Whenever anyone asks me what I do for a living I always experience a small moment of disbelief when I say the words: “I am a professional soccer player.” Even though I’ve been lucky enough to have done it for the past six years of my life it’s still hard to believe sometimes. Since the first time I kicked a soccer ball, I dreamed of one day becoming a professional and well, here I am.
Being able to play the sport I love is a dream come true. And being able to live that dream in my hometown of Calgary makes it even more special for me. Although the journey hasn’t always been easy or straightforward, the ups and downs of my path as an athlete have been crucial in shaping me into the soccer player and person that I am today.
There are other sides of high-level sport that most people don’t see from the outside. For one, it can be all-consuming. The life of an elite athlete extends far beyond the moments you spend practicing and competing. Oftentimes every minute of an athlete’s day is wrapped around improving or preparing themselves for an upcoming practice or competition. Whether that’s time spent on rest and recovery, analyzing practice and game footage to refine individual weaknesses, or making careful dietary choices (and the list goes on), an athlete can easily get stuck in the mindset that their sport iseverything they are and do.
But becoming tied to your identity as an athlete can be a dangerous way to see yourself. There’s nothing wrong with proudly owning your journey and successes in sport, but when — and unfortunately it happens all too often — you begin to judge your worth solely on your performances on the field (or court, rink, track, etc.) it can become a vicious cycle very quickly. Personally, I’ve been through this myself. It’s no fun feeling that your underperformance in a match means you are anunderperforming or bad person.
Learning to get out of this mindset was a long process that took time, wisdom, and perseverance. I learned to take my athletic career in strides, realizing that I – and so many other people just like myself – are more than just the athlete that is visible to the outside world. Seeing myself as more than just a soccer player,but rather as a human being, allows me to recognize that I will make mistakes. And when those mistakes happen, it’s the response to them that defines me, not the mistake itself. My performance on the day may change, but who I am as a person doesn’t have anything to do with that.
So now you might be wondering how I define myself; who am I?
I am many things, and those things constantly change. The important part is that how I value myself is not tied to only one of them. I am a student, a finance geek, a keen reader and podcast listener, a youth soccer coach, a proud Calgarian and Canadian, a soccer player (of course!), and above all else: a human-being.
It goes without saying that soccer is an incredibly important part of my life and something I am beyond grateful for. The privilege of being a professional athlete is something I’ll forever appreciate, but I’ll always remember thatit’s what I do, not who I am.
Where has this led me today? It’s given me the insight to recognize that my platform as a professional athlete has allowed me to experience some truly amazing things and to grow and develop as a person. I’ve learned that although soccer is an incredibly significant part of my life, it doesn’t define me. Most importantly, it’s given me the opportunity to be a community leader, to connect and network with so many amazing people, and to be an inspiration for the next generation of aspiring soccer players. Hopefully, I can inspire them to not just strive to be great athletes, but to be even better people.
That’s a true win in my eyes.
Follow more of Marco on IG @mcarducci96