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Life After Soccer: Staci Wilson

For me, this series would more appropriately be titled, “Is There Life After Soccer?” As a player I thought I was a well-grounded and developed individual who just happened to play soccer, but the reality of it was that I truly was a player and in my heart identified myself as such. It took at least 6-7 years until I started to achieve peace with the change of life and identity. I didn’t predict it would be such a difficult transition.

My take on “life after soccer” really only applies to players who over years and years put in blood, sweat, and tears. It applies regardless of end level achieved, however, the now abundant everyone-gets-a-trophy players who participated because, well, they could, will not feel the same as I or the players who truly invested in the process. Players who invested and competed with greatness, the type whose parents had to pull them off the field, this type of player, will find a pretty major void of sorts once their competitive career is over.

Competing at soccer provided me with a unique enjoyment and euphoria. This made the dedication, hard work and sacrifice effortless. Nothing gave a better feeling to me as a youth than running, making a killer tackle, or scoring a goal. The game was a tremendous outlet where I could pour my energy and see positive things in return… That is a pretty powerful presence to have in one’s life, and I think that is the overall challenge in transitioning from a “soccer player” to an “ordinary civilian”. Once competing at soccer was over I needed to identify a new passion and the best life path to carry it out. I had to figure out the people and things within “life after soccer” that could ignite my heart enough to fill the enjoyment and euphoria void.

I searched long and far and wide and… (drum roll, suspense)… ended up coaching soccer. I love the game, every single aspect of it – the technical mastery, physical training, tactical strategies, psychological warfare, teamwork, bonding, goal-setting, etc., etc., etc., so coaching turned out to be more of a calling over time than a decision. I never actually planned to be a soccer coach, but somehow chose jobs that kept me connected to training soccer players or teams (i.e. wellness instructor, strength coach). Eventually a friend asked me to coach her daughter’s team, which was about to implode with a couple of dad coaches. Before that I would only train teams. I trained four different teams once per week, but would not coach because I enjoyed the lovely, drama-free existence of not having to deal with parents or clubs. As a favor, I went ahead and took the plunge and committed. It turned out to be a life-altering decision that changed the trajectory of my existence. I discovered what could be shared through coaching and mentoring a group over time. Perhaps equally enticing was the noted fact that I could play into scrimmages way more as a coach. ☺

Most players that decide to coach after their playing career has ended have a desire to share what the game has brought them. Whether it is self-pride, or confidence, teamwork, focus, or whatever, there tends to be some noble reason or purpose that keeps most players in the game. In college, Anson often gave speeches about “giving back to the game,” which stuck with me. I admired him taking the time with us to discuss deeper issues than how to win. He was teaching us to not be bigger than the game but rather to connect with it… I can say that soccer has afforded me many opportunities, and, in giving back what soccer has given me, my company motto has been for years and will remain “*Empowerment * Achievement * Excellence*” with a mission of “helping female soccer players achieve goals and reach dreams.”

Considering that I stayed in a sports training environment for many years, the necessary lifestyle adjustments were minimal at first. I was in the weight room for hours each day teaching, thus able to maintain a lot of my fitness effortlessly. As the job demands became more office-related over time, plus outside of work life expanded, I’ve had to put more focus on and effort into establishing healthy exercise and nutrition patterns. I actually have to find time to workout now and I can’t eat whatever I want – the body changes (somewhat tragically) when activity levels decrease so drastically, not to mention throwing age into the equation. The whole “no naps” thing was a hard adjustment, too. I thought being a pampered high-level athlete was tough, but came to see how much harder those that do not have to workout 3-5 hours per day or play in two 90-minute games per week have it… Yes, reality hits through incremental, often ironic revelations during the post-playing career.

Truly letting go of playing has been a lot easier in the past few years because I’ve focused on the benefits that come with not competing at soccer. I take appreciation in the things that I can now do with my time… spending time with my family and friends, enjoying new hobbies like canoeing and boxing, expanding relationships, relaxing at the pool or beach, etc. The reality of old age hits eventually so I also appreciate what I do not have to do with my time. Things like not icing for an hour per day, not stretching for an hour per day, not planning out a week or month training schedule, not having to skip late-night socials, etc.

So is there life after soccer? I found that, yes there are delightful experiences and personal growth that can only be experienced once the competitive player mentality and career has ended. I also discovered post-career, however, the true meaning behind the saying “Soccer is Life” and with that figured out how to positively extend my connection to the game.

Staci Wilson won an Olympic gold medal with the 1996 U.S. Women’s National Team. The former University of North Carolina defender went on to play professionally in the WUSA, winning a championship with the Carolina Courage.

Life After Soccer: Angela Hucles

Life after soccer…is a different life. Well, it has been for me at least. Most people talk about the identity tied to being an athlete and the transition after no longer being associated with a team or playing the game anymore. I retired from professional soccer two and a half years ago after playing the wonderful game for more than 25 years, and honestly, I feel like I am still adjusting to the transition.

