The Power of Play

IMG_4172Talking to young Samoan soccer players. Photo credit: Ola Thorsen


I just returned from 2+ weeks of travel to New Zealand and Samoa. I was traveling in conjunction with the U.S. State Department and U.S. Soccer. We packed a ton of work into a short amount of time and besides the fifteen-hour flight to and from Auckland there was quite a bit of travel within the travel.

Needless to say, I was busy, but overall the trip was fantastic. I trained young athletes, met with educators on how to grow the sport of soccer, and spoke to LGBTQ advocates about my experience as an out athlete.

I love this work. As I’ve been afforded so many incredible experiences through my playing career it’s wonderful to be able to share my stories and help those who haven’t been as fortunate or need a bit of guidance in their journey.

IMG_4174Kicking around with some young girls of Samoa Primary School. Photo Credit: Ola Thorsen


One of my favorite stories from the trip was while I was in Samoa. It was a hot and humid Thursday afternoon, and I was coaching and kicking around with a young group of boys. A few minutes into our kick around, I noticed one kid only had one cleat on. I didn’t think much of it except for the fact that is completely normal for Samoan kids to play barefoot, so I was a bit confused on why he chose to wear just one.

However, this training session was a bit different since it was considered an “elite” group and all the boys had cleats on.

Then a few moments later I noticed another little boy only had one cleat on as well. I asked them, “Why do you two only have one cleat on?” “Wouldn’t it be easier to play barefoot?” They replied, “We only had one pair and we didn’t want the other to have to go shoeless.” As they said this to me, I heard the coach yell, “Sharing is caring!” A huge smile came over my face.

Come on, you’ve got to love this as much as I do. 🙂

The boys were running around laughing and getting so much joy out of playing. They didn’t care if it was uncomfortable or more difficult to play they were just happy to be playing.

That was one of my favorite things in Samoa…the pure joy the kids experience while playing.

IMG_4173Posing with some of the boys from the “elite” group. Photo credit: Ola Thorsen


Sometimes we all get so caught up in whether we have name brand equipment, if we’re going to make the next best team, or get a scholarship to play at a university that we forget how much fun it is to just play.

The same goes for adults. We forget that we can incorporate more play into our lives as well. Whether that is tossing a softball around, sharing quality time outdoors with friends, or kicking a soccer ball there is always room for more play.

At Ambitious Athletics our motto is to Stay Competitive and Have Fun – we’ve vowed to start incorporating more games such as dodge ball and spike ball into our warm-ups and I’ve started to intertwine more play such as juggling and dribbling in the gym on top of my training sessions.

I haven’t played much soccer since my retirement one year ago and I can forget how much joy and calmness kicking around brings to my life. I was reminded of this when playing with the young Samoan boys.

Are there any sports or hobbies that you remember bringing you joy?

Today I encourage you to make ten minutes before or after your workout or at the end of the day to add in some bits of play back in to your life – don’t be afraid to have some fun!

Remember how the old saying goes, “We don’t stop playing when we get old, we get old when we stop playing.

Comment below and let me know what you’re implementing.


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