Danielle Slaton for Goal Five
Greetings Goal Five Supporters!
My name is Danielle Slaton @daniellevslaton. I am a new Ambassador for Goal Five and a former USWNT player who has agreed to write a few blogs for Goal Five over the next year. I look forward to sharing my thoughts about the beautiful game with you, but for my first post, I thought I’d share a little bit about my soccer story.
Like many of us, I began playing soccer at a young age. I was an energetic kid and my parents registered me in a local neighborhood league because I was driving them crazy and breaking furniture around the house. A new season was starting on Tuesday, just down the road, and thus began my journey on this path. Back in 1985, none of us could have imagined where that path would lead.
It led to tournaments around the city, and then the state, and then the country. The path meandered to a NCAA victory at Santa Clara University and stints with professional teams in both North Carolina and Lyon, France. It wandered around the world to an Olympic Games and a World Cup. And along the way, I met the strongest, most courageous women I’d ever met.
But this journey took a toll on my body, and after many knee surgeries at the age of 25, my time in professional soccer came to an end. And when the clear pathway that I’d been on for 20 years disappeared, I didn’t know which direction to turn. To figure out my next move, I reached back into my toolbox to rely on some of the skills I’d used as a soccer player – work harder, grind it out, keep fighting. But I was lost, not losing, and those weren’t the tools I needed. I needed patience, self-love, and support in an entirely new environment. I needed to ask for help, but I didn’t know how. I was afraid of the unknown. I was grieving the loss of my sport and I didn’t know how to find my bearings in a world where I couldn’t play the game at the highest level. In my mind, the only way forward through the grief and the pain, was to make sure that I never looked back.
I stepped away from soccer entirely. I had no interest in the game. And then slowly, one step at a time, I began to clear away the brush and look for a new path. I wasn’t looking for a path that included soccer; I was looking for any trail I that would make me happy. Every day, I ventured a little farther, and I wish I could say that some “aha moment” occurred, and that I’d stumbled onto a new beautifully paved road. But that’s not how it worked for me. It was far less glamorous than that.
Each day I got out of bed and I did my best to stay as positive as possible and explore. If I was curious or interested in something, I tried it. That’s when my soccer toolbox started to come in handy. I put my hard work and discipline and focus to good use. Day after day, I took small steps forward. And then one day, I had a curiosity about an upcoming soccer game in town. Gradually, I began to watch the game again. I began to coach. I had my first job covering soccer on television. My self-love grew and my love of the game returned, in a new, nuanced, more enduring way.
That is when my “aha moment” occurred. I realized that the game will change for us throughout our lives. We will have different roles and different relationships with the beautiful game, but the game is always there, waiting for us to turn back to her when we are ready. She will take us to new places, to meet new people, to experience new things. And for that, I will always be grateful when I think back to that day in 1985, when I took my first step along the path of what we call the beautiful game.
Goal Five is honored to welcome Danielle Slaton as our latest ambassador. Danielle was a member of the U.S. Women's National Team from 2000-2005, winning a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics and a bronze in the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup. Currently, Danielle is a television analyst for both the men's and women's game. She will be writing a series of blogs for Goal Five about issues that impact women and soccer.
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