Jennifer Smith: Letter to My 13-Year-Old Self

This article is written by Jennifer Smith (@1_uswnt) for the inaugural American Soccer United Women’s Soccer Month #WoSoMonth.

Birmingham, Alabama. — The greatest eight years of your life are headed your way. Nothing about it will be easy – supporting women’s soccer never is, but it’s rewarding. It’s satisfying, fulfilling. It’s worth it.

You’re probably on your way home from a basketball tournament right now, but just hear me out.

What if I told you that’d be the last time you ever played basketball – the last time you ever called that sport your favorite? What if I told you you’re about to become the most passionate soccer fan your town has ever seen? What if I said supporting the United States Women’s National Team will become the greatest decision of your life?

Crazy, right?

If you don’t believe me now, just wait. You will.

Seriously, Jen, stop focusing on how to pronounce the word “Algarve” and follow the stupid Match Tracker – it’s 2009; were you expecting the game to be on a hi-def channel? Come on, now.

Look at you. Match Tracker on one side of your screen and “Google soccer terms” on the other.

I’m proud of you.

I know you think it’s embarrassing having to look up what “offside” means. But it’s not. I know you’re tempted to turn your laptop off because you don’t understand what’s happening during the game. But don’t.

Don’t quit, Jen.

You’re not supposed to know these terms, yet. You’re not supposed to know what’s happening during these games because it’s the first time in your life you’ve ever been exposed to it.

It’s okay. Trust me.

Just keep learning – keep teaching yourself the game. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you catch on.

I must warn you, though, that there’s going to be moments throughout your journey as a USWNT supporter when your emotions will overpower you.

It’s okay. Accept it and let it happen.

Embrace the emotions you will feel in a couple of years when we face Brazil and Japan. Give into them a year later when we face Canada. Let them completely dominate and control you a few years after that when we face Japan again. Accept them when we face Sweden a few months later.

I’m not going to tell you why. You don’t need to know that, yet.

All you need to know is that it’s okay, Jen.

Whatever the time, wherever you are, whatever the score – let it out.

I know you’re scared, confused. I know you thought it was always going to be basketball.

But, there’s a reason you started following soccer, Jen. There’s a reason you’ll get emotionally attached to the USWNT, and there’s a reason you’ll become a lifelong supporter of them.

It’s not going to be easy – it never is with this team, but it’s worth it.

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