Question: Are you happy to be home?
Short answer: No.
More complex answer: No.
The mindset I was in when answering that question several times over the past couple days was still mid-bubble. I would give almost anything to be in that bubble right now. I’d give almost anything to have come home with some sort of hardware—not to mention it was actually very safe in Utah and re-entering the real world is near frightening. But my competitiveness is still getting the better of me as I reflect on (or stew over) the loss on Saturday. The past 5 months (and all offseason) meant nothing because we didn’t bring the trophy home.
Welcome to my process. One I’ve gone through several times in my career and should be better at by now, more mature. I’m not, clearly. Even as I write this note, there are parts of me that are fuming. Parts of me not wanting to turn the TV on to watch the semis or the final. Parts of me that want to smash a ball against a wall or go sprint a few miles just to feel physically what I don’t want to feel emotionally. Parts of me that are just tired of this year. Parts of me that are still so tunnel-visioned on the very singular goal of succeeding at the Challenge Cup that I haven’t yet returned to reality. At every turn this year, it felt like we hit a road block or a set back. Then the tournament was decided upon and named the Challenge Cup, and we all had a very quick laugh. We had to make countless detours weekly, if not daily. Personal detours, as well as the group as a whole. We watched a resort get emptied, we hopped fences to train, got chased off field after field, I had to quarantine a few weeks prior to leaving for Utah, we got anxiety each time we were tested, our ability to prepare was lost, fear of COVID as well as injury was suffocating. I have begun to whine so I won’t continue, but these are just a few.
At every challenge and detour, we all heard Richie say “recalibrate”. The goal was always to win the thing. So we would recalibrate even when it felt like we wouldn’t actually make it to Utah. We strived for that since we got news that’s what the competition would look like. So we accepted all of these challenges and believe it or not stuck together. At the end of the day, we were never at odds with each other. To fall short with this team is extremely hard to swallow, maybe more so than other years because we all just want some light in this really strange year. We’re all looking for ways that make all this pain and madness understandable and worth it. I think it’s in my realization of the resiliency of this group and what it means to be a part of this club that I can begin to answer the first question a little differently.
Complex answer: I am grateful to be home safe and sound and healthy. I’m grateful that Andi is already recovering from surgery and walking around. I’m grateful that teammates and staff can finally see their families and enjoy some time off to again, recalibrate. But mostly, I’m grateful for the experience that the Challenge Cup (and this whole year) has provided all of us. We didn’t cancel 2020, we actually powered through the first part of this year. It just looked a little different than we thought it would, but we did persist. I’m not unaware that in the grand scheme of things, we will be okay and we have much to be thankful for. We are perfectly capable of recalibration. The past 5 months did mean something even if that something is not fully known just yet.
It remains to be said though, that at every turn, you all recalibrated with us, ready and waiting for however you needed to cheer us on this year. You are ever-present fans, that despite our really low years or even an unprecedented year, you always stick around. I’m grateful we could show well in 2019 and give you a glimpse of that future in 2020. I’m grateful for the free coffees and limeades, for the posters, the tifos, the messages on social media, for the familiar faces I saw on the big screen at the field. Extremely grateful for your show of support as we sent our message of solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement allowing us to do that in our own unified way. Your love and encouragement at every detour always makes the ride easier to navigate, and hopefully in our return to the field, we were able to make your ride smoother and more enjoyable too. At the end of the day, finding the things to be thankful for has helped me grow through this moment and also this note, and the challenge that is 2020.
Thank you for cheering us on the whole way.
As we pause to see what the second half of the year looks like, we’ll do our part to help encourage those that need it most because we know the effect it can have and because you have shown us how.