If you are an athlete who dreams of playing on the world’s biggest stage, you must be prepared for your opportunity. Preparation can take many forms. Putting in time at the gym, doing sport specific training and following a nutrition protocol are the actions that most often come to mind.
However, if Matt Williams’ rise to unlikely stardom as a placekicker for Texas Tech has taught me anything, it is that groundwork can include throwing your name in a contest, engaging in an important conversation or positioning yourself in an environment for good fortune.
It is with that idea in mind that I woke up on July 24 and purchased a flight to Europe that was scheduled to leave six hours later. I did not want to sit in front of a television for the 2012 Olympic Women’s Soccer Competition. I wanted to participate.
Unlike many of the other Olympic events, soccer matches were scheduled in different cities throughout Great Britain. Group qualifying for the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) included playing two matches in Glasgow, Scotland and one match in Manchester. If the team advanced to the knockout stage, those events would be held in Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Coventry and London.
I did not know what the finer details of my Olympic adventure would entail. However, I was aware that I was in for a four to six city tour that would require me to maintain my fitness level, stick to my nutrition regiment and constantly keep my connections updated with my availability and current location if I was needed.
Every three days, I was in a new city, staying at a different hotel and working out in another gym. No two days were alike. At times, I was standing in front of a box office clerk saying, “I would like to purchase the best seat you have. I will let you pick the assignment.” Other times, I was sitting with my player kit at the match taking notes on warm-ups, overhearing comments to file away for later use or cheering on the players and doing the Mexican wave with the fans. Most nights included reading post-match interviews and comparing my notes to the information that my support circle was telling me based on the U.S. articles they had read.
As I utilized every experience, USWNT match, interaction, piece of information and workout as prep for my contribution, people I had never met did their part to help. Gail, a housekeeper in Glasgow, explained how I could purchase match tickets and travel to the other cities by train. Box office ticket clerks gave me random seating assignments behind Abby Wambach’s parents in one match, two rows behind Manchester United’s Chicharito Hernandez at another match, two rows in front of USMNT goalie Tim Howard at the semi-final and beside a lady who happened to make a comment that led to my conversation with one of the USWNT coaches a few days later.
Like the USWNT’s journey to the gold medal match was filled with unexpected twists and turns, my path to supporting their cause both on the field and in the stands was on a similar rollercoaster.
All elite athletes know that it is the physical and, more importantly, mental preparation that will allow you to maneuver the curves and valleys so that you can achieve goals. Our women’s soccer team yet again displayed this example with their gold medal win, and in a rather unexpected way, I can say the same as I will be extending my time in the United Kingdom to lace up my boots and train with Manchester City FC’s Ladies team.
Keep preparing, and your Olympic opportunity will appear!
Qiana Martin is an international athlete, global soccer ambassador and owner of Eat Soccer. Her goal is to introduce unexposed communities to, and inspire participants of, the world’s favorite sport. She is a 2012 Victory H2O brand ambassador and former TEDx speaker, British Airways Face of Opportunity Winner and Fila Spokesmodel. Some of Qiana’s features include TV One’s Our World with Black Enterprise, Yahoo! Eurosport/US News, Jezebel Magazine and eHow.com. Connect with Qiana on Twitter @QianaRana.
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