Make yourself uncomfortable.

I know, this sounds odd. But it’s something that has helped improve my game and reach achievements I never thought possible.

Setting goals that may be unreachable and allowing yourself to fail, you will change your game in a completely different way.

Now, although I’ve had success through my years in high school and college, many people don’t know about the ups and many more downs I’ve had competing for the National Team. I’ve been in and out of camps since I was 12, facing more adversity with the national program than with any other team combined.

From sitting on the bench to being cut from teams entirely, it always seemed like I would never break through. And when you grow up as one of the top players in your area, it’s not something you are really used to.

My first time with this sort of experience was in 7th grade when I traveled to Portland for a U14 Women’s National Camp to play against the best competitors in the country. I knew it would be a challenge, but when I got there, I was amazed at the talent level and the professionalism that came along with it.

I was overmatched, but I was excited as the camp helped me see the path I would need to take to reach the next level and all of the work that would go along with it.

This gave me a purpose for the time commitment, that drove me, along with my passion for the sport. Instead of giving up, I took this as an opportunity to change my game and improve my style of play. I was determined to develop an underdog mentality and show that I belonged. It no longer mattered that I was talented in the area, I was competing against players across the country.

And from that moment, my game completely changed.

Heading into high school, I still competed at national camps, but I also started to see some of the opportunities I had been working towards in the recruiting process. It was a fun and interesting concept to me as I knew I would be playing soccer no matter what, so I viewed it as more of an adventure than a stressful process.

I just had the feeling that I would eventually end up where I was meant to be.

And with Duke University, I don’t think I could have been any more right.

Photos Courtesy of Duke Athletics
Photos Courtesy of Duke Athletics

Duke had everything I was looking for. The academics speak for themselves and a soccer program that has the right staff and team to compete at the top level every year. Knowing this, and seeing a beautiful campus that immediately blew me away, I didn’t have a doubt.

After I committed to Duke, I finally had time to just focus on my game, rather than researching programs that I might attend. Getting back to that underdog mentality, I set my goals high, wanting to become one of the best players in the country.

This mentality pushed me to work harder to improve areas of my game that I thought I could avoid because I was so good at other parts of my game. But when you are competing against top level players, it is a reality check that lets you know you’re not as good as you think you are.

I no longer would be satisfied with a good game, as I was always looking for what I could have done better.

Coming into college, I tried to bring that same mentality in order to help the team win.

Although I was a talented recruit, I viewed it as being at the bottom of the depth chart all over again and needing to work my way into the lineup. Nothing was given to me and this was just the way I liked it.

It was a stressful process at first, but when I realized these girls I was competing with wanted me to improve and believed in my ability, it allowed me to relax and focus on my game. The support that I received from the team, along with the mentality I’ve had since I was twelve, allowed me to earn a spot on the field and start to help the team win.

As I’ve had some success with the program and look to build on our accomplishments, it is important to me to keep that same mentality. I set goals that I know other people might laugh at, or find unreasonable, but that’s what I want.


Courtesy of Duke Athletics
Photos Courtesy of Duke Athletics

One goal that sticks out is becoming the best player in the world. Sometimes that statement even makes me laugh, but when you break it down, it makes complete sense and gives me motivation.

Why shouldn’t I set this goal?

I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to be the best at something you love. Setting these goals that may be out of reach, puts me in situations of failure, which allows me to grow.

If I was always satisfied with just being one of the better players on the field, I would never have the chance to really improve my game.

For me, there is no perfection, and there is no complacency. I can always grow in it, and I can go as far as I’m willing to work for.

Making myself uncomfortable is so important because it allows me to grow. I never want to be comfortable, and I never want to achieve perfection, because in it is complacency, and in complacency is true failure.

So no matter who you are, whether you are the best player in your town or the best player in your state, work for that underdog mentality. Make yourself feel uncomfortable with your goals, and I promise that you will achieve at a level that you never thought possible.

Ella Stevens | Contributor

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