When I first found BORP in September 2006, I was ending my last year of graduate school at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and looking forward to finding the perfect job where I could excel. In addition to owning a home and getting married, this was one of my last major goals in life. I was a woman. I was a daughter. I was a policy analyst.
At the same time, one of my good friends and BORP power soccer athlete Jessica Lehman was in the midst of her journey toward becoming a world champion with the National Power Soccer Team USA 2007. While I admired Jessica for her individual power soccer skills and dedication, I admit I was perplexed at how an individual with a disability could justify the amount of time and effort given to a sport. I had never before been taught that people with disabilities could or should want to be athletes. I had dismissed all sports-related activities from my life until, as part of a favor, a friend convinced me to attend Opening Day. As a new member of the BORP power soccer team, Jessica offered to help me learn the sport if I could show up regularly to her individual Team USA practices on week nights.
Over the next six months I soon found this new activity becoming a way of life. Power soccer gave me a thrill I rarely felt through academia or other aspects of my life. The sport offered to me new challenges and new accomplishments. My team mates encouraged me have a new perspective on life. While maintaining my academic and vocational achievements, it was acceptable to plan a life with athletic goals. If I permitted myself to step outside of the boundaries others had imposed on me, I could imagine the possibilities of excelling in sport. I, too, could be a great power soccer athlete. Perhaps, I could even dream of being a World Champion.
This past week was a significant marker for me. It has been both four years as a BORP athlete, and one year into my training with the National Power Soccer Team USA 2011. For 52 weeks I have spent week nights and weekends practicing drills and forming relationships with the eleven other Team USA athletes. I have completed over 2,000 stationary kicks toward a cone, made hundreds of 180-degree kicks into a goal, and spent over 100 hours at the gym in preparation.
Team USA 2011 is nearing our fourth training camp at the end of this month. All twelve athletes, coaches and staff will meet in Birmingham, Alabama at the Paralympic Training Center to continue our journey. With just one year until the next World Cup in Paris, France, Team USA intends to train with focus and passion to become repeat champions!
And while Jessica and the rest of my BORP team mates are not part of the National Team USA 2011, the unwavering support, friendship and leadership I receive from them on a regular basis is a key to my success. I am grateful to have met Jessica at such a significant time in her life that she could inspire me to dream big – in fact – inspire me to add a new definition to who I am: Athlete.