I feel like myself again. Mostly because I’m back on the soccer field playing with a women’s league following a three-year hiatus. I grew up playing competitive soccer. When I stopped, I couldn’t seem to find another way to keep my mind healthy in the same way the game’s competitive spirit allows.
Even in my first returning match, I could suddenly see all the parts of my life that needed attention: clearer communication with my partner; being my playful self around my friends; believing in myself to pitch the kind of stories I really want to write.
On the field, I’m a different person; less in my own head. I think less and do more. I yell and shout with frustration and excitement. My friends keep saying, “I can’t see you being like that.” That’s because I’m generally very calm, I’m soft spoken, and I can be reserved. But I know, deep down, that there’s a playful spirit waiting to emerge.
Here’s what soccer has taught me about kicking butt in life, in the hopes it will help you too.
To perform well, prepare and practise
If I don’t take care of my body and get the rest I need, then I inevitably won’t play well. I need to stretch properly after practice and games, go to bed earlier on a Saturday night while my friends carry on partying, and eat well so that I have the energy to endure a 90-minute running session.
This whole regimen made me re-evaluate how I’m taking care of my body and mind, in an effort to write well. Am I reading the work of writers I aspire to write like? Am I getting into bed early enough so I wake up ready to take on the hardest task of the day? Am I dedicating time to write every day, simply as a form of practice? These questions translated into earlier mornings, finding new authors to read, and reading the right stories that will help me reach my goals.
Be direct to get what you want
On the field, I only have a few seconds to communicate: “Grab your man,” “Get on her,” “Take a shot!” There’s no time to anticipate or overthink what I want to say. What I say is dependent on the ball’s movements across the field.
In social situations or at work, how I speak is not always clear. I have more time to overanalyse how I want to contribute to a group conversation. I said to a friend the other day as we were leaving a cafe, “Are you good to walk?” She replied, jokingly, “Yeah, I have two legs.” I suppose I could have said, “Let’s go.” So, just like on the field, I’m making an effort to say it how it is, cut to the point, so as to avoid confusion.
Mental motivation boosts confidence
I get nervous before every game, so I need to mentally prep to boost my confidence. A few minutes before every game, I say aloud to myself, “Be aggressive. Get in their face. You can do this.”
Much like with soccer, when I’m on calls with editors or new clients, I have to talk to myself to boost my confidence. “OK, you got this. Show them what you’re made of.”
If I believe in myself, then I feel like anything is possible, whether that’s beating the hardest team in the league, to getting an editor interested in my story. When self-doubt creeps in, I immediately replace the feeling with an empowering action to show myself I can.
Collaborate with others
I was trying to understand why I thrived so much on the field, and it came down to one thing: the whole team is working together to achieve the same goal. We want to win. As a writer, I often work in isolation, which means I don’t have people to share with and learn from.
As a result, I looked at my network for potential new collaborations. I asked myself, who do I want to learn from and what could we work on together? I work a few days a week from a creative co-working space, but before soccer, I hadn’t considered how we could collaborate. Very quickly, a conversation about what I’m currently working on translated into work with an award-winning photographer to bring visual power to my stories. Sometimes collaboration simply means sharing my work to get feedback. I’m now sending transcripts to friends who are writers to get a second opinion.
Always be yourself
I love being on the field, because for two hours every Sunday, I’m out of my head. I do and say what I need to so the ball moves up the field. Now, after each game, I practice what I know on the field in real life: to believe in myself and keep winning at what I want in life.