Aug. 27, 2012
GOTHENBURG, Sweden -
This is the latest blog by former Stanford soccer star Christen Press, now in her first season in Sweden, playing for Kopparbergs/Goteborg FC.
I am a world traveler. I like the sound of that, and more importantly, I like the truth in it. I think it implies not only that I have visited many places, but also, I am on a course, a process of discovery; one that football has afforded me. While I am not a negative person, I admit that there is an everyday grind that comes with being a professional athlete. Cycling through highs and lows in a season, the repetition of trainings, the constant struggle to be better, well … it can be exhausting. And when football got rough in June, the task of creating a full, balanced life suddenly felt impossible. Like staring in the mirror too long, you began to scrutinize your face and focus on all the flaws! Fortunately, it was at this point that I left Sweden for my summer break.
My memories of London2012 are all but a daze … if it weren’t for the many snapshots taken by me, teammates, and friends, I’m not sure I would be able to accurately recount the subtle nuances or even the more obvious details that made up this extraordinary experience. But my Panasonic is more than just a device. It’s a teacher, and after returning to the familiar surroundings of Sweden, I discovered lessons hidden in its science.
I spent five weeks in the UK, packing up and leaving every few days as we bounced from town to town, or venue to venue. And since I like to pick up new things and new tools along the way, you can imagine my load by the time I arrived back home in Göteborg. In fact, I departed for the Olympic pre-camp with one small carry on, and I arrived home with three additional suitcases … Despite all this, the most important take home item of all did not weigh a single ounce.
At first, I did not notice it there, lying in my bag next to my newly collected USA paraphernalia. It is something of which I have not been conscious, and yet, it has existed all along. It is something I came upon accidentally, but have instantly recognized as priceless. Perhaps it holds the key to becoming the person and player I want to be while helping me recover some of the girl I once was. It is perspective, and its’ effect is as magical as photography.
Now picture this: What looks like ‘Small Field/Big Goals’ the U.S. calls, ‘4v4’ and the Swedes call tempospel
— or, ‘Paced Game.’ In both Sweden and Great Britain, this drill dominated my training sessions. However, even with mostly the same rules, subtle stipulation changes (like adjusting the aperture of a camera) make 4v4 and tempospel
two totally different representations. KGFC plays a lot of short games during which you substitute with a partner on the fly. In June, I often became frustrated by this system of starting and stopping, feeling like I could never find flow. In contrast, the USWNT plays fewer games of longer durations, and as I recognized the drop in quality that comes with playing into fatigue, I immediately began to miss the standard of tempospel.
I longed for my tag-team, not only to catch my breath, but more importantly, to be able to zoom out and view the game from an outside perspective, for a moment to exercise my mind.
The U.S. version of 4v4 would be more accurately named 1v1 1v1 1v1 1v1. All of the tactics of small-sided fotboll that had taken me months to digest turned into liabilities during soccer’s 4v4. Team defending by protecting the middle of the field, passing players, and staying organized was replaced by individual moments of brilliance, exceedingly hard work as you stayed with your player, and the emulation of the madness that often occurs inside the penalty area. I need to adjust my shutter speed for this…
Moreover, when the camera was a new technology, it was often described as ‘a mirror with a memory…’ But we know better nowadays; how changing the angle, the lighting, the focus, can make the same object appear completely different. Like a camera can turn images of the day-to-day drudgery into vibrant pop art in a single snap of the shutter, a new perspective changed my outlook on my life, on Sweden, on football. When I arrived home, colors appeared brighter, the air was fresher, the coffee was sweeter. It seems that by stepping back … temporarily stepping away, I am now viewing things through a rose-colored-lens again. I can sense it … and I feel it on the pitch.
With the addition of my two new teammates, Yael Averbuch and Camille Levin, I feel like I am now operating with a panoramic lens. They have helped me see the full scope of my experience here in more than one way. First, their enthusiasm and positivity for this new team and new life brought me back to the place I was in March — bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready to take on the world … like going to Disneyland with a child, and seeing everything from his eyes. Additionally, playing with Cami, one of my best friends with whom I played with in college, helps me to see how far I have come.
Taking a break from the team I love, the environment I love, the place I love, was like discovering Instagramm … Flaws? What flaws!? I advise everyone to step back from the “routine” once in a while. The change in perspective will make all the difference!
Last week we played two games. After arriving home on Monday, we played in the Svenska Cupen quarterfinals on Tuesday against Kristianstad, who beat us in Damallsvenskan earlier this year. A few of us were playing on nothing but adrenaline, as the Olympics had left our bodies fatigued and minds out of sorts. However, it seemed to be more than enough, as we played a quality game: connecting passes, putting together solid attacks, scoring goals. We won 3-0 and had fun as we propelled ourselves into the semifinals, to be played August 29th against Malmö.
After a few trainings altogether as a team and back into a regular schedule, we played again on Saturday in a league game against AIK in Stockholm. Now back in my fotboll flow, I thought my body and mind would feel sharp … but they weren’t. A week on the turf (after six weeks of grass) left me aching and the stylistic switch left my mind spinning. We lost 1-0.
Sometimes it feels like playing on this team is just riding waves. Our team plays with such emotion. When we are winning, suddenly we knock the ball around with brilliance, patience, and confidence as we coast into shore. And when we go down a goal, the wind knocks out our sails and we spiral into an undertow of panic. I try to tread and splash to create a counter-current, but I’ve yet to succeed … still I “just keep swimming!”