Goal Kick

Pro soccer player

More Than Change

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“Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”

A Not So Pretty Sunset

The past few months have been an unbelievably exciting yet unpredictable tornado of emotions. Plans were perfect. I was ecstatic for what was to come in the upcoming 2010 WPS season with my LA Sol. Charlie Naimo, our GM from last year and one of the best coaches I have ever played for, was set to be our head coach. KK, Aya, and I were going to be chilling together again in the Beverly Hills mansion (of course I called dibs on my old room). Diddy Reese, The Griddle, and Pinkberry were going to reclaim themselves an integral part of my diet. My offseason full of sweaty, relentless training was coming to a close, and I was ready to unleash my desire to prove myself in preseason.

Then the conference call happened. Charlie said he wanted to update the team on some rumors that had been floating around. As each player checked in, we laughed at each others’ jokes. Mine of course was, “K-KAYYYY!! I can’t wait to serenade you to Celine Dion!!” (Sidenote: This was a ritual we had made for our early morning carpools to the Home Depot Center for training).

Finally Charlie buzzed in. I could tell by his unusual monotone introduction that something was not right. What we thought was going to be exciting news had quickly turned into an unexpected devastating punch in the gut.

“Guys… there is a good chance the team will fold.” My heart dropped into my stomach. Not sure if the words I was hearing were real, I tried my hardest to comprehend Charlie’s explanation. But I was numb. The thoughts in my head were jumbled. The despair throughout my body made it hard to focus. Investors dropping out. Ceasing operations. Dispersal draft.

At the end of the conference call, Charlie had assured us that he and his staff were doing everything possible to keep the team alive. There was still a slight chance. We all promised to keep faith. There was no doubt in my mind that Charlie could pull this off.

Another conference call with Mary Harvey, WPS COO, helped clarify the situation. A Dispersal Draft was going to happen on February 4th pending a last minute desperate attempt from the Sol staff.

The next week I was in a fog. I was unwilling to face the reality. Shocked. Devastated. Confused. Angry. The questions and comments I received from family, friends, and fans were bittersweet. No one seemed to understand. LA was the only place I wanted to be and the only team I wanted to play for. How could this happen?

Despite a major effort to salvage my team, the deadline finally came. January 28th was the day the sunset along the horizon was anything but breathtaking. The Sol would not rise again.

Playing With A New Beat

“Growth means change and change involves risk, stepping from the known to the unknown.”

There was a week of waiting. Of thinking. Of forcing myself to be patient. Even though I was still in shock, I had to change my attitude. It was time to be a professional. These situations are bound to happen, especially with a league that had just gotten on its feet. Grateful that I even still had a chance to play in the league, I eagerly awaited my fate. My nerves were on end. I just wanted to know what team wanted me.

I felt for my Sol teammates. They were going through the same emotions that I was experiencing. I am so thankful for all of the friendships and connections we made. There was a special bond that we all shared that can never be replicated. No matter where we end up, every one of my teammates will always be my Solmate.

Finally the day of the dispersal draft rolled around. I was working out at my training facility, The Stratford Field House, with fellow WPS players Tiffany Weimer (aka Ocho) and Meagan McCray. We did a sprint workout. They told me to check my phone. No news. Ball work and agility. No missed calls. Some shots on goal. Still nothing. Finally after some stretching and abs, I grabbed my phone. Missed call and a voicemail. “Guys what area code is 678?” Suddenly my phone exploded with buzzes. Texts from my mom and a few friends congratulated me. “So proud of you honey.. ATLANTA! Love, mom”

I am so glad everyone else found out before I did!

“Headed to HOTLANTA!!” was my Twitter post and Facebook status for the rest of the week. The responses I received are proof that my followers will support me no matter where I play. And for that I am so appreciative.

I am ecstatic to be a part of a new team, The Atlanta Beat. This will be a new chapter in my life. A time for more new beginnings. I can’t wait to start on this journey once again.

Pro Soccer Players, Pro Models?

What better way to celebrate big time wins with my two Thursday night co-ed teams, Highland FC and the Reds, than a three hour drive to Philly with BF? Before the Sol folding fiasco happened, I was invited to partake in the PUMA WPS Uniform Unveiling at the NSCAA Convention in Philly on January 15th. Charlie asked me to model our team’s home kit. This was going to be an extravagant event held where the Real World Philly was filmed, at an old bank called Trust.

After stopping for some late night snacks (I swear this is the only time I have eaten Taco Bell), BF and I pumped up the playlist I made especially for the trip, and cruised down the highway. In between showing off my dance moves in the passenger seat, we talked about the assistant coaching job he just got at UMass. I am really excited for him to experience coaching at the Division I level.

After a few hours night sleep, BF and I grabbed a much needed Dunkin Donuts breakfast and headed over to the convention center. The WPS Draft was the highlight of the morning. Stepping into the crowded room was overwhelming. A few hugs later and I was reunited with KK, Charlie, and Kenzo. I hung out on the side as I patiently waited for each draft pick to be announced.

Later that night was the unveiling party. The venue was perfect. The overall concept of the show, “gameday,” proved itself with every prop and decoration. As we first stepped inside Trust at the “field level” we saw the raised runway covered in green field turf. The rest of the floor was surrounded with graphics of fans on the walls. As we climbed up the stairs to the loft space overlooking the field, we were immediately bedazzled with the “VIP Box Suite setup”.

When we crowded into the hair and make-up room (yes even us soccer beauties need some professional help), we immediately rummaged through the clothing rack loaded with our new uniforms. I was all smiles as I put on my navy blue and gold Sol home kit. I got mixed reviews from the other players as I showed off the “joker-face” style jersey.

I must admit, it felt weird being dressed in soccer clothes while looking like I was ready for a professional head shot photograph. But sometimes that is what is needed to get some attention. Any stereotype that had been correlated with butch soccer players had been negated. We looked hot! We definitely could have beat out Victoria Secret’s Angels.

It was game time. Trust was filled with fans, media, WPS and PUMA representatives, and friends. They were all eager to see the new kits. With our game faces on, we were ready to strut our stuff. Opting for different runway tactics, each was better than the next.

Known for my talented dance moves, I was excited to break out my new move that I had been working on for years. My catwalk song? David Guetta and Akon’s “ Sexy Chic.” It had the perfect beat to debut the intricacies of the Torque Walk. When KK, the emcee of the event, announced my name, the beat of music carried me down the runway as I two-stepped my way to the front of the stage. I flashed my irresistible smile and struck a pose in my new kit, as KK went through my bio and highlights from the season with the Sol. I know the crowd was mesmerized by the Torque Walk. I will take applications from anyone willing to learn this one of a kind dance move.

The uniform unveiling was a success. The kits were comfortable and the colors were bold. It was game time for sure!

You can see footage of the show and a few seconds of my infamous Torque Walk Video (at about 5:31 in) at:

Here is a link to a variety of interview done by my friend Kat from The Bleacher Report (you can witness some jokes between KK and me about each other’s dance moves):

Here is a quick video of some highlights from the show:

Here are a few links to some photos from the show:

http://www.philly.com/philly/photos/sports_photos/WPS_Uniform_Unveiling_Puma_Party.html

http://blogs.dailynews.com/soccer/2010/01/sol-unveil-new-jersey.html

I Finally Get To “Just Do It”

Nike has been a big part of my career and my personal fashion ever since I started soccer when I was in pre-school. I have always played with Nike cleats, found myself in stores bypassing every other brand to get to Nike and followed Nike’s trends and styles. To say I love the Nike brand is an understatement.

Along my dream of becoming a professional soccer player, I have strived to be a Nike sponsored athlete. After struggling with the fit and comfort of the PUMA cleats I wore in the first season, I knew what I had to do. After some strong convincing emails to Nike soccer rep, Missy, I was offered a Nike contract.

All I want is to be able to wear Nike cleats during the season. I got my wish and more. My wardrobe is now 100% Nike. It’s too bad my favorite team Chelsea wears Adidas kits. I guess I will have to support a Nike team. My new red Nike Man United jersey will suit just perfectly.

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” You can check out the new Just Do It video from Nike at http://go.nike.com/humanchain

Training To Laugh

During the offseason, I trained once a week with an Under-18 girls premier team, CFC Crush. The coach Rupert De Los Reyes, a good friend of mine, was more than happy to have me there. The girls welcomed me immediately. At first, typical me, I kept my distance, focusing on the training. But after each week, the girls were able to break me down a bit. I laughed at their jokes, and they weren’t scared to laugh at my goofiness that I showed once in a while. We had a mutual respect.

Rupert put me in charge of their fitness. They needed to see from a professional how important fitness is to the game. I stressed to the girls as much as possible that if you are not fit, you can’t improve your game. I know they hated every sprint I made them do (and most likely hated me for making them do the sprints). But I know I got through to them.

Even though I hope that the girls learned a few things from me, I know that I realized something very important. Sometimes you just have to laugh and enjoy playing. I am so glad that I got the opportunity to share this realization with those girls.

Behind The Scenes

I hope everyone has checked out the first episode of On The Ball where I was interviewed alongside former Sol teammates Katie Larkin and Aya Miyama. I posted the download link for it in an earlier blog entry. You can now download a behind the scenes episode of the show. Please try not to laugh at me too much!

You can download Episode 5 here: http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/on-the-ball/id335044980

Training With Professionals

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” Anatole France

Ocho, Meagan, my new Beat teammate goalkeeper Brett Maron, and I put in some hard workouts at our training facility, The Stratford Field House. There were times when we were there for more than four hours (granted an hour or two was spent goofing around with co-owner Mark Christo and general manager Matt Mones). I swear I was at the butt end of more jokes from these two guys than in my whole childhood of being a tomboy.
I know I couldn’t have accomplished what I did during the offseason if it wasn’t for my fellow professionals and the people at SFH. We pushed each other. Whether it was an extra few sprints or another round of shots, we gutted it out. Our dreams were on the line. We were willing to do whatever it took.

The girls joked around that I was the devil for making them do my crazy fitness workouts with me. But I know the hard work we all put in is only going to benefit us during preseason. What was my saving grace from their hate could have been the Muscle Milk Protein Shakes that Mark and Matt provided for us for our post-workout recovery. Either way, we were all so grateful for each other and for the opportunity to train at such a high class facility.

Give And Receive

One of the best parts of playing in the indoor leagues at CFC Arena during the winter season is the friendships you make with your teammates and your opponents. There is some glory to being a professional. Most of the players know who you are. But what is so great about it is that you get close, and you share the passion for the game with each other.

My good friend “Gabe the Babe” is a shy, young talented soccer fanatic. A Cristiano Ronaldo look-a-like (and big time fan of… I swear he has a crush on the Portuguese phenom), Gabe and I challenged each other. I pushed him into going to college and trying out for the soccer team. Helping him make that decision was a very rewarding experience. I didn’t know at first, but he looks up to me. The greatest gift I received wasn’t my very own Chelsea jersey he gave me. It was the fact that he had MM22 stitched onto his cleats. He said that I will now always be with him whenever he plays.

A Preseason Outlook

I am looking forward to another preseason with another new team. It will be a chance to make a name for myself in this league. I worked so hard during the offseason to be 100% ready to prove myself in preseason. Nothing is certain. And I will leave nothing to chance.

March 1st was the start of a new chapter. I know it will be a different experience than last year. I am excited to see what enfolds. Please follow along my journey once again.

Manya Makoski