The rattle of field hockey sticks always brings a smile to my face. Shin guards on, mouthguard tucked into my bra strap (to the chagrin of my mother who claims I’m going to lose it that way), Nike sneakers laced up almost too tight. I’ve got my goalie bag slung over my shoulder–the thing weighs almost as much as a kindergartner. Field hockey’s a summer to fall sport, but in the middle of February, it’s indoor tournament time. It’s flurrying outside.
I’m buckling myself into my goalie gear. Protective pants, then kickers, then leg guards, chest protector, throat guard, helmet, gloves and stick. I look like a stunt double for the latest RoboCop ripoff movie.
I’m excited. Indoor is my favorite. It’s fast paced, it’s exciting, it’s a chance to show my skills.
Fast forward a couple hours and I’m so in the zone that I’m pushing girls out of my way. As a goalie, you “protect the house” and do whatever it takes.
Fast forward a few more fifteen minute games and it’s coming down to penalty strokes between my team, the Blue Wave as we were known in tournament play, and our biggest rivals. In indoor field hockey, it works just like an NHL shootout. Each team gets three shots–best two out of three. If it goes past that, it goes into sudden death.
Short story: we won that tournament. By virtue of an amazing penalty stroke shot by one of my teammates, and some quick thinking saves.
Last night, the world watched something a little more remarkable than a high school indoor field hockey tournament. Tonight, the world watched the United States Women’s National Team defeat Japan 5-2 to take home the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Women like Abby Wambach have won that trophy. She’s inspired generations of women, before me, with me, and most certainly, after me.
I became a stronger woman because I watched her play–through good times and bad, victory and defeat. I became a stronger woman because I knew she could battle adversity and come back better than ever.
But mostly, I became a stronger woman because she believed. She believed in the country I live in, that she could play soccer professionally and win championships, and she believed that she could be with the woman she loved–and now can be married to her legally in all 50 states.
Thanks to women like Abby, I will always believe.