Photographer’s Credit: Sarah Cooper,

I do not play soccer. In fact, I have never been athletic. Nonetheless, I use sports metaphors such as “take the ball and run with it” and refer to myself as a “left fielder.” This is why a story told to me by a soccer player served as a lesson. On this particular Saturday afternoon, one woman was going around and practically begging to join a team. All the other players, including my friend, shook their heads and wondered what kind of agenda she had. 

Finally, the newcomer was placed on the opposing team, and she soon demonstrated the speed and skill needed to take possession of the ball, similar to the encounter pictured above at a University of Dallas game last fall. She had such fancy footwork that she easily led her teammates to victory. 

Even though this player had clearly shown everyone she was an accomplished athlete, doubts still lingered in everyone’s minds. Teammates and opponents alike were in awe of her prowess. So why had she approached everyone with desperation in her voice?

I can be the most proficient in Spanish, a language I learned on my own. I can also take voice lessons at the prestigious Eastman School of Music. But it all means nothing unless I follow my Dominican husband’s advice: hay que darte tu importanciaThis does not mean to put on airs, but to recognize my own importance. He used to become quite upset when he saw me acting like that soccer player and putting everyone else on such a high pedestal. 

What prevented that skilled athlete from recognizing her own importance? Perhaps she had been told repeatedly that her preoccupation with soccer was just some silly fancy, just as I had been led to believe that my interest in other languages and music was a waste of time.

If someone wants me on her team, I have to prove to her that I can steal the ball.