Some parts of leaving Strasbourg will be harder than others.
Those of you who know me well probably know how much I love sports. As the youngest child of an active family, my youth did not include a weeknight without a Kessler kid at a practice or a weekend without multiple games/meets/trainings. Before high school, I walked away from club soccer, travel softball, and basketball. Countless trail runs, recreational ultimate frisbee leagues, and Michigan football games have filled my void for competitive sports ever since. Especially since I’ve started college, I’ve been really missing team sports. I’ve missed the tough workouts, and the bonds that are created as you train alongside teammates.
EM Strasbourg brought soccer back into my life, and I wish I could explain how much it enhanced my study abroad experience. I’ll try.
Here’s how it happened. In October, my coach posted on Facebook looking for girls to join the soccer team, specifically a keeper. Cintia brought it up with some of us girls, and we agreed it sounded like fun. I almost didn’t join with them because of my inability to speak French, but I saw where they needed a goalkeeper and agreed to give it a shot anyway. Playing soccer is something I used to love, so I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. I was really worried I would make a fool of myself because I haven’t played competitively for years, but when I showed up the first day I was handed a pair of goalie gloves… and that was that.
We practiced twice a week, and we played a number of games against other faculties of the University of Strasbourg. Our main goal, however, was to advance in the Coupe de France. The Coupe de France, or French Cup, is a tournament among French business schools, and the teams that advance to the finals get to play at Clairefontaine. It’s a huge deal, and for a young team like ours, it would’ve been even huger.
In early January, we took a 4 - 0 win over ICN to qualify for the round of 16. In late January, we played ESSEC Paris. It was a tough game, and although we played well we just couldn’t get the ball in the net for most of the game. Finally, we managed to get ahead for a 2 – 0 win. We were going to the semifinals. EM Strasbourg had defeated a well-known team, and we were one step further on the “#RoadtoClairefontaine”. I’ve been excited about a win before, but this was something else. I really saw our hard work since October paying off in this game, and I was so proud to be a part of this win.
We delayed our semifinal match against EM Lyon until early April, so we would have most of the spring semester to train. Coaches pushed us, and they kept us motivated. Unfortunately, throughout the spring we took a few tough losses and acquired a few injuries. Luckily, we were only down one player come time for the Coupe de France semifinal, but one of my defenders and I were both not at full strength. The only reason we were motivated for our match against EM Lyon is because this team pulled together. In the days leading up to the match, the give-and-take of encouragement was endless.
On April 2nd, my team and I played one hell of a game of football, but we were defeated 1 – 0, and our journey along the #RoadtoClairefontaine ended. We played one of our best games ever, but one of their shots got past me. Our defense was solid. Our mids put miles up and down the lines. Our strikers fought hard. I walked off the field proud of what we accomplished even though it wasn’t enough to advance. I don’t think I’ve never seen my teammates in any sport play with so much heart.
That Team Void I Mentioned
There were other big moments where I remembered what it’s like to really emotionally invest in a team…. Tough losses in Urban Soccer in Paris… A big win against ESSEC Paris… Losing in a shootout after playing a terrible game… Finally TIGRES victories filling my last full weekend in Strasbourg.... It all felt so personal.
Other moments where I remembered what it’s like to care for a team… Accepting a leadership role… Showing motivation in trainings… Worrying for teammates’ injuries… Encouraging the girls throughout.
And there were defining moments where I remembered what it’s like to be cared for by a team… Questions about holidays or missing family and friends… Team dinners shared in homes… An ocean of concern when I hurt my shoulder (I can finally sleep on my right side again, by the way).
I Proudly Identify as an EM Strasbourg Storkette
I kid you not, we call ourselves storkettes. When I orgininally joined the team, I thought this was hilarious. EM Strasbourg was the place where I took my classes, but I never would’ve said EM Strasbourg is my school the way I so proudly identify BGSU, and specifically the College of Business, as my college. Playing soccer for EM changed this for me. Now, I really do see myself as a part of the student body at EM. I consider it my school. Proudly, even, because of the amazing experience I had throughout my exchange, so much of which is attributable to my involvement with this amazing team.
In a closing speech to my teammates at my goodbye dinner, I had a few things to say. In short, I told them how much it meant to me to be a part of this team, and thanked them. For everything. They gave me a poster, signed with messages and well wishes… I definitely cried reading it because it’s so sweet, but it also feels so final. My teammate Léna gave me caramels from Brittany since I never made it to that region of France which she is from. Coaches also gave me all of my jerseys, and a captain’s band… well, really it’s a “captaine’s” band in the colors of the French flag. These keepsakes overwhelmed me because, again, they’ll be such sweet reminders of this priceless experience I had playing soccer in Strasbourg.
My teammates have asked me if I’ll play back in the states… My coaches have encouraged me to keep playing… I’ve explained to them it’ll be tough to find a team for “super competitive as a keeper in club until age thirteen, then seven year hiatus, then one year of training in France”, but maybe I’ll ask around. For now, I’ve signed up to play in an intern volleyball league Owens Corning is organizing, and that’s something.
I know this is what you want:
|This game was the same week I joined the team. I didn't even know the girls' names yet.|
|A team dinner at l'Observatoire in the fall.|
|Finally a team photo with almost everyone (I'm sure Marine's internship was keeping her away)|
|As a keeper, I'll take a snowy game over a rainy game any day.|
|This photo was taken in January after a cold but great game in Nancy, with a 4 - 0 win to start our Coupe de France journey.|
|Our team dinner at Coach and Lulu's before our Coupe de France match against ESSEC.|
|We were 100% as happy as this picture makes us look.|
|Messing around before one of our last practices.|
|Our final team photo taken before our match against EM Lyon. We're hiding our anxiety quite well.|
|Another photo before that last Coupe de France match.|
|"They gave everything"|
An accurate caption for Dom & me napping at the Tigres after many games on Saturday.
|Cheering on our coaches between our matches on Sunday.|
|My farewell dinner with the team. (Thank you again for this.)|
I could make this post longer, but I won't. My teammates, coaches, and other friends I met along the way, thank you so much for making me a part of your lives.
|BGSU friends, I promise to falcon screech at every first down, |
but please understand I'll always be a storkette at heart.