Lessons in fortitude

While Team USA was basking in controversy at the London Olympics, another group of elite women’s soccer players were slugging out a championship in Rochester, N.Y.

The game had been brutally physical. Four players left the game due to injuries, including one player with a bloody face after she collided heads with an opponent while going for a ball. The style of play lent the officials to add six minutes of extra time in the women’s professional soccer match — an unusually large amount of extra time for our non-soccer savvy peeps. Toni Pressley took a pass and bombed the ball 25 yards. It bounced at the goalmouth and went in for the Western New York Flash, tying the game and sending it to overtime.

The WNY Flash won their third straight championship. In their third different league.

The Flash ended up winning the Women’s Premier Soccer League Elite title on penalty kicks. It was their third championship in their third different league in three years. Think about this for a minute: Three different leagues. Three straight years. Three straight championships. If you need a real life example of sticktoitiveness, then the Flash are your gals.

Women’s professional soccer has been a much maligned proposition in the United States. Not one but two leagues have failed. Pundits critique everything from business models to the validity of female athletes. But while the rest of the world debates how to make women’s soccer a viable  professional sport in the U.S. or debates if people should even try, the Western New York Flash keep playing. And winning. Championships.

This is what struck me Saturday afternoon as I sat in the press box in Rochester watching the Flash win, again, on penalty kicks.

It takes fortitude to keep at something you love when the rest of the world shrugs its shoulders. The Flash, as an organization and as individual players, make the most of whatever opportunity lies in front of them. They may kick the ground in frustration and disgust in private moments. After all, the champions are not the ones who never ever feel frustrated and hopeless. The champions are the ones who don’t follow frustration and hopelessness. The champions are the ones who acknowledge the crappy situation and then go make lemonade. It’s not about being blindly optimistic but rather about accepting and acknowledging where you are at so that you change your direction and move toward a better place. Choose to make an impact with where you are today instead of fretting about where you’d like to be. And chances are eventually the place you end will be even greater than the place you originally imagined.

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