In 2008 I was introduced to this amazing group of women and their journey to do something, that at that time, I completely took for granted: playing a game, competing with passion and pursuing excellence.
I had never been told I could not play, compete, get dirty, pursue my goals and dreams.
In 2008, I was coaching at the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy (JFSLA) and got the true pleasure of working with and coaching Roya Noori, a current player on our Afghanistan WNT Pool.
I found the story of the Afghanistan Women’s Team very fascinating. A small group of women who could not sit on the sidelines and watch their lives and hopes and dreams be controlled by someone else.
What was just a game of soccer, a moment to play and build friendships, turned into a movement for a voice, for hope, for equality.
Sometimes it amazes me that such a simple game, played across the world could inspire hope, change, dreams and empowerment, but that is the power of the beautiful game!
Growing up, sports kept me motivated, driven, and dreaming. Sports encouraged me to keep my grades up, to work hard in whatever I tried. Sports empowered my mind, body, and soul. It challenged me daily, kept me driven to get just a little better, work just a little harder, try a little more at everything!
Sports became a place of HOPE for me!
I realized my strength, courage, confidence, character, work ethic, attitude, respect, and leadership abilities were all instilled through my years of struggle and strife in sport.
These intangible values and skills made me a better person, helped me overcome great obstacles, trained me to NEVER QUIT in life, no matter what the circumstances.
I do not remember many trophies, awards, or accolades in my career, I do not remember interviews or highlights, none of these moments stick in my brain, my heart, my soul.
What I remember, the stories that pop up in my darkest of days is the spirit of struggle and strife, it is the spirit of camaraderie and overcoming great obstacles as a team, united against all odds.
When the world around us told us we were no good, we were the underdogs, we would surely lose and in that one moment a group of individuals could become one heartbeat, could work in amazing unison, could conquer the world in front of us and succeed.
Team is expressed in many ways, but once you are apart of a great one, you never forget!
I laid my body on the line many of times for my teams, not because I wanted to win but because I wanted to see my teammates smile, cheer, celebrate.
All those hours training alone in the sleet, rain, snow, heat, humidity, all alone in a place far from my teammates, those moments build character for life, those moments challenged me. Who I was when no one else was watching!
Would I let my teammates down, or would I run that extra sprint, do the extra hour, because when I crossed the finish line with my teammates, I wanted them to know they could count on me – no matter what the challenge or circumstance we faced.
No book could teach me that, to unite my inner fire and push me beyond my limits, these are life skills that could only be learned on the pitch – sometimes together – sometime alone – but always with the image of a team celebration at the end.
That is what this experience for this team is all about.
Growing up with sports, I had the freedom to dream and my dreams were always supported.
That is what this journey is for this team, for this group of amazing women.
No matter where we go, we need to support the dream.
Because with great dreams come great futures!
People who aspire, and believe in the beauty of big dreams go on to do great things both big and small.
I have no doubt that one dream sparks another!
Support the dream, trust that your support matters and know you are all making a difference.
It may not happen today, but in 30 years you will be able to look back and know you sparked the fire to be the change you wish to see!
Thanks for your energy, enthusiasm, and support for this great team!