Opportunity

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“Focus on the journey not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”
― Greg Anderson
 
 My team and I have a huge opportunity this Sunday. We are 3 points away from securing the gold, with two games remaining in the season. When big opportunities arise in life, people often worry about getting over-excited or over-confident. This is often accompanied by a fear of failing. I think with most opportunities in life, big or small, these are not things that will ever be helpful to spend your time worrying about.
 
 There are a couple of things that help me in overcoming these mental obstacles. The first is putting everything into perspective. For this opportunity, I take a step back and look at the entire season. In my mind, this game is no different than any of our previous games. It’s not that I think this game shouldn’t be thought of with great importance, it’s that every single game leading up to this point has been just as important, just as big of an opportunity to gain three more points towards securing the gold, and therefore they’ve been just as important in reaching our final goal. Having approached the previous games with this attitude makes it that much less stressful to think about how to approach the next game. Also, having seen and felt the growth that our team has had over the previous games gives me even more confidence in this team that we will be able to succeed in this next game. Even having gained a little perspective about it, it is still really exciting that the end goal could be secured after this game; I can’t help but have a smile on my face.
 
 Another thing that helps me when big opportunities arise is to reflect a bit on the value of the situation.  I like to take the time to appreciate what it has taken to get to this point and how awesome it is to have this opportunity. Today, it’s not just the huge opportunity that we have in this next game, but I can find so much happiness in the fact that I have the opportunity to be playing this beautiful game everyday. I am in an environment which is filled with support from members of the club and trainers and fans who want us to succeed. I have family and friends, as well as former coaches and teammates, who are eager to hear about my journey, and while they may miss me, they continue to show me love and support for what I am doing. These things are amazing and I can really appreciate how much each and every person has helped me become the person and player I am today.
 
 Lastly, I ask myself questions like, “How did I get here?”, or “What have I done to deserve this opportunity?”. I don’t ask these questions because I don’t think I deserve this or because I don’t know how I got to this point, but because it is in the answers to these questions that I can reinforce my confidence in my team and myself. We’ve worked hard to get here and we’re going to continue working hard until we accomplish our goal. And then we’ll set another.
 
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, there is only what you have done to prepare yourself for this opportunity and how you can pull from that to be your best self in this moment. Just enjoy it.
 
 
-Photo courtesy of Finn Lassen

Real Life Charades

“Wow, she’s picking up the language really quickly…no, she has just gotten really good at Charades.”
 
Well, I think we all knew that I wasn’t going to be very good at posting frequently, but now it’s time to get back on track. In my defense, I’ve been dealing with a sinus infection for the past three weeks and I’ve been rather worthless in my freetime, mainly resting to try to get healthy again. I’m back now, and feeling like new, thank goodness for penicillin and the really caring people I’m surrounded by here at Fortuna. Oh who am I kidding, it still would have taken this long. 
 
In my last post I discussed the first aspect of the language barrier: the language gap within the game. Now I’m going to talk a little bit about the language barrier socially within the team and club. 
 
Your first social activity may go something like this:
First, you find the other foreigners, if there are any, and you stay near them, and hope they also speak English. Everyone is talking and if you don’t know the language or haven’t been around it, it’s kind of like hearing Charlie Brown’s teacher at a dull roar throughout the night. People will speak to you in English, but it may just be asking direct questions to you, which is really nice, and much appreciated, but it’s still not the same thing as being included in a conversation. You can always repeatedly ask: What are you all talking about? What did she say? Why did she say my name and then everyone start laughing? Hopefully there is a person on your team who can recognize your blank stare when you look in their direction and then they automatically know to fill you in, without you having to ask…keep them around. Another option is just to laugh when everyone else is laughing, because, well, laughter is good for the soul, even if you’re laughing at people laughing and don’t actually know why they are laughing. This can become problematic because then people start to think they don’t need to translate because you’ve got it figured out on your own. You can also have your friend Maiju, who also doesn’t actually know what people are saying, give you her interpretation of the conversation. While you may not hear what people are truly discussing, it usually ends up in a hilarious, slightly inappropriate story that you can laugh about years later. All kidding aside, you often feel left out, which means you either, turn to your cell phone, which keeps you connected to other people, helps you stay caught up on your pinteresting, and possibly sends a negative signal about your want to get to know those who are physically around, or you choose not to participate in group activities because if you’re going to feel lonely, then you might as well actually be alone while you’re at it. 
 
