DJ has played sports for years. She started playing soccer at 5 and has continues to play each fall. She loves sparring in taekwondo. She loves pushing herself to learn more. And while that has all been fantastic, the one thing she has always lacked is her desire to compete.
Let me rephrase that because it is not quite accurate. While she loves the idea of competing, her attitude is too kind. She wants to win, but she lacks the drive to win. She usually throws her head up in frustration instead of figuring out how to turn it around.
Until this season.
I’m not quite sure what finally clicked for her, but she mentally wants to win now. She isn’t a jerk about it – but instead of taking her frustration and internalizing it into frustration or annoyance, she has finally figured out how to leverage it to her advantage. And for this, I am happy.
She came home from soccer practice one day angry. When I asked her what her issue was, she explained how the U11 girls scrimmaged against the U11 boys. They are coached by the same coach – an amazing woman who I swear coaches 12 teams at the same time. She had a game conflict, so a parent and former coach stepped in to cover for her. She decided the girls especially needed some time to play as a team. They actually elevated the U10 girls to play with the U11 girls because neither had a team of the right size. As a result, the new team dynamic has presented some challenges.
It’s all good – until the boys started getting the better of the girls.
And DJ did not like that.
So, she started playing harder. She started challenging the boys for the ball as she played midfield. And while she was frustrated by the overall situations, she started finding that her smarter play resulted in her getting the ball away from them. She was kicking ass without even realizing it.
Her coach today told me it was her persistence that resulted in her getting moved from sweeper to midfield. It is always why they aren’t keen on having her in as goalie if they don’t have to, but they move her into goal when they are struggling. Why?
Because DJ has also leveraged this to be a leader on the field.
Her first game as sweeper, she was putting the defense into position – and keeping their heads in the game. She took her job as last line of defense very seriously. And she was going to keep that ball out of there.
Today as midfielder, she was everywhere. While the other girls were slowing down, she was driving with the ball. And when she got put into goalie, she worked her ass off. When the girls were screwing around, she tried to get the refocused. She isn’t a jerk about it because that isn’t her. She just wants to walk off the field and know she gave it all she had. Her coaches all notice her change of attitude – and love it.
Sports gave me a lot of confidence as a kid. Communication – finding that drive to keep going when you wan to quit – playing as part of a team – all great skills for life. And for girls, being in a situation where getting muddy, getting bruises, and sweat are all celebrated is a great counter balance to a society where girls are expected to be pretty. Giving them the outlet to be physical and vocal in support is also important for some girls in particular. While they can get all of these things elsewhere, I think it is most easily gained via athletics.
I like seeing these things blossom with DJ. For the first time in a long time, I see a girl driven to succeed and not just play. And I like that drive. Makes me smile.
I can’t wait to see what this does for her taekwondo sparring. I know she has to do a few tourneys this year, so can’t wait if this starts showing up there.