As a professional athlete, I have the ability to travel the world (at least most of Europe, North America, and South and Central America), just because I "play a sport". Though some may think its a privilege that shouldn't be granted to someone that doesn't contribute much to the world in a physical sense, I will respectfully and passionately disagree.
I don't know how many times I've seen the impact we have on our cities, on our fans, on the little girls that start to dream just because they see us play.
I don't know how many times that the sport has built bridges in between cultures of hatred, but since the two became teammates them and then their families and then friends form bonds, sometimes even for life that go against the worldly problems that their countries are in.
I don't know how many times I, myself, have learned from my experiences and battles in my athletic career that I have faced.
I have learned perseverance and pride, dignity and determination. I have tasted the bitterness of failure and relished in the sweetness of success. I have learned that hard work pays off and teamwork is one of the most important things out there. I have learned about support and tough love, about sweat and blood, and about fighting until the last second.
