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"You define you."

Hi friends,

Meghan here. I played competitive travel soccer my entire life until multiple hip procedures, including a total reconstructive surgery in college that required a donor tendon, ended my competitive career. It was a soul-crushing development for someone who loves the game as much as I do. In fact, I love it so much that after a grueling rehab and a few months off, I started playing rec soccer again and still play three nights a week to this day.


Clearly, soccer has always been a big part of my identity. That was especially true in high school, when I was playing for my school and my club, FC Delco, and competing to earn a DI offer. While my club was considered one of the best in the nation, my high school squad was laughably bad. Like spend-an-entire-practice-going-over-throw-ins bad. Still, I’d take any opportunity to be on the field.

Despite a less-than-stellar roster, I was the only freshman to make and start on varsity. And at first, my coach loved me. However, things started to shift during the season. First, he started me on senior day. While I was the typical starter, this decision meant that a senior who played my position would be on the bench. By itself, not a huge deal. But he then tried to pit us against one another to the point where I walked into the locker room before practice one day to find the girl sobbing and telling the other seniors how much she hated me. Keep in mind, as a freshman I didn’t speak. Like at all. I was quiet and respectful and deferred to the older girls - always. Plus, I had never been anything but pleasant to this girl. This apparent rivalry had been created by our coach.


Later in the year, my travel team played a friendly against his as a tune-up for the state cup tournament. Multiple other freshmen from my high school were on his roster. I want to be nice but there’s no other way to say this: his team was horrible. They were the “C” team for their club and competed at a much lower level than mine. We beat them handedly. I also scored. After the game, my high school coach treated me like a stranger in the post-game handshake line. When I stood at midfield talking with some of my high school friends from his team, he approached but pointedly ignored me, instead speaking only to the girls who were on his club team. Still, I didn’t make anything of it…until the next week at high school practice.


During a fitness testing day, he started talking to another player about my club team, insulting my club coach and calling our team overrated. Whatever, I thought, maybe he’s just a sore loser. My club team was my main priority, but I was committed to being the best player I could be for my high school, no matter how bad they were, so I figured I’d ignore it.


That is until later that same practice. As we were wrapping up a scrimmage, during which I thought I’d played pretty well, he called me over to him. Then, in front of everyone, he ripped into me, calling me a “selfish, me-first player” who put myself before the team…


I was shocked. Like completely blindsided. I had no idea where this was coming from and no idea how to respond. So, being the scared baby freshman that I was, I stood there and took it. I listened to him berate me for what seemed like ages, biting my fingernails down to stubs while trying to keep myself from crying.

That “feedback” wrecked me. I was completely distraught, my confidence shattered. While I couldn't think of a single situation in which I had ever behaved selfishly with my high school teammates, I assumed that if he was saying it, it had to be true. That made me question who I was. I felt absolutely terrible, having always viewed myself as a supportive team player, and was questioning my entire identity.

While my club soccer practices were typically my favorite part of the week, I was quiet at that weekend's practice and my coach, Wes, noticed. Eventually I told him what had happened and apologized if I came across as a "selfish, me-first player". And then Wes laughed. Seeing my confusion, he clarified that he was laughing because that was absurd. Then he taught me a lesson I've carried with me to this day. He said, "As someone who has known you for years, I can sit here and tell you all the reasons why that's not true. I can point to examples of you being a good teammate, including the fact that I named you captain for a reason. But none of that's going to matter until you start seeing yourself that way. It's up to you to decide what type of player, teammate, and person you are. Nobody else gets to tell you that - not me, or your high school coach, or anyone else. You define you. Be confident in who you are."

That conversation changed the way I thought about the situation, the way I approached the rest of the season (and life for that matter). At that moment, I decided not to let another person "define" or "label" me. It was such a simple message, but so powerful. Don't get me wrong, I still struggled with the way my high school coach treated me that season, but I refused to doubt myself and the type of player I was.

Throughout my career, I've dealt with challenges, setbacks, gaslighting, and people trying to paint me in a certain light. In fact, someone just recently tried to tell me that I was too detail-oriented and analytical and not sensitive enough. My first instinct was to question if that was true. While Sam's reassurance that I was not an inconsiderate jerk helped, it was ultimately on me to decide whether I believed that person's assessment. Ultimately, I chose to believe that my attention to detail was a valuable asset and had served me well in my chosen profession and that I could be both analytical and caring. So if you're struggling with the way others see you, remember, you're awesome and you belong here and YOU are the only person who gets to define you.

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