Playing abroad can be a really lonely experience, it doesn’t have to be, but it can be. I’m the the kind of person who always has my door open and welcomes friends at any time, and I’m being serious, ANY TIME; you can ask them. Not everyone is this way, some people are fine being by themselves or mainly talking to people from home in their free time, and that’s okay too.  But I like being around people and getting to know new people. I would say it has been pretty easy since I’ve had some really awesome, fun people in my life. But even with these really awesome people, I can say it has taken much more time to connect with people while abroad than when at home. My Finnish friend Maiju, from my last blog post, told me after about a year of knowing each other that she thought I was actually a pretty funny person. We hadn’t made much of an attempt to really get to know one another in the beginning, so we didn’t realize early on that we would be such good friends. It also took close to the end of a full season with my old team for teammates to start dropping by as often as they did the second or third season. For me, the first couple of months in a new place can be lonely because it takes a little time for me to come out of my shell and let myself be known. To get to know others, you have to let them know you, and that can be hard sometimes, especially if you’re not sure they really care to know your story. I mean how many people want to hear all about my dog Boo…hopefully everyone, because she’s awesome. 
 
You also can’t be afraid to ask questions, any and all questions. Even if someone isn’t so comfortable with English, with enough effort, I’m sure you can figure out what their reply is, and that could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Most of all, you have to take the responsibility. If you’re happiest hanging out with people, then ask your new teammates to hangout, have dinner, enjoy a movie, or maybe even build an igloo, or at least make plans to build an igloo (we were in Finland, so why not?). If you have people around you who are willing to build an igloo, then I think you should get to know them because they seem pretty cool. Just don’t sit sad and lonely by yourself because no one invited you out if you haven’t tried getting something together yourself. 
 
Hopefully you can get to know your coaches and different members of the club and community and that you can feel a strong support system around you. For me, this social aspect is important because I believe the happier I am outside of the game, the better I can be within the game. I also think that a team with strong connections outside of the game can be even stronger on the field. Your teammates have to know that you want the best for them because that makes the team better, and sometimes that can be hard to see when you’re competing with each other everyday, and only interacting at training. Getting to know and understand each other on a personal level can build an incredible bond, which helps on the field, enriches your everyday life, and may bring you lifelong friendships. 
 
After all that hard work of getting comfortable in a sort of home away from home, it’s the end of the season, and there is a very good possibility that you or some of your teammates will be changing teams. This means you get to do it all over again. It makes you ask yourself if it’s worth it, getting to know people who you know you won’t be around for very long….for me, of course it is. If it’s hard to say goodbye then you know you’ve made the time together worthwhile and your life is all the more fulfilling for having the experience of knowing these people. Also, I have so many more places to visit now and that’s always a plus. 

Oh deer, Oi peura

Oh dear: a commonly used English expression, or maybe just by the elderly and myself; can be interchanged with “Oh my”
 
“Oh Dear,” is my go-to phrase for any mishap in life or while playing, especially when I’m trying to cutback on some of the other, more colorful language that you can get away with in this environment. A little over a year after we met, my good Finnish friend, Maiju Ruotsalainen, asked me if there was something special about that animal. For an entire year, she thought I was saying, “Oh deer!” instead of “Oh dear!” This translates into Finnish as, “Oi peura,” which is now a commonly used phrase among our friends when someone is having a real shocker*. This is one example showing that while often humorous, the language barrier can be a bit difficult to overcome. 
 
*shocker – Something that shocks, especially through being unacceptable or sensational, commonly used “real” English expression
 
For an athlete playing abroad, there are many different aspects of your life that can be affected by the language barrier. The main aspects are your interactions with your team and coaches, both within the game and socially outside of the game, as well as your daily life outside of your sport. For myself, I’ve had a really smooth transition into playing abroad; I almost feel guilty discussing the difficulties because I know it can be so much harder than what I have experienced. But I’m still going to try writing today about the language barrier within the game. 
 
My first club has had two English coaches, and it has always been a very international team, making English the primary language spoken within the team when it comes to playing. I have always had at least one other American, often other English speakers, and the girls who don’t speak English as their primary language are actually really good with the language, even though they’ll tell you in perfect English that they aren’t. As far as playing in that club, I think communicating within the game was probably harder for the players from around Finland and Sweden than it was for myself. After three years on the island, I was able to learn some Swedish beyond the naughty words my teammates taught had first taught me. Still, it was more of an interest for daily life than a requirement for on the field.   
 
In my current club, I am one of only two foreign players, but we are lucky to have our American assistant coach translating for us. The players and head trainer are also all very good at speaking English, and translating, but it is my first experience on a team where the game is discussed in another language. Danish is the language, and, again, I am lucky because Danish is similar enough to Swedish that I could understand some things from the start. 
 
