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Translating soccer goals to Air Force goals

  • Published
  • By Senior Airmen Tara Fadenrecht
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
It's always been a love-hate relationship between us. When we are apart, I long for the memories we made together, and, inevitably, I am drawn back in again and again, but each time I am quickly reminded of the physical and mental toll I must pay, a toll that eventually drains every part of me.  It's a cycle I can't seem to escape, but through it all my love for soccer has remained, and the Air Force has continued to foster this love in the most unexpected ways.

After I graduated college in 2012, I never thought I'd play competitive soccer again. I definitely wasn't expecting the opportunity to come as an Airman in the Air Force.

By the time I arrived at my first duty station in August 2014, McConnell Air Force Base, it had been years since I had been on a field, and I was craving a ball at my feet.

It didn't take long before I was out playing with the base team every weekend and eventually playing for a local indoor league by the time the harsh Kansas winter rolled around. 

It was my first time playing indoor soccer, and I immediately fell in love. It was probably the most fun I've ever had playing soccer. There was no pressure, but it was still competative.

When spring 2015 came around, I was back out with the base team and I noticed myself losing motivation. The last thing I wanted to do on a Saturday morning was get out of bed to go run around for a couple hours.

The encouragement of my teammates kept getting me out there every day and even pushed me to take chances outside of playing on the base team.

When one of my friends returned from the Men's Armed Forces Team tryouts, he told me all about his experience and encouraged me to apply for the Women's Armed Forces Team tryouts.

The program brings together U.S. players from every military branch to compete against other countries in the International Military Sports Council World Games. This year, the tournament was held in Korea.

But now that the opportunity was right in front of me, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go through with it. I was already struggling with motivation on the field, and off the field I was busy with work and completing more school. Not to mention, I had already convinced myself there was no possible way I could make the team, much less even be invited to try out in the first place.

Despite all my doubts, the incredible support from my friends and family was enough for me to throw together and submit a last-minute application. I'm all for taking chances and trying new things, so I figured I should at least apply or I would look back and regret it later.

A few weeks later, I received an email inviting me to Tampa, Florida, to try out for the team.

It's amazing how the one email changed my attitude and level of motivation. I was ready to go. I was going to train hard. I was going to make the team.

Except I didn't.

Instead, I was the last person cut from the final roster.

Sure I was disappointed, and yes it was difficult when people around base kept asking me how tryouts went, and I had to tell them I didn't make it, but I didn't let it get to me. I felt good about the way I played and proved to myself that I can compete with some of the best women's soccer players in the U.S. military. I accepted the outcome and was ready to move forward.

Little did I know that moving forward would come in the form of yet another email offering me an even better opportunity and a second chance to play competitive soccer in the military.

This time the email came from the Air Force Men's Soccer coach. He explained he was putting together a women's team to compete in an indoor tournament in the United Kingdom. He told me he had been in contact with the coaches from my previous tryouts, and they had recommended me as a good fit for the team.

I was ecstatic!  I couldn't believe I was not only going to be playing indoor soccer, but I would be doing it in the U.K.

A couple weeks later, I had my Dramamine and my sour gummy Lifesavers packed in my carry-on and was boarding a plane to cross the pond.

The trip lasted a week. We trained as a team for the first couple days before playing in the tournament. We played against other military teams from Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, U.K. and Germany. In the end, we took third place behind the U.K. and the ridiculously talented Germans who won the whole thing.

The opportunity was absolutely amazing not just because I got to play the sport I love in another country, but because of the experience as a whole. I built relationships off the court within my team, and also with people from all around the world. On the court we battled our opponents, they were our enemies. But off the court we cheered each other on. We laughed together, sang together, and got to know one another.

Not even two years ago, I would have never dreamed I would be competing in an international soccer competition, and I probably never would have if not for the Air Force and the amazing opportunities it provided.

Although the cycle of ups and downs continues, I will forever be grateful for the memories I made, and the ones I will continue to make as I continue to pursue my life-long passion.