After reaching a certain level, everything in your life as an athlete is so structured. What time you need to wake up, a set time for meals, training and lifting, doctors visits, travel, time-off, meetings, and downtime. Many arrangements are made for you so the primary focus as the athlete can stay on training, competing, and evolving as a player and as a team.

So what happens after that all disappears and you enter the “real world”? Of course, every person’s answer is different based on individual personality and circumstance. I was fortunate enough to retire of my own choosing and not because of an injury or coach’s decision. When I left soccer, I pursued an interest that I had in real estate. When I was on the road I would read lots of books on real estate, renovating and construction and became fascinated with it. That seemed like the logical next step for me, so I got my real estate license and worked for a residential company and then moved to a commercial real estate group. I was excited to experience the corporate world, trading in my cleats and sweats for pumps and suits. However, I began to realize the world in which I previously left in sports was still calling. While I knew I was finished playing soccer, I began to realize that there was still more being asked of me to stay involved in the sports world.

After some soul searching, conversations with friends and family, and support from advisors, I left the corporate world, recently moved across the country from Boston to LA, and have shifted my focus on motivational speaking and conducting workshops on empowerment through sport as well as sports commentating. Sports has enriched my life in so many ways and made me into the person that I am today. It is what I am truly passionate about and I’m enjoying the discovery of the many forms that it can take.

No matter what your involvement in sports are, life can show you times to reinvent yourself. What sports has offered me is the courage to accept challenges in those times, create concrete goals to achieve them, and to know that win or lose, the journey is what offers the greatest rewards whether it be in the game of soccer or the game of life.

www.angelahucles.com
Twitter: @angelahucles

Angela Hucles played for the U.S. Women’s National Team, won two Olympic gold medals, and played in two Women’s World Cups. The former Boston Breakers midfielder in both the WUSA and WPS, Hucles was honored in 2009 by U.S. Soccer, receiving the USSF Humanitarian of the Year Award.

Damallsvenskan Round 9: Linköping hammers Djurgården, while top three all win

By Rainer Fussgänger – The talk of the weekend was most likely Linköping’s huge 11-0 win over Djurgården, whose regular keeper Gudbjörg Gunnarsdottir sat on the bench due to an injury while 17-year-old Tove Enblom was sent onto the pitch as goalie and had a disastrous debut in the first league. It was not Tove’s fault though that her defense collapsed. The three top teams Tyresö, Malmö, and Vittsjö all have 21 points now while four squads lie already eight points behind.

Jitex BK vs Vittsjö GIK 1-2
Attendance: 276
Jitex: Christina Julien (Amelie Rybäck) 18′
Vittsjö: Sofie Andersson 10′, Emma Sjödahl 28′

No more a surprise that Vittsjö takes another win. In a quite even game, Vittsjö was just a little sharper in their attacks and took their seventh victory this season. When Sofie Andersson told us at the press opening of the league just two months ago that Vittsjö aimed to be one of the best eight teams by the end of the year, nobody took her seriously. That surely has changed.

Piteå IF vs Kristianstads DFF 2-0
Attendance: 643
Piteå: Jennifer Nobis (June Pedersen) 6′, Ann-Mari Dovland (Hanna Pettersson) 17′

Kristianstad started bad into the new season, played three away games in Stockholm in May, won them all, and seemed to slowly make their way up in the table. But where Stockholm is good for Kristianstads, Northern teams are not. After losing 1-0 to Umeå last week, Kristianstad went for another loss in the very north of Sweden against Piteå. Although much more succesful as last season, Piteå has lost around 1,000 spectators compared to last year. Is this due to expensive tickets?

Kopparberg/Göteborgs FC vs Tyresö FF 0-1
Attendance: 2,120
Tyresö: Madelaine Edlund (Emilia Appelqvist) 84′

Caroline Seger controls the midfield in Tyreso's win over Goteborg (Photo By Per Montini)

Marta draws a lot attention in the league. Wherever she is coming, you can be sure there will be some hundred people attending just because of her. Young children were seen in Göteborg screaming for Marta and Tyresö although they are at home in Göteborg. In a very tense game, Tyresö finally scored the only goal, probably already denying Göteborg’s dream of the championship with now eight points behind the leading three.

KIF Örebro vs LdB FC Malmö 3-4
Attendance: 338
Örebro: Sarah Michael (Edda Gardarsdottir) 54′, Marie Hammarström (Sarah Michael) 68′, Marina Pettersson Engström (Edda Gardarsdottir) 86′
Malmö: Elin Rubensson (Katrine Veje) 43′, Elin Rubensson (Katrine Veje) 51′, Ramona Bachmann (Katrin Schmidt) 63′, Ramona Bachmann 92′

Örebro is lying in 10th position and has disappointed so far. Only seven points yet, though they had planned to be one of the top six teams. But the game is getting better and better. On Sunday, Örebro was down 2-0 and 3-1, and few teams would manage to equalize in such a situation. Örebro did that with four minutes to go, but Ramona Bachmann, who had difficulties in the first games without goals, has woken up now and on days like this she can make the difference. Pretty late victory thanks to Bachmann in stoppage time.

