Hi! Kendall Fletcher here all the way from Sweden. I am a professional soccer player who currently plays for Vittsjo GIK in the Damallsvenskan, Sweden’s top professional league. This is my 2nd season with the club and while I have thoroughly enjoyed living and playing in Sweden, my time here is coming to an end (for this season at least). I have one more game left in the season before I head back home to North Carolina. I won’t be there long however, as I will be leaving again 5 days later, to head back down to Australia to play in my 4th season of the Australian women’s W-league. In the past I have played for the Central Coast Mariners and the Melbourne Victory, but this year I will be pulling on a Canberra United jersey and joining the Green family in Australia’s capital city. I can’t wait!
This might seem like a crazy schedule to keep, especially when you consider this is a fairly accurate snapshot of the last 5 years of my life. Even though it’s not without its challenges, I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful for the opportunities my international career has provided for me. Over the past 5 years I have played for 6 different professional teams, in 5 different countries, while living in 7 different cities, on 3 different continents, in 2 different hemispheres. Along the way I have met incredible people, experienced different cultures, became a fan of cricket (yes, I said cricket!), expanded my view of the world, stepped outside my comfort zone, pushed my limits, strengthened my faith, gained perspective on who I am, and racked up quite a few frequent flyer miles in the process. And that is just off the field. On the field I have played with and against some of the best players in the world in many different environments while reaching new levels of understanding tactically, technically, and physically and developing a deeper love for the game.
So as I am leaving Sweden and about to head back down to Australia, where my international playing experience all began, I can’t help but look back and appreciate what a wonderful and invaluable experience it has been to travel and play all over the world over these past 5 years, and how I almost missed out on all of it.
My first opportunity to play overseas came after my first season in the WPS. One of the staff members of the St. Louis Athletica’s front office emailed all the players asking if anyone was interested in playing for the Central Coast Mariners, a team in Australia W-League, for 3 months during the WPS off-season. I had heard about other players playing overseas, and although it seemed like an interesting notion, it was never something that seriously tempted me because it didn’t really seem like my cup of tea to be so far away from home for so long. In light of this, normally I wouldn’t have given the email a second thought, but this was Australia! I had always wanted to go to Australia. It had been at the top of my “places I want to go” list for years, and now this opportunity would give me the chance. It seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up, but 3 months in a foreign country (even if it was Australia) halfway around the world seemed like such a big commitment. I know that might sound silly now considering I have spent the majority of the last 3 years of my life living outside the US, but at the time it felt like such a long time away from everything that I knew and loved and that made me comfortable…home. I liked to think of myself as a pretty adventurous person, but for me at that point in my life, this was a journey that was way off the edge of my map. I really wanted to take the plunge, but I kept thinking of all the things I would miss out on not being at home, all the things I would have to give up if I went, not to mention the fact that it was a long time and a long way to be away from home if I didn’t like it. Everything about deciding to go to Australia, although exciting, seemed so vague and difficult because it was impossible to wrap my head around exactly what it would mean if I decided to go. Whereas, if I decided to stay at home everything about that decision seemed so much more simple and comfortable because I knew what to expect. However, was that a good enough reason to stay?
As I was contemplating this thought I realized I wasn’t looking for a good reason to go, but desperately searching for a good reason to stay, because if I couldn’t find one, I knew I would feel compelled to take this huge step, and that terrified me. So as I sat there at the computer reading this email and becoming very overwhelmed with the fact that I didn’t know what to do or should do or what decision to make, and being nearly ready to give into my fear and take the easy way out by writing the whole thing off as being too much to handle, I realized I was getting way ahead of myself.
I wasn’t ready to make a commitment, but the email wasn’t asking for a commitment. It was simply asking if I was interested. And even though I knew what saying I was interested might lead to and knowing I wasn’t ready to make that commitment, I told myself to take it one step at a time. One decision at a time. I didn’t need to decide whether or not to sign a contract or if I was capable of living and playing in a foreign country at this point, I simply needed to respond to an email saying I was interested in hearing more. That response seemed easy enough because I was in fact interested, so I took the first step. I sent a reply that said I was interested and from there the steps continued.
The ultimate question of whether I really had it in me to commit to playing overseas still loomed over me the entire time I was speaking with the club and negotiating the arrangements of playing in Australia. But every time I started to get overwhelmed, I kept reminding myself to just take it one step at a time, one decision at a time. And as I did this, and the time finally came to make the final decision to sign the contract and commit to playing overseas, even though I was still scared and unsure of exactly what I was getting myself into, I was ready to take the step because it no longer seemed like this huge leap, but simply the next step in a long series of steps I had been taking.
And these are steps that I am still taking. It wasn’t my plan to be doing what I am doing today, traveling around the world, playing the game I love, and living abroad for most of the year. In fact if you had told me 5 years ago when I was making this decisions that it would lead me to where I am now, I know for a fact I would never have made the decision to go. I would have been too scared, completely overwhelmed, and certain this wasn’t the kind of life I could live or enjoy. However, I would have been completely wrong. It wasn’t the life I thought I wanted, but it’s exactly what I needed. Even now I can’t believe I am doing what I am doing, that I have been able to do the things I have done, that I can handle what my circumstances have asked of me. I am constantly blown away by the opportunities I have and the value, meaning, and purpose they has brought to my life. I wake up every day so thankful and full of joy for where I am and what I am doing.
Even though I still constantly find myself overwhelmed with the decisions and difficulties in front of me, I don’t fear the challenge of overcoming them because I have learned through this process that when you take it one step at a time, there’s nothing you can’t overcome. And when you do, you’ll not only find it immensely rewarding, but you’ll find yourself exactly where you need to be.
So as I am packing up my life yet again, and moving from one country to the next, transitioning from one season to the next, with a short pit stop at home long enough only to unpack and repack my suitcase, I take great joy in knowing I am exactly where I am suppose to be.
So until my next post card from the wonderful island, country, continent of Australia.
All my best,
Kendall Fletcher in a midfielder/defender who has just finished up her Swedish season with Vittsjo and is on her way to begin playing for Canberra United in Australia’s W-League. She has previously spent time in the US’s W-League before being drafted into Women’s Professional Soccer in 2009. She spent three seasons in WPS with the LA Sol, St. Louis Athletica and Sky Blue FC. She has spent time in Australia, previously with the Central Coast Mariners and the Melbourne Victory. She is a 2002 Under-19 World Champion (USA) and has made one appearance for the US Women’s National team. She played for the University of North Carolina from 2002-2005 and won a national championship in 2003.