I did have some difficulties within the game at the beginning of this year.
 
I’m a central midfielder, and if you know about the game of soccer then you know it is my job to have control over and dictate play within the game, both offensively and a bit defensively. This takes a lot of communicating, especially if you’re still learning the players around you, yet I seemed to have lost my voice. I didn’t realize it until one of my former teammates pointed it out to me during a preseason tournament. She told me I just seemed quieter than normal. Thank goodness for the “always speak your mind” attitude of Pille Raadik. She was right. My team speaks Danish on the field, which, being in Denmark, is how it should be, but at first I was a bit lost within the game. For some reason, because I wasn’t understanding everything I was hearing, I stopped talking. That’s not good for me as a player, and it’s not good for a team to have a midfielder who isn’t communicating. 
 
Now I’ve found my voice, still in English, but hopefully I’ll be able to make the switch over to Danish as I continue to play in Denmark. My teammates try to use English when they are directing me on the pitch, which is really helpful for now, but it’s kind of like being in a discussion when people are speaking another language and speaking English only when they’re talking directly to you; it’s nice to know the whole conversation. That’s why it’s important for me to try to learn to think football in Danish. 
 
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just know what the words mean. It helps, but it has to become an automatic response. I think this is what a lot of English speakers, myself included, forget sometimes. Steve Beeks, a former coach of mine, pointed out that you can know what a word means, but if you still think in your first language, it takes time to translate in your head. That amount of time can be crucial in a game. Overcoming this is something you have control over and it’s important to take on that responsibility if you want to have a successful experience abroad. It is easy to go into a team and make everyone speak English to you, and mentally “check out” when they’re not speaking English. And there are many cases where you can get by or even have success speaking only English. But if you want to get the most out of your experience and bring the most of yourself to a team, then it’s important to make an effort to find some common ground for communicating.
 
If you’re a new player going abroad, or already abroad, in the next week or so I’ll have something to get you started. With the help of a couple of friends, I’m putting together some footballing terminology translated into a couple different languages. Your team may use something different, but it’s a good place to start. 

That game-day feeling

Don't you just want to get out there and kick a ball around

Don’t you just want to get out there and kick a ball around?

On my visits home, I’m often asked why I am still playing soccer and why overseas. Many travelers can tell you the positives of experiencing life abroad. With so many places to explore, people to meet, and cultures about which to gain an understanding and appreciation, it’s hard to run out of new and exciting things to experience.

For me, those things are just icing on the cake. 

My job is to play a game that I absolutely love, and everything about this game is enjoyable. I’m not saying it’s always easy, but keeping in mind that working through the obstacles and frustrations makes coming through with success even more gratifying; I can truly find joy in the whole experience. 

It’s hard to describe the feeling before a game. I think it’s easily comparable to the feeling I had on the night/morning before Christmas as a child. A mixture of wanting to go to sleep already because you’re so excited to wake up, and not being able to fall to sleep because just thinking about the next day gets your pulse raised. It’s like taking a test when you can have complete confidence in yourself that you can solve all the problems. Confidence in athletics comes from the ability to draw on your preparation and the work you put in, day in and day out. When you know you’ve put in the work and you’ve got the will to win, you can be confident that you’ve done everything to ready yourself for success that day and it’s going to be fun leaving it all out there on the field. 

It’s an amazing feeling and, during season, I get to experience that nearly every weekend and sometimes during the week as well. How lucky am I? 

There is a lot that goes into mentally and physically preparing for the game, including painting game-day nails, but I’ll talk about that another day. Talk soon!

Getting started is the hardest part

boots and ball

I was supposed to have started this blog about 2 months ago, but when it comes to writing, it takes me ages to sit down and get my thoughts together. Today I decided  I might as well just get started. I’m starting off with a short bit about myself, and the posts hereafter will be a mix of what’s happening currently and some of the past experiences I’ve had while playing overseas. I’ll try to keep you all updated about all my adventures on and off the field. If you have any questions or ideas you would like me to write about, that would be great, send them my way!

Who Am I?

I am Janelle Cordia, an international footballer from the USA. I am currently playing for Fortuna Hjørring, of the top league in Denmark. This is my fourth season playing abroad, and my first season with Fortuna. For the three years prior, I played for Åland United, a top team in the Finnish league. I’ve had many great football/soccer experiences and also life experiences while playing and travelling, and I hope to be able to share them with you here. 

I’m new at this whole blogging thing, so bear with me as I familiarize myself with the setup, and also as I learn how to use correct grammar again…or maybe not. Either way, I hope you enjoy!