AIK vs Umeå IK 2-2
Attendance: 331
AIK: Nazanin Vaseghpanah 86′, Clara Markstedt 87′
Umeå IK: Ogonna Chukwudi 62′, Linda Molin 75′

AIK continues to show good games with its young team full of talents. Trailing 2-0 after 75 minutes, not many people would have put money on the home side, but within a late minute between 86 and 87, they scored two quick goals and gave their fans hope to survive this year.

Linköpings FC vs Djurgården 11-0
Attendance: 411
Linköping: Emma Lundh (Jessica Samuelsson) 1′, Louise Fors 11′, Petra Larsson (Mariann Gajhede Knudsen) 16′, Lisa DeVanna (Petra Larsson) 26′, Manon Melis (Petra Larsson) 37′, Louise Fors 39′, Manon Melis 41′, Emma Lundh 45′, Manon Melis (Emma Lundh) 68′, Josefine Alfsson 83′, Manon Melis 92′

Djurgården suffered their biggest defeat in the history of Damallsvenskan. Their 17-year-old goalkeeper Tove Enblom was humiliated by Linköping that finally has found its way. But Tove Enblom was deserted by her fellow teammates who played like a third division squad. The performance of the defense is not acceptable in first division soccer, but unfortunately there are few alternatives to the players who totally collapsed and showed a lack of engagement that is seldom to be seen in women’s soccer. Something is entirely wrong and we will surely see Djurgården in 2nd division next year unless a miracle happens. See all the goals of this match:

We were a little behind the events in Sweden, but we summarize all the events of last week for you. Before round 8 started, Tyresö FF:s coach Stefan Fredriksson stepped down and left his job immediately. Fredriksson told the club and the players that he is feeling very tired and that he was afraid of getting sick. He stated that he felt that he could not longer manage the club and at the same time being a father of small children. Assistant coach Leif Edeborg takes over until the club announces a new head coach.

Even in Linköping there were some changes after the team did not fulfill the great expectations. LFC’s managing director Jörgen Pettersson went down from the stands and back on the bench to coach the team in their match against Piteå while both coaches Christian Andersson and Denise Reddy were not even present in the arena at Folkungavallen last Sunday. Club director Anders Mäki said that LFC wants to continue working with Andersson, but that they offered Reddy a new job inside the organization.

Denmark’s maybe most talented player in years, 19-year-old striker Pernille Harder, will join Linköping August 1. She signed a 2.5 year contract with Linköping. In 28 internationals, Harder scored 15 goals for Denmark. Round 8 saw otherwise the leading three advance from 15 to 18 points and leading goal scorers Anja Mittag and Christen Press met each other in Malmö where both ladies scored once.

KIF Örebro vs Vittsjö GIK 3-4
Attendance: 429
KIF Örebro: Linda Fransson (Sarah Michael) 45’, Linda Fransson (Elin Magnusson) 86’, Sarah Michael (Hanna Ågren) 89’
Vittsjö: Sandra Adolfsson (Emma Sjödahl) 6’, Danesha Adams (Viora Bajraktaraj) 34’, Kirsty Yallop 69’, Sandra Adolfsson (Viora Bajraktaraj) 73’

Tyresö FF vs Djurgården 2-0
Attendance: 721
Tyresö: Madelaine Edlund (Lisa Dahklvist) 55’, Lisa Dahlkvist 87’

LdB FC Malmö vs Kopparberg/Göteborgs FC 2-1
Attendance: 828
Malmö: Anja Mittag (Ramona Bachmann) 26’, Ramona Bachmann (Sara Björk Gunnarsdottir) 73’
Göteborg: Christen Press 40’
Notable that Jessica Landström has joined Djurgården now after departing from Frankfurt and that she played her first match in two years in Damallsvenskan. Another remarkable fact that Stockholm and Tyresö had its coldest June day in 84 years when the teams met.

Kristianstads DFF vs Umeå IK 0-1
Attendance: 1398
Umeå: Linda Molin (Emma Berglund) 67’

Linköpings FC vs Piteå IF 4-1
Attendance: 419
Linköping: Lisa DeVanna 40’, Lisa DeVanna 61’, Lisa DeVanna (Jonna Andersson) 76’, Manon Melis 90’
Piteå: Victoria Forsmark 53’

Jitex BK vs AIK 2-0
Attendance: 204
Jitex: Amelie Rybäck 6’, Kathlene Fernström 15’

Rainer Fussgänger, of Germany, lives in Sweden and speed Followed the Damallsvenskan for eight years now.Living in Stockholm with three clubs (Djurgården, Hammarby, and Tyresö) around the corner, he is lucky to see a lot of games. You-can follow Rainer on Twitter  @ ffschweden  and check out his website at http://ffschweden.wordpress.com .