http://www.travepreneur.com/projects/blog/empower/findpurpose-travel-football-collide/

I'm not blessed. These hands are made for pushing, shoving and tackling.

Let's test your knowledge for a second. 

How many women football players do you know? Did you name one player?

My turn! I know over 50 and they're from all over the U.S., even Canada. I name one player. Catch it below.

This isn't to brag or to boast about who or what I know. I'm sharing a moment in life about how football and travel collided. 

Traveling city to city and place to place rewarded me with more than a new destination to add to my Instagram feed.

Traveling taught me to find comfort in a sport few women play, and not too many men respect women to do. And, football encouraged me to see a singular city with new eyes.

I didn't think much about how football changed my life until so many years later. But once I decided that I wanted to try out and play football, it was no letting go.

When I discovered women's football through Instagram, I prioritized my physical development. Hiring a trainer, I dropped from 200 to 167 lbs in two years. Consistent weight training led to achieving personal records like squatting over 200 lbs.

And, my body endured workouts that included burpees. The horror! (Note: If you've ever done a burpee, then you know why they are anyone's kryptonite).

Several years later in 2016, my time came to try out for a team in Atlanta.

Defeat or Victory?!

The day of tryouts I was super nervous because I had never played a sport before. Watching these women throw balls, run, sprint, even warm up was enough to make me feel a little intimidated. A lot intimidated.

But if I ever wanted to get on the team, I had to fight for a spot. So, I relaxed a bit and then transitioned into game mode.

For about 3 hours I hustled through four quarters of competition. My group and I tested our agility and speed with 5-10-5 shuttle drills in the first 15 minutes.

It's so funny that I practiced this drill a few days before tryouts. Thank you, Jesus!

So the first four ladies stepped up and sped through the drill. The next group repeated the drill. Then my group placed our fingertips on the ground, positioned our heads to face the backs of our competitors, and waited for the coach to blow his whistle.

When he did, I shuffled five yards to my left to the yard line, turned to sprint 10 yards to the other side and proceeded to finish through the last five yards as fast as possible.

The woman next to me finished ahead of me by a millisecond. Pissed and envious that I wasn't the fastest of my heat, I jogged to the sideline.

Think that's arrogant? You have no idea what it takes to make it in football, let alone a women's league.

We went through these drills a couple more times. But, if you know football, perfection and effort are key.

Completion is not enough if you didn't do it the right way. So, for the very reason I mentioned, the coach called out a few ladies. They hadn't touched the yard line as instructed.

I told myself that wasn't me. "I touched that line," I bolstered in my mind.

To my surprise, he called me as one of the culprits for not following through. Darn!

I asked myself: Am I going home for not following directions? Or will he punish me and others till the rubber on the bottom of our shoes became invisible?

It was possible. Girls were disappearing as we were going through tryouts. One tap on the shoulder meant farewell to you. So when he called my name, I thought I lost my chance. But, he scolded us and demanded we do the shuttle drill again. And, again. And, again.

He then stopped us. One of the women standing behind me couldn't complete the drill all the way through. He snapped at her then proceeded to utter the words that no woman wanted to hear that day: "Thank you for your time. But, you're not fit to be on the Atlanta Steam."

I wonder if we'd still be doing that same drill over and over and over again if she hadn't messed up?

Endure to the end

In the second quarter, they had me catching balls. Or at least attempting to catch a ball.

I'm not blessed. I'm not Odell Beckham Jr, Antonio Brown, or even Lauren Ziegler (see I told you I named a player). These hands are made for pushing, shoving and tackling. 

To say the least, the second quarter was my least favorite.

The third-quarter comes with the head coach leading the drills. We tested our defensive skills: tackling, striking, and manhandling.

During those 15 minutes, I was sure I signed my ticket home. When the coach blew his whistle, I froze. I didn't complete the drill. I was overthinking and missed my cue to strike the tackle bag. Disgusted at my lack of concentration, he demanded I return to the back of the line.

I wanted to stand out in a positive manner. Not a negative. Disappointment continued to creep up and sabotage my effort and energy.

Once it was my turn again, I responded with aggressiveness and concentration. Still, I felt like I hurt my chances of getting on the team.

Lucky enough, I made it to the last quarter. Two girls competed to push the other out of bounds. With a tackle bag in the middle, the round resulted in a winner. By the end of it, the loser was most likely on her back kissing the ground.

I fared well. Though I didn't win each round, I demonstrated my strength.

The day ended once the head coach, the coaching staff, and his assistants sat us all down (the little that remained). He congratulated all the women who competed. He proceeded to call out each successful player one by one.

"You couldn't have made it," I scolded myself. My lack of concentration, energy, and talent would never be enough to get on the team.

But, seconds later, the coach called my number. The number marked on my arm to identify me during the drills. The number 22.

Excitement is an understatement. This was me on the inside.

Mama, I made it!

In case he read out the wrong number, I bolted to the front. No takesy backsy if I got there quick enough. 

 

I was in disbelief. The coach selected me as a member of the team extending an invitation to attend training camp.

I even had to double check the number on my arm to confirm that it was the right number. That it was my number.

The next couple of months proved to be the most difficult. But, I gained a sense of humility and confidence for something I never thought I could ever do.

Steamrolling to Atlanta

Now to be real, I didn't spend much time figuring out the ongoing financial and travel commitment needed to live in Miami and play in Atlanta.

But for the sake of the article, let's calculate it for fun:

Average plane ticket from MIA to ATL: $100-$250 per weekend (Friday to Sunday)

Average total cost of Hotel room for the weekend: $180-$220 

Average price for Car Rental: $100-$130 (Friday to Sunday)

Gas for Car Rental: $40

Food for the weekend: $60

Average total expenses: $480-$700

Try that 3 to 4 weekends per month for 7 months. Average total cost for the 7 months: too much I'm willing to admit so no more calculation.

I didn't think twice about any of my travel plans. I bought my ticket each week. Reserved my car rental. Found a place to stay. And, I was off.

I'm a traveler baby, I just want cha to know

Traveling back-and-forth between Miami and Atlanta proved to be as difficult as practice. Several months of back-to-back football practices from Friday to Sunday was exhausting. Though I grew to love it.

I lived for my love triangle. With travel and football, nothing even matters. (As I sway to Lauryn Hill)

I'm not usually a repeat city traveler. It's boring. But, I was able to be a tourist to a city that I didn't know so well. I got to see Atlanta not once, but dozens of times. I explored what so many strangers and friends shared on social media about Atlanta. I wasn't admiring from a distance. I was in the midst of all the ATL action.

Staying with friends, family, and teammates prompted me to venture out and explore what Atlanta had to offer.

I met countless people: fans, radio DJs, promoters, potential love interests, anyone attached to the football scene. If it dealt with Atlanta Steam, then I was there. If it was free, I was there. If it was an event happening in Atlanta, I WAS THERE! I got to see what all encompassed the southern city. Football and all.

Note: I'm still playing football, but it's somewhere new. Stay tuned. Follow my football journey on Snapchat: Travepreneur

 

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Fearless & Finding Purpose: When Travel and Football Collide
Photo credit: Toro Photo

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