Put the journey first, says U.S. Olympian Christen Press
By Greg Bach
High-scoring, tough-to-contain forward Christen Press trekked halfway around the world pursuing her dreams of playing for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.
So when the 2015 World Cup champion and current U.S. Olympian tells today’s young athletes to enjoy the journey – and embrace all the successes and setbacks that unfold along the way – it’s a powerful message worth listening to.
And grabbing onto.
POWERFUL WORDS TO LIVE BY
“Far too many of us are caught up in outcomes,” says the 27-year-old Southern California native. “If that’s winning a game, scoring a goal, getting a scholarship, or making the National Team. But the true value in the sport is the journey, what you learn along the way; the tribulations as much as the triumphs.”
These aren’t simply feel-good words she’s tossing out; Press has lived them.
Just a few years ago she was playing professionally in Sweden, where her dream of ever wearing the Red, White and Blue appeared as bleak as a Nordic winter. But, being thousands of miles away from home enabled her to relax and really enjoy practicing and playing – and it showed. Within three months she had made her mark, drawn attention for her stellar play, and received a call-up to the national team.
“Soccer has taught me so much about perseverance, working together, self-love and self-confidence,” says Press, who lettered in track, tennis and soccer in high school. “And that learning happens as much during the trainings that nobody will remember as in the World Cup Final.”
GOLDEN SCORING TOUCH
Press’ 10 goals last year were the most by any U.S. national team player not named Carli Lloyd.
And scoring goals has been Press’ trademark every step of the way: She knocked in 128 of them during a marvelous high school career and delivered 71 of them while at Stanford, where she resides at the top of the school’s all-time scoring list.
She encourages volunteer coaches to drive home the enjoy-the-journey message to their players, too.
“Put the journey first,” she says. “Encourage each girl to be her best self and focus on that which is controllable.”
Translation: Don’t worry about wins and losses. Instead, zero in on what players can control, such as effort during games, work ethic during practices and being good teammates all of the time.
Here’s what else Press shared with us:
SPORTINGKID LIVE: When you look back on all the coaches you have played for how did they impact you?
PRESS: My coaches have played a vital part in my development as an athlete and person. My youth club coach Ziad Khory instilled a great sense of passion for the game and the pursuit of greatness. In college and pro, my coaches have taught me the nuances of the game, how to act professionally and to never doubt myself.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How do you deal with the pressure of playing in big matches and what’s your advice to help young players not be overwhelmed by the moment?
PRESS: Dealing with pressure, for me, isn’t about a moment, but a lifetime of preparation. Learning to be present, mindful and accepting gives an athlete perspective and extreme focus. I work daily for these attributes by meditating, doing yoga and paying careful attention to my mental state.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: Growing up, how did your coaches make practices fun and something you looked forward to?
PRESS: Practices were always fun when we played and had competitions and games.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What’s your favorite youth sports memory?
PRESS: My U-14 National Championship run stands out the most in my mind. I let my dream of winning consume my life and when it all came true it felt incredible.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What are you most proud of?
PRESS: I am most proud of my resilience in the face of adversity. When the Women’s Professional Soccer league folded I went to Europe to keep playing, and when things haven’t gone my way on the National Team I’ve kept fighting.
Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and World Cup Champion Briana Scurry, author of MY GREATEST SAVE, on managing challenging moments and what young athletes in all sports can do to navigate them and stay focused on the present
Ryan Gareis, former University of South Carolina standout and current forward for the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League, on bringing energy, enthusiasm and a team-first mentality at all times
Orlando Pride midfielder Chelsee Washington, founder of 90/10 Performance Co., on helping young players manage mindsets and build confidence from within to perform at their best
Erica Suter, former soccer standout at Johns Hopkins University and author of THE STRONG FEMALE ATHLETE, on helping female athletes enhance confidence, reduce injuries, and boost performance