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Monday, June 27, 2016

Procrastinating Goodbye

Procrastionation by definition reads:

The action of delaying or postponing something.

I have never been much of a procrastinator. I dispise the feeling of being unprepared. Maybe this feeling is why I delayed this open letter for so long, nearly a year to be exact. Although I feel happy with my decision, I don’t know if anything can prepare me for letting go of something that has meant so much to me.  

(Even now...I have procrastinated posting this for 2 weeks. Geeze get it together Jordan) 

Last week I had the opportunity to reconnect with two coaches I hold so dear to my heart: Tom Stone and Tony DiCicco. They also happened to be my first and last great coaches -- a moment in life where I understood this “coincidence” was really the last piece of my career going full circle.

Tom was the first coach that truly challenged me. We battled when he told me he was going to cut me from our u-13 team. With tears in my eyes and a belief in myself that was unwavering, I pleaded with him to give me one more season to prove I was good enough. Side note: this was just weeks after I watched the USWNT win the Women’s World Cup in 1999 and felt a dream establish inside my heart to be a pro soccer player one day. Everything about that day will be something I will remember for the rest of my life. Especially the uncontrollable belief I experienced when watching the game and knowing I wanted to one day become a pro soccer player. So, you can imagine my heartbreak when weeks later I was about to be told I wasn’t good enough. After I cried and begged him to keep me on the team for one more season, Tom obliged and I told him he wouldn’t regret it. Each week I worked harder than I did before. I arrived to training early and left late. Off days were filled with extra trainings to develop my left foot and fill a void my team had on the left side. At the moment, I couldn’t understand why Tom would take me off the team, but afterwards, after I understood how much that heartache helped me grow, I could only be grateful. So when I saw Tom last week, tears filled my eyes as we reminisced about where all those moments of challenge led me in my career. Years later, Tom would be one of my biggest fans. Something that made me so proud of how I learned to respond to situations early on in my career.

I also got to connect with Tony DiCicco. Tony took a chance on me in 2010 after an injury filled college career, he drafted me to play for his team, the Boston Breakers, in the WPS. From the start, I felt Tony had an unwavering belief in his players. Learning a new position and moving to a higher level, left me in the wrong spot a lot of the time (just ask my teammates like Kelly Smith, Kristine Lily and Lauren Cheney. They weren’t world class or anything!). Even through his critique of me on the field, I really felt like he believed in me. To me this is an example of a beautiful, perfect storm in sports: when belief of self collides with belief from your peers and coaches (something I was able to experience multiple times in my career). It wasn’t without work. I studied film, I trained extra, and I knew that if I got my opportunity, I had to take it. All that preparation allowed me to do just that and I was able to play in some of the most beautiful games of soccer I have ever experienced with some of the legends of our game.

After last weeks reunion of sorts with these two, I decided enough is enough. I need to stop procrastinating the inevitable and properly say goodbye. I believe you can’t truly move on in life without saying goodbye and letting go. So here is my attempt at just that:

After 25 years, I decided to hang up my boots for good. It isn’t a decision I took lightly, but was something I felt was right for me. (If you also face procrastination, that is the gist of this long goodbye/love, you can either skip to the end or be done. For those of you who want to continue, grab a seat and I hope you enjoy.) 

With tears in my eyes I write these words, my soccer career is officially over. I had a good friend give me some advice on the topic when I was making my decision: she said “No matter when you stop Jordan, it is going to be hard. If it is after a championship or due to an injury, the result is you are saying goodbye to something that has been a huge part of your life. So don’t let those feelings of sadness override what you think you should do.” I clung onto that because it is so true: for the first time in my career, I could make a decision about leaving the game on my own accord. I could walk away. Literally! ON MY OWN TWO FEET (no crutches involved), as a healthy and happy version of myself. This is what I chose. 

I remember some of my first soccer practices, me staring at my big sister so excited I got to play soccer next to her. Somewhere along the way I began to find my footing, soccer was becoming something I not only did, but something I loved. 

I LOVED playing. Back then I had this thing called speed (which I lost somewhere along the way) and I remember growing up loving the feeling of running past someone. Taking a player on 1v1 on the flank and crossing the ball into the oncoming run of my teammate. The smell of the grass, the sound of striking a ball perfectly 50 yards across the field, and the feeling of the ball kissing my laces as I watched it billow the net. Soccer is a thing of beauty. And it will always be just that, a sport I                                                                                                   love for all the joy it brought my life.

