May Challenge: L is for Loser

Friday, May 17, 2013

You missed the game winning shot. You got rejected by your crush. You came in second place. You're wearing odd clothing. The list goes on and on, and for many of these you're either called a loser or feel like a loser.

Which do you think is worse -- being called a loser? Or believing that you are a loser?

To me it's feeling like a loser. For five years I was in a really dark place. I was a nobody.. worthless.. helpless.. no good. To many who knew me, you may have not even noticed because I continued to put on my happy go-lucky face and crack my jokes to make people smile. But deep within me I was in the most miserable state possible -- I viewed myself as the biggest loser possible.

How it all started...

My entire life I was known as a soccer player. It's what I was, what I did, how I became who I was. A characteristic I am proud of saying I have is my leadership qualities, something I learned and mastered throughout my playing career -- stepping up to the plate to lead a group of 21 girls each and every game, motivating them each day, being their biggest cheerleader, but biggest critic when we needed a wake up call.

I traveled across the world playing soccer -- from Canada to Italy, to playing in tournaments in over 20 states across the country.  I made my way up the ranks in competitive levels from peewee, travel, select, premier league, the state team, the regional team and making the national team pool when I was 15. I was a high school standout getting recruited by a Division 1 college with scholarship. I was on top of the world.

High School Hero to College Zero...

The phrase "high school hero to college zero" could not be more perfect for my life on many levels: 1. although I was not necessarily a hero, I was a high school stud when it came to athletics. 2. I quickly became a zero in college 3. I happened to actually wear number 0 in college...ironic huh?

I wasn't expecting college soccer to be easy -- I knew I wasn't going to walk in there and kick everyone's ass. These girls were faster...bigger...stronger...I was a punk ass freshman just trying to be liked yet alone playing time. I'm a true believer that everything happens for a reason and I happened to get lucky my freshman year. Our starting keeper who was a senior got hurt during warm up towards the beginning of the season. With the most scared shitless look on his face my coach told me "Pic, grab your gloves, you're starting." After weeks and weeks of preseason and practice it was finally my chance. I've always been a game player, not a practice player -- being on the field in the action is my element, I'm always up for rising to the occasion and that's exactly what I did that game. We got the win against American. Two games later I was still starting and before we played the Gators at the University of Florida in Gainesville my coach said to me during warm up, "The spot is yours to keep if you want it." Of course I did -- and I continued to throughout the whole season,
appearing in 16 games and starting 15;  finishing with a goals against average of 0.55, allowing just eight goals. Ranked 13th in Division I in goals against average and was second in the MAAC in goals against average and shutouts per game, posting seven shutouts. (To this day I still question why my coach - who clearly had no confidence in me for some reason even though I thought I proved I could do the job - didnt nominate me for the All Rookie Team that year. I would love to know what I could have done better....)

Where being a loser sunk in...

It was my sophomore year when Amanda Piccirilli no longer was herself. Long story short after what I thought was a great first year under my belt, I took a swift kick to the face when my keeper coach told me I was not starting our first game of my sophomore season. Being that I'm not afraid to confront anyone I asked my coach why. His answer, " just don't seem ready." That was the start of Amanda believing that she was a loser which tumbled and grew for the next two years. To this day I wish he could have LET me loose my spot -- if i wasn't playing to the best ability and she was playing better, ok, yes, great -- give it away. She deserves a chance just like I did my freshman year. But to just hand it over without even giving me a chance is bullshit. It's not hard to read people's faces and seeing when they don't believe in you -- that is worse than the lies that come out of people's mouths. And that is exactly what I got. My sophomore year I played in five games and my junior year played in a measly three games (starting only one of them.)

The loser within me was growing day by day and the pure embarrassment was humiliating. My roommates were on top of the world, starters for our stellar team, living up their college career with accolades  The tears my mom had to hear on the phone each and everyday were unbearable and I'm so thankful she was someone to cry to. (Thank you so much mom for listening to me every single day!! I love you.)  For those three years I was only given the chance to play in goal when we were up by at least three goals (ya know, a big enough cushion for when us benchers were "capable" of playing and if we fucked up the team could still come back), when there was about 10 minutes left in the game and they felt bad for us, or when we played Iona and St. Peter's which everyone viewed as 'yay, the whole team gets to play this game."

One of my favorite memories (forget what year) was when we were playing at University of Richmond and there was about 7 minutes left in the game and I got a "Hey Pic, go warm up. I'm going to put you in." My response was "You only have enough confidence to put me in with 7 minutes left? Fuck you." Lets just say, I didn't move and I didn't warm up -- I didn't need pitty playing time. My pride means more to me than stats.

The straw that broke the camels back was the day when the entire team was in the locker room post game after we gave a team a pretty good ass whopping and none of the subs went in that day. Brynn, a fellow captain asked our coach why we didn't go in and questioned his reasoning for not putting in the subs. She point plank asked him infront of the whole team, "So you're saying with that big of a lead these girls aren't good enough to play?" His response, "Yes that is correct, they're ineffective, each one of them." Well, thanks coach!!! Knife in chest, with a turn.

Day by day, blow by blow, I was gone. Mentally, physically, emotionally -- I wanted out, but the thought of leaving those 20 girls was unthinkable. They were my family and my life.

The one thing I was good at...

With each story there is two sides -- could I have trained harder in the off season and won my spot back? Yeah, possibly, but there is only so much you can do when your confidence is gone and you're beaten down to nothing. So the one thing I was good at no longer mattered anymore and it ultimately affected me mentally. I felt like a loser; that everything I worked towards my whole life was nothing anymore. I know I shouldn't have let myself get like this but I just kept thinking to myself "If the one thing I was good at is no longer there, then what do I have and what else could be good within me?!" I let my soccer career ruin me internally, no longer feeling attractive, worth anything or having much of a purpose. What made me me was gone -- what now?!

Five years later...

Five years later I am happy to say I did find myself again-- the happy-go-lucky person that I was is STILL there. She just happened to be beaten and crushed.  But every single day I am still working on myself and learning to love myself for the good in me. During those five years I had countless friends tell me who wonderful, pretty, smart and funny I was. I didn't believe them and said thanks when deep down I thought they were full of shit. But now, I know they were right. I am an intelligent woman who has a fabulous career and who has done much with her life over the last 26 years. This experience has made me into a strong woman, making me realize I can overcome any obstacle thrown my way. "Be happy. Be positive."

My advice for others...

1. I will truly make an effort for when I have children that they need to realize that soccer, baseball, theater, music, etc. can not make them who they are. They will most likely not become pro or famous...They need to find the pure greatness inside themselves so that if something like this were to happen to them they don't crumble. But if they do, I'll be there to pick up the pieces.
2. When people put you down, dont let them win. I could have quit soccer and transfered (which I almost did to Temple after getting accepted) but that would mean they won. They got the best of me and made my decisions for me. But no, I kept strong, was a captain for two years despite not playing hardly at all and later became a college coach for a season.
3. Treat others like you would like to be treated -- having the chance to coach that one season allowed me to connect with the current girls who were sub players and facing the same difficult situation I went through just a few years prior. Step back and stand in their shoes. They need your support just as much as you need them.

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