The following is from my book “Listen, Listen to My Heart’s Song” available in print and as a Kindle download on Amazon.
“…The point of realization when I was able to make decisions for myself has been an endless journey. I, as well as you, are probably constantly trying to live up to those expectations of the ones we aim to please. Is it your boss? Is it your mother? Is it your coach? Even still, there have been many moments in my life where I have made decisions, with the support provided to go out on my own. I will tell you the secret.
To play club soccer was something only privileged city kids were able to do. The opportunity arose for a small-town nobody like myself when I was a junior in high school. A referee spotted my glimmer of talent (which really was hard work behind the scenes) and asked me to try out for his club team in the next town. Basically, it was a collaboration of talent around the local county. Appalled that he asked me, I began training harder. Knowing there would be costs involved, time, travel, and much commitment from not only myself but my parents was something to ruminate over. My parents agreed to let me go for it.
Even though I’m certain I was the worst player at the try-outs, I somehow managed to make the team. I remember wearing my first warm-up club gear to even church. This was to show that I was on something that took work and talent to get to. I remember spending trips with my parents both together and individually to games. What I’m trying to say here, is I couldn’t have made this inspiring leap of club soccer if it wasn’t for my parent’s support in every way. My courage grew.
Now, if it wasn’t for that team, I would never have been able to showcase myself to my university coaches. That’s right, a hick-ville girl from lil-old Rainier, Oregon, was going to make the first-ever girls soccer team at Warner Pacific College.
My youth pastor came from Warner Pacific College and always recommended I attend that school. I always laughed at the size and claimed, “if they get a girls soccer team, I’ll think about it.” Eventually, the response became, “I think they want to start a women’s team. Ask the men’s coach about it.” Well, without anything to lose but my only shot at playing a 4-year university soccer I did just that.
I think with the courage provided from my support of family, church, and even teammates; I approached that classy English coach. Bernie will never forget that day, as neither will I. Having driven an hour just to simply ask if Warner will start a women’s team was just the question that sparked a change for the University ever since.
For 2 years I played for Warner Pacific College. It wasn’t a normal recruited team, however, I’ll never take it back. Pioneering was something I soon learned was in my blood. My parents, I believe were proud of me to play soccer, get a degree and be in an environment to flourish on my own. Again my family traveled, met new people and parents as well as spent time with me because of my games.
Just being in the city of Portland helped me to immerse myself in an environment to work, begin going to the gym, live on my own, and playing soccer everywhere I could. Developing and desiring for more, I saw that Warner wouldn’t be the place to allow me to grow like I wanted to. I began to write letters to all sorts of Universities, even ones that I would never have dreamed of playing for because they were so highly regarded.
I’ll never forget the coach from Oregon State University giving me just 5 minutes of his time and basically telling me after driving 2 hours to talk to him that I was a nobody who never played for a top club in high school. That same day, I’d managed to get the coach from Concordia University to let me go to a practice with their team. After that practice, he called me on the way home to see if I wanted to play for Concordia. I almost drove off the road! I didn’t even know he was scouting me! A school that finished in the top 5 in the nation every year! What an honor.
This part of my life was when I really had to take a leap of faith that my decision would be seen later in life, whether the right one or the wrong one. I would leave Warner, where I was given a lot more money to play soccer, to a school that was quality soccer and yet no money to start. I even made an ever-bolder decision that I wanted to red-shirt. (Red-shirting means that you are on the team, but you don’t play in any matches. Then you have an extra year to play. Usually, it’s for development or for injury in college). I felt I’d lost time not being coached properly and wanted to have that as the other girls had. So I knew I wanted to spend a year just training and then have two more of eligibility. This wasn’t an easy decision to make by myself.
It was stay at Warner and be unhappy, but money wasn’t the problem or go to Concordia and be happy yet be in dept when it was all over. My parents allowed me to decide for myself. Happiness is what’s most important, I decided. The decision to red-shirt was something no one agreed with, even my coach until he saw the fruits of my patience in my final year at Concordia. It was a process I could see myself thinking of a bigger picture. My senior year was by far the best season I’d ever had in my life!
College soccer helped me not only get an education, but it shaped my personality. I have been able to see places I wouldn’t have before. I have met wonderful and influential people because of soccer. My family has been privileged to travel and grow with me along this path. I’ll never forget the time when I was in Kansas at the Final Four banquet. The speaker was the US women’s soccer national team psychologist. She said that us girls, in that room, were prime material for employers. We had responsibility, teamwork, passion, work ethic, drive, and much more that is what bosses and teams desire. All this, from sports!.”
N.B. Noel is living in South Africa introducing football to girls suffering from HIV.
© 2021 by M. Barrett Miller
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