If you know anything at all about me, you know my career was ridden with serious injuries. I went from never being hurt to doing what a soccer player dreads most, tearing my ACL in an instant. Details of my entire journey are not relevant at this time, but through some bad advice, surgeries, and decisions, I tore my left ACL 3 times in 5 years. The first time breaks some. I just believed. The second one isn’t something most get back from. I became a professional after it. And the 3rd time’s a charm right? Well, I thought so because I was miraculously able to play once again at the highest level after 3 years away from the game and 3 ACL’s on my left knee. A total of 7 surgeries in my early twenties. Those numbers were something I clung onto with the utmost faith. Three and seven are big numbers in the Bible: both representing completion and perfection. 

I believe that I needed all those trials to be complete and perfect in what God was teaching me (not that I am complete or perfect but that lesson of the knee had concluded). It also made me understand that through it all, I knew I had to play again. To show the world that it wasn’t me but Him. To show others that sometimes the things you love the most also hurt the most, but with faith and belief and the ability to fight like hell, it is all worth it. 

My last 2 years of being a pro were trying. I will be forever grateful for my teammates those 2 years…for their belief in me because I really felt it. For telling me I should be playing, that I was a leader on the team, and that they were happy I was there. You know who you are and I love you all.

It was in those years that my role and my personal “x-factor” shifted in a weird way. (I believe we all have an “x-factor” in life, something so unique to us.) One of the reasons I love soccer is because it is and always will be about the team. I loved being a part of a team. Figuring out how to relate to certain personalities, how to bring a group of 25 women together to accomplish a goal, and sharing the failures and successes together. 

Chills run over my skin just thinking about how special being a member of a team really is (and it’s the thing I miss the most). Being a good teammate for me was always fulfilling my role in the greatest way possible. The role may change but the focus and attentiveness to the outcome never does. Here is where things changed: I was no longer the player people relied on within the white lines. For reasons beyond my control, my last two years were spent with my butt kissing metal as my teammates worked their butts off to win. My x-factor was always felt on the field. I accepted long ago that I would never be the best player on any team technically (although I worked hard to get there) but I knew I offered something special. My presence was felt by both my teammates and the other team. I was challenged with how to transfer this “x-factor” to my teammates when I wasn’t out there playing with them. All things are connected and I believe my multiple injuries and time off the field physically enabled me to get through these last 2 years. Embracing my role and doing it to the best of my ability was what my team needed day in and day out. I remember my trainer in DC asking me how I can be so positive all the time during the games when I was on the bench? And to me it was simple…it wasn’t about me. It was always about the team and how I could be the best teammate to them as possible. I guess as I leave my time on the field, I hope my teammates felt that from me. I truly am happy now for their success. I am happy to see all the rookies I played with last year flourishing this year. And in a very small way, I like to think I helped them believe in themselves when others didn’t allowing for them to tap into their greatness.

Procrastination….it’s even creeping into this letter. I am delaying the inevitable so I will end with this.


Thank you God for gifting me with this life. For giving me the ability to withstand challenges and rise back up knowing that the only way I would be playing at the highest level with 7 knee surgeries was something miraculous. Thank you for all the blessings you allowed me to receive through the sport and all the joy and love I got to show others through the way I played.

To my biggest fans: mom, dad, Ash and D-man. Thank you for believing in me even at times when I didn’t. For following me around this country and world as I did my best to kick a small ball into a big net. Thank you for allowing me to give you numerous sweaty hugs and for whistling at me when I needed to work harder. Thanks for picking me up when I fell, for bringing me a glass of water when I couldn’t walk, and a box of tissues when I couldn’t hold it in any longer. One of the best things that came out of this wild journey is learning how amazing you all are and how lucky I am to call you my family.

Thanks to my grandparents who drove hours to see me and even busted out of the hospital to watch their granddaughter play at Toyota Park. Thanks to all the Grau’s for all your support when I played near, your presence in the crowd is something I will always be grateful for.
To all the Angeli’s…one of the hardest parts for me in my decision to retire was you all. I never got to play in front of you here, at home, in Colorado. That pains me but I felt your love and support through it all. You supported me when my decisions didn’t seem “right” and you loved me through it all.

To all my coaches who created that perfect storm I spoke about earlier:
The first mentioned above, Tom Stone and Tony DiCicco – you all were the beginning and end, thank you. 

Wynne Macintosh – thanks for giving me a great woman/coach to look up to, and now a mom.  
Rob Lipp -- thanks for making me/us laugh uncontrollably and leading my favorite team ever to our National Championship.
Dave Dengerink -- thanks for making me play every position on the field. I was the best footballer I could be because of that ability to adapt.
Paul Bravo -- thanks for always wearing your backpack and continuing to support me through all my ventures in life.

Erik Bushey -- you are beyond words. I will never forget the first day you trained me as I was coming back from my 3rd ACL and we both looked at each other truly understanding how far I had to go. But you never doubted or backed down and you stood by my side the whole way. You never let me settle for mediocre, you expected me to run as fast as the boys and be the best me everytime I laced up my cleats. And... I know we were your favorite team ever.

Jerry Smith –-  thanks for taking a chance on a little stickly girl from Colorado and allowed me to attend to my dream school. You create an opportunity for growth at SCU and you helped me realize and embrace all my leadership qualities. The core values we learned there will be instilled in me for my lifetime.

     Curtis McCalister –- thanks for being a forever friend, something that trumps all the stuff you taught me on the field.

      Erin Chastain, Huss –- thanks for giving me that look. The look meant I could do better and then the smile I got when I did do better was all worth it. 

    Gregg Murphy, Murph Man –- Thanks for helping me see the game with different eyes and also teaching me perspective. It’s just soccer right :)

 Tim Shultz -- I knew from the moment you shoved me to the floor when we were playing 4v4 at The Ridge that I would learn one great lesson from you – PASSION. Thank you for giving me the shot to wear the USA crest on my chest and represent my country at a youth World Cup. But mostly, thank you for bringing together the most passionate team I have ever been a part of and doing something different.

I wish thank you was enough. Thank you for believing in me, for pushing me (harder then I preferred sometimes), for teaching me what it meant to be a good player, teammate and person. You all are the greatest and I feel truly blessed to have been taught by, and have gotten to play for, each of you.

To my “support staff” all the years: Dr. Schelgel and Kathy at Stedman Hawkins, Jim Keller + Next Level SP, Mike Davis, Active Care SF, Tim at Train Boston, Doug Goldstein, Lisa Daniels, Roberto Imondi, Kevin and Chris from Explosive Performance, Josie Fisher, Emily Fortunado, Justin Dudley, and all the training room staff that kept this humpty dumpty on the field much longer than anticipated. Small role or big, you all always gave so much of yourself to help me (and others) and I wish I could repay you. Just know I am forever grateful.

To my teammates…man I wish I could thank you each individually but that would just add to my procrastination problem I already am speaking on. You are what it’s all about. Without you all, soccer is meaningless. The friendships I established over the years are ones that stand the test of time. The game is and will always be about the people you play with. No win, no loss, no accomplishment would be possible without a group of badass women, and man did I hit the jackpot on that! I will, and already do, miss you all more than the sport itself. I miss sitting in our crappy locker rooms (crappy yes, but they were ours) talking about everything and nothing at the same time. Your support, love, belief, and encouragement throughout it all meant the world to me. I love you all.

To my friends who supported me near and far, thanks for sticking by me. For allowing me to have an outlet when I didn’t want to talk about soccer but listening when I did. 

To my amazing host families: The Duker's, the Nova's, the White's, the Katz's, and the Molloy' all gave me so much love and support through everything. Welcoming me into your homes and families like I was one of you. I will forever cherish time around your dinner tables talking everything from soccer to the Bachelor. You all are some of the most generous people I have ever met. 

Thanks to all the fans who supported me, wrote me kind letters, tweets, and posts throughout all my stages in soccer, especially my really hard days post injury. I loved playing for you all because you supported and loved our dreams just as much as we did! You spent your hard earned money to come watch us play in the WPS and NWSL…that means a lot to me and a reason why I stayed as long as possible after games to sign autographs. Without you, none of this is possible. I thank you all and hope my performance on the field brought some kind of joy to your life.

To the now u15 Colorado Rush girls ECNL team – thanks for reminding me why we really play. Your joy and eagerness to learn when I coached you was exactly what I needed to forgive the sport that I felt did me so wrong. You helped me more than you will ever know with your smiles, attention, and outpouring of love (mostly in the form of full fledged sprints to great me with a handshake everytime I was spotted at Addenbrooke). You showed me what it meant to play with childlike innocence and belief, true pursuers of Joga Bonito.

To soccer: the sport that helped shape me. Thank you for being my love for so long. For teaching me what it means to be passionate about something. Thank you for all the lessons you taught me and the woman you molded me into filled with respect, hard work, tenacity, humility, patience, and yearning for everlasting growth. You allowed me to see the world, experience different cultures, and to proudly wear my country’s crest across my chest. From fall nights at Addenbrooke to scoring goals in Harvard stadium on national TV, I will forever cherish the whole process. Thank you for teaching me to work for what I wanted. That we can’t all win. That in the space of striving to reach your highest goals is where the magic and 

greatness in life really happens. And for teaching me to forgive, to let go, and to understand that all the work is preparing me for something bigger than I could have ever imagined. I will continue to love and cherish you through my growing broadcasting career, working to highlight the journeys and commitment of other athlete’s in their various pursuits of greatness. I will also use what you taught me to help members of theACLclub with emotional and mental support so they can get back to you (and other sports) stronger and better than before (and to help reduce the number of members in theACLclub). You truly are the beautiful game. Each pass, each unselfish run, each tackle, save and goal teaching us all that the build up is what it’s all about: everything in life and the field serving a purpose.

So I guess my procrastination is over…saying thank you to all those who were a part of my journey was a necessary step for me to feel good hanging up my boots for good. I am eternally grateful.

Cheers to the next journey!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Power is in your Reaction

Life is full of unexpected moments. Moments that change your life forever.

I never planned on tearing my ACL. No one does. No one says they want to go through some of the toughest days of their re-learn how to walk, run, and play the sport they love so much but has also got them in the spot in the first place. These are moment's unplanned but looked back on with great appreciation for how they shape your life.

If life teaches you anything, it is that very few things are in our control. Like everyone in this world, somedays it's easier to understand this then others. One of my favorite quotes is

"You cannot control everything that happens to you. You can only control the way you respond to what happens. In your response is your power." 

Whether it be the news from a doctor or from my coach, I have learned so much through the way I respond.

Before season, I had promised myself to take each day as it came and to listen to myself and my body about if I would be able to continue competing in the NWSL. For the most part, I felt great...besides the normal soreness from double days and an occasional irritation in my knee, I didn't feel like I was destroying my body.

Progress is something we all long for in our daily lives...whether we are progressing at work on a project, in a relationship, or on the field, it drives us to continue putting full effort into everything we do. After a good start to the 2015 season, I felt the slow decline in confidence and progression with my on the field role starting to happen. The atmosphere created there was something I didn't enjoy being a part of and it made it hard to find my joy within the game I loved so much. It didn't surprise me that I was hit with a bad ankle injury in the midst of my lowest time in Buffalo.

The oxymoron here is within the injury, I found the joy in the progress again. I could work hard at rehabbing my ankle and doing everything I could to get back on the field. Control what I could control, my response was powerful and I found meaning in my status within the team again. When I got back on the field, I got straight into additional individual sessions working on things I needed to work on in my game. Finding my joy again allowed me to pass that on to my teammates.

There is when I found myself in the middle of a pickle... I could do the math, I knew we didn't have enough spots on the team to accommodate me when I was taken off the 45 day injured reserve and returned to full fitness. This fact made me think a lot about the future. I knew someone would have to be waived and understood that it was between me and a group of mind went back and forth many times trying to grasp the concept of what was about to happen.

When I got the text Sunday morning, July 5th before the US team won their 3rd World Cup, that I had a meeting with my GM and head coach the next morning an hour before training...I knew what it was about. I had prepped myself for what was to come and was at peace with it. Although a lot could of been said in that meeting Monday morning, I felt like through my reaction I proved why I was so important to my team. I thought of my teammates first. Who would be there to assist them in making that final run when they thought they felt they were completely exhausted, or who would drive them on that important errand?  I voiced my opinion that it was better for me to get waived then a girl just starting her career. I could handle it...I have been prepped with many challenges in my career that have taught me the biggest lesson...I will be alright! To have to sit and watch them go through it so young and eager to start their career, that was difficult for me to swallow. I was content in the fact that it was me on the chopping block. It was not due to lack of performance or talent, but strictly due to the business side of the league and the addition of international players post-world cup. A fact frustrating within itself, but hey, I can't control that right?!

Did I cry? Well if you know me at all you know the answer to that question. But the tears weren't for the fact that they didn't want me on the team anymore...It was because I would have to leave a group of teammates and friends where I felt like I was making a difference. Not only on the field (where my teammates continuously told me I was playing well, encouraging me in my performances) but off the field, helping the youngest players transition into the wild world of being a professional soccer player. Was I playing every minute of every game? No. In fact I was barely playing. But the way I felt about my role on the team was something beyond what I can explain.

The past two months after being waived, I have grown a lot and had the opportunity to do things that wouldn't of been possible! It's a journey, and I don't know where I will be in the next month, but I will embrace the opportunities that come my way with a good attitude. We can't control so many things that happen to us, but we can control how we react. I choose to respond with positivity and find the power of what is coming next in the way I embrace the change.

Be blessed. 

Ephesians 4:2