Athlete’s Voices: Kendall Johnson, Episode 1. Introducing Myself & Sky Blue FC
DoubleGSports.com has partnered with some local athlete’s to develop this great column titled, Athlete’s Voices. In this column, some of your favorite local athletes will share their lives with you, both on and off the playing surface. Each athlete will post a blog, once a month, updating you on their latest happenings. Today’s post is by Kendall Johnson, a member of Sky Blue FC, New Jersey’s professional women’s soccer team. Follow Kendall as she will post a blog on the 15th of every month…
Hello new friends,
My name is Kendall Johnson and I play professional women’s soccer in New Jersey for Sky Blue FC. Some of you may be thinking, New Jersey has a professional women’s soccer team? First, shame on you. Secondly, yes we do and I’m so glad you asked. Founded in 2007, Sky Blue has participated in three women’s soccer leagues. Unfortunately, the first two failed. In a third attempt to create a sustainable league, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) was formed last year. We all have very high hopes that this league will last for good.
I personally became a member of Sky Blue last year through the college draft. I attended the University of Portland in Oregon – the city where I was both born and raised. Naturally, I am an avid Trail Blazer’s fan, love the outdoors, and trying new restaurants (Portland has a delectable selection). My teammates often make fun of me claiming that all we Portlandian’s do is eat vegan, organic, gluten-free bird food-like substances. I’m not going to lie, I do love a good tempeh, quinoa salad, but I can assure you I could also easily devour a pint of Ben and Jerry’s half baked ice cream.
Food aside, I was thrilled to make the move and see what the east coast has to offer. I must admit, It took me awhile to get used to the fast paced, hustle and bustle lifestyle. After just a few days of driving, I learned that when the traffic light turns yellow in Jersey it means keep driving, don’t slow down, or the car behind you will simultaneously slam on the horn and flip you the bird.
With a season under my belt, I’ve adjusted well and have used my own horn a few times.
Soccer wise, I’ve also gained quite a bit of knowledge. As a matter of fact, I had an incident at practice a few weeks ago that perfectly demonstrates some of the most important things I’ve learned throughout my short stint as a professional. I’d like to share them with you, but before I begin, I want you all to know that the story has a happy ending.
The event all began on a blustery Tuesday afternoon during a game of three vs. three. The objective of the game was to score between two poles. These particular poles were plastic, but had metal rods at the ends that were used to stake them into the ground (See picture).
In the midst of a heated battle, my team was up one goal with less than a minute left in the game. Determined to keep the lead, I was going to defend as if my life depended on it. The opposing teammate took a shot on target. In a final attempt to save the ball from going in the goal, I slide tackled onto the muddy ground. Due to the wet ground, I slid much further than expected snapping the pole in half and taking it out of the ground with me. Mid-slide, I felt a very strange sensation in my leg. I looked down to see that the pole had lodged into the back of my thigh. Acting on my first instinct, I yanked the pole out of my leg (stop reading now if you don’t like blood) and blood gushed up in the air.
I kid you not, the blood shot straight up like it does in the movies.
My teammates came rushing over and Taka, our assistant coach, immediately applied pressure to the wound with his hand. Meanwhile, I was not about to look at the thing. Instead, I stared intently on the ground, practiced my deep breathing exercises and continuously repeated “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay!”
Long story short, it turns out that I was ok. I ended up going to the hospital, getting a little shot, and was cleared to play after a couple days of rest. On the surface, it appears this story is simply ridiculous and has no relation to the teachings of soccer. That’s partly true, but it has several underlying messages.
First, my teammates have each other’s backs. Immediately following the incident, my teammates rushed over and assisted in whatever way they could. They made sure I was taken care of and assured me that everything was going to be alright. In soccer, every player must work together in order for the team to perform their best. We must rely on and support each other throughout every practice and game.
In all situations in life, you need to be ready for the unexpected, and professional soccer is no exception. With the NWSL being a newly formed league, it’s natural for all the kinks to not be ironed out yet. We’ve dealt the typical delayed flights, bus break downs, and even just recently had to stop the game because a bunny came running out of nowhere onto our field. It’s important to be flexible in any situation and roll with punches (and poles, in my situation).
This incident also perfectly models the importance of staying calm in high pressure situations. Yes, I was slightly in shock that I had just gotten impaled by a pole, but I also knew that overreacting wouldn’t solve anything. Along these lines, soccer games can come down to the final minutes. In these cases, it’s crucial to maintain composure and stick to our game plan. We’ve started off the season a bit slower than we would all like. However, we are not rattled. Everyone knows it’s best to hit peak performances towards the end of the season and that’s our plan.
As you can clearly see, this story highlights some very important lessons that expand beyond the soccer field. I hope you can now utilize these revelations in your own life. Lastly, although my puncture wound is almost fully healed, if any of you are still feeling remorse for my injury, I am gladly fully accepting chocolate chip cookies – organic, vegan and gluten-free, of course.
p.s If you’re around in the area we’d love for you to come cheer us on! Our next home game is against the Chicago Red Stars on May 28 at Rutgers University. You can also catch all of our games streamed live online on YouTube.
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