I’ve finally been called up to play with the national team! I had high expectations as I arrived in Columbus, Ohio, to train with the team for a time surrounding two friendlies against Sweden and Costa Rica. I knew I was only there to train, and I didn’t end up making the active roster for either of those games. But this is my first call-up! I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a few years now; it’s my chance to prove I belong on this team.
The pressure of being in a performance-based industry can be challenging. The first couple days of the national team training didn’t go as well as I’d have liked them to, and I didn’t deal with it as well as I would have liked. In this type of career, you can end up being really self-focused. And I’m not the only player there wondering, “What does the coach think of me?” Or “Am I going to start, or even play?” Every girl there is thinking the same thing. It’s a tough environment because you don’t necessarily have each other’s support; no one knows where each person stands on the team.
Since the national team camp is really intensive, all our time is spent training or at the hotel in preparation for the next training or game. I don’t have my friends, my church family, or my other activities to take my mind off the game during camp. It can be overwhelming, but once I choose to look outside of myself, I am suddenly able to release the pressure, let go of the outcome, and try to enjoy the experience. As I made this mindset shift after a few days of training, I was not only able to enjoy the experience, but I was able to play more freely and give a more accurate representation of my talent on the field.
The position of goalkeeper is one with a clear hierarchy. Being a new goalkeeper at the national team camp means I have to start from the bottom and show I’m better than the other three established players there. It’s easy to get fixated on the comparison game, but I know that I will play much better if I’m not worried about how others are doing. If I simply compete at my best level, even if others are better than me, I am happy.
Being a team player is best for me and for my team. And if I’m a team player, I will want the best player to play, even if that’s not me. I can’t control how others act, I can only control how I choose to act. Though I have known this for years — I’ve been playing soccer for longer than I can remember — I have to continually remind myself of this, especially when I’m in a new environment.
I’m choosing to see myself how God sees me, and not how my coach or my teammates might see me. It’s easy to try to seek worth and validation from others, trying to gain praise or positive feedback on the field. Some days that may come and some days it won’t. But if I cling to the truth that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), I will know I don’t have to win anything because my salvation has already been bought on the cross.
It’s easy to bounce back into the performance-based mentality, but I know that ultimately, my performance doesn’t matter because Christ has performed perfectly in my place.
— Aubrey Bledsoe, NWSL’s Washington Spirit goalkeeper
Aubrey Bledsoe is a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions. Check out Aubrey’s profile on The Increase: https://theincrease.com/author/aubrey-bledsoe/
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