sports in college. I did the "I'm not an athlete, and I'm not that good" humility version so that there was about zero expectation for me to do well. I guess I was the only one who bought into that really because one day the men's soccer coach saw me playing intramural softball. The next day, he told me they were starting a women's soccer team for the next fall. He said he saw me playing softball and that I should try out for the women's soccer team. I said, "Sure." I mean, what did I have to lose? If I didn't make the team, then I learned how to play soccer. If I did make the team, I thought it would be short of a miracle. Still, I had to put in some effort because I wanted to at least look like I cared.

Image by Andy03 from Pixabay

To begin with, I knew that I needed to get in shape. I had seen enough soccer games to know that there is a lot of running in soccer. So, I started running around our college town at nights when no one could see me. I never really considered myself a very good runner. I don't know how this came about, but I also solicited the help of some friends who did play soccer. On more than one day, we went out to the soccer fields, and they showed me how to place my foot on the ball. The guy who taught me foot placement, taught me barefoot so that I could see exactly where to touch the ball with my foot. I also practiced the foot placement barefoot first. Let me tell you, if you are going to kick a soccer ball with bare feet, you better make sure that you know where you are putting your foot. 

After my friends taught me the basics, I went out to the soccer fields by myself every day for several hours several days a week. I was no stranger to having to practice alone. I can still remember throwing the ball up in the air as a little girl to practice catching pop flies in my parents' backyard. So, I practiced dribbling, shooting, and running with the ball. The very few basics that my friends had taught me. I continued running. I also added in a strength training workout. That whole summer I spent working out getting ready to try out for the soccer team. 

When pre-season came, I was so excited about playing that I forgot all about whether or not I would make the team. I decided I wanted to make the team. That I deserved to make the team. I made myself believe that I would make the team. Of course, there were days during pre-season when I wondered if I was going to survive to the end of the week. One day, during a pool workout, I realized that I belonged there. I was doing it! I was doing this! I started believing in myself and my abilities. 

Now,  I wasn't a starter by any means. That wasn't my goal. It was more to prove to myself (and maybe to some others who watched in disbelief) that I could play soccer. And, it was fun, and I loved it. After college, I even moved to the East Coast and coached soccer for two years. Later, I coached soccer in the Midwest and assisted a school district in designing and creating a varsity soccer program at their high school. 

So, the first step is to believe you can do it. The second step is to believe you can succeed. The third step is to set up a plan for success. The fourth step is to carry out your plan. Rinse and repeat as needed.