Soccer has always been more than a game to me, it has taught me so much throughout my life and provided endless opportunities. My journey began at the age of 7 when I told my Dad I wanted to play for a team. I remember it clearly, he simply picked up the phonebook (no google back then) & started calling every team in our area. It was 99% boys teams but we got lucky and found the only girls team in our area named GFC Prestwick later known as Ayr United GFC. This team was where it all began, I really found my true calling in life and I knew right then that this was going to be a fun journey ahead. I would play with this club for 11 years; our team became one of the best in Scotland and players travelled far and wide to play for us.
Through my years playing with GFC Prestwick/Ayr United it allowed me to excel and I was awarded the opportunity to go tryout for my U16 Scotland national team. It is every soccer players dream to represent their country. However, this is when things became a little more cutthroat. I remember how the tryouts unfolded, it took place over 2 days and we trained and played for many hours. Afterwards we meet in a small room where our names were called out. 18 players were picked out of about 30 girls, 12 girls were in one room and 18 in another. Unfortunately, I was one of the 12 so we put two and two together and knew we had not been selected. It hurt, I was super upset and the first time I had really experienced failure.
The lessons begin:
Lesson #1 – “You can’t give up, you must be resilient”.
I was so determined to prove a point, I knew that’s where I belonged so now it was on me to make it happen. After a few months of continued hard work I received a phone call from the U19 Scotland manager, she offered me a spot on the team. I was both confused and excited, how could I make the U19 team but not the U16 team, (I still wonder this but sometimes you don’t always make sense of things). I didn’t complain and jumped at the chance to prove myself.
Lesson #2 – “Play like no one is watching, it won’t go unnoticed”
After my selection, my national team journey began, I was fortunate to travel Europe and compete at the highest level. I visited Belgium, France, Austria, Germany, Belarus & Switzerland all in a 2 year span. We experienced many different cultures along the way and I am thankful for these opportunities as they opened my eyes to travel. I got the bug, I wanted more & more, I wasn’t happy with just staying in Scotland all my life as much as I LOVE MY COUNTRY!
Lesson #3 – “Never be content with what you have as there is always more out there to explore”
I was just about to graduate High School and had the big decision of what university would I attend. I decided to move away from home to attend Dundee University. This was a huge step in my journey as I had never been too far away from home; I was super close to my family. As I moved from my home town I also had to move to a new soccer team, I was fortunate to find a great team and an even better coach. He continually pushed me to the next level and I am extremely thankful for Eddie Wolecki as he would be honest and blunt but it was truly what I needed. University was great for the first 3 years until I came across my Cell Molecular Physiology Class (the name sticks so deep in my mind). People always ask what the heck that involved and quite frankly I still to this day don’t know. I failed this class 3 times, (yes not a misprint, 3 times). Without passing this class I simply could not get my degree; one class stopped me from getting that piece of paper. What the heck now, what do I do, where do I go. A lot of doubt crept into my mind and I felt stuck, my “plan” didn’t quite work out.
Lesson #4 – “If you are good at something, use it to your advantage”
After many hard conversations with my family, I turned to all I ever knew…SOCCER. I always wanted to move to America to play and experience “The American Dream”. I began doing some research into college scholarships to see if I could get funding to go play. My family were not in a position to pay $30,000 a year for me to go play in school and I honestly wouldn’t let them. With my playing background and Scotland national team experience I got offered a few opportunities. Lindsey Wilson College called me and offered me a full scholarship without even seeing me play; more power to him. I discussed this opportunity extensively with my parents, but I made my mind up quickly, I was moving to America on a soccer scholarship!!
Lesson #5 – “You Only Live Once, If You Live It Right, Once Is Enough” (Also tattooed on my body)
The American dream began, I only got 2 years of eligibility to play due to attending university back home but it was these 2 years that really impacted my life for the better. Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely hard being away from home, in fact I almost threw it all away after 6 months until we lost in the semi finals of nationals. I had to come back and try one more time to win nationals…we lost again in the semi finals, ugh!! After college came the working world, I had some hard decisions to make especially when visas played a big part in things. I knew I couldn’t continue to play which was “THE HARDEST DECISION EVER”, so I decided to try my hand at coaching. After all soccer is all I really knew and it allowed me to stay in the game.
Lesson #6 – “Find a way to give back to the game that has given so much to you”
This was my opportunity to share my knowledge, passion and drive with the younger generation. I was always asking myself “how could I impact these kids with my experiences?” I wasn’t an amazing coach but I knew that I could get through to these kids, my ability as a coach would continue to improve the more I coached. I grew more confident in my coaching abilities and the kids responded, it was a win win. I loved my job and I quickly realized this was not just a job to pass time that this was going to be my career. Through some tough decisions (turning down a professional playing contract back home) and stressful visa situations I continued my coaching career into college. I would have stops at Murray State University, Central Michigan University and most recently Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. The college coaching journey matured me and exposed me to many more opportunities, however, it also exposed me to some of the dark sides of the coaching world. After losing my job as the assistant coach it allowed me to take a step back and reflect “where am I going on this journey?” Although I always thought I was happy in my job it made me realize I never had a minute to myself to really ask myself “are you happy with how things are going?”, the answer was NO!
Lesson #7 – “Don’t be scared of change, it’s the best thing that could happen to you”
After much reflection my own business was created (I have always wanted to be my own boss), ALL THINGS SOCCER initially was all about coaching. I did private one on one sessions with many kids, and I got a great response from the female players. I enjoy it but I wanted my business to encompass a whole lot more . I have recently began Soccer Preschool Programs (yes, I am crazy) and I conduct Summer Soccer camps, these keep me busy but are fun; there is no better feeling to see a bunch of kids having the time of their life at your programs. As I look to expand and “change” my outlook of my business I hope to bring a voice to not only the females within soccer but also the youth. Soccer has impacted my life in a very positive way and it is important that my voice as well as many others fight for equality within the game we love. Through many different campaigns and programs I hope to be able to create a sense of unity within the game of soccer. I will be introducing a line of apparel with messages that I hope we can promote to allow our voice to be heard. I am excited for my future a head with ALL THINGS SOCCER.
I will close out with my final lesson that soccer has taught me:
Lesson #8 – “IF YOU DON’T BUILD YOUR DREAM SOMEONE WILL HIRE YOU TO HELP BUILD THEIRS” – Tony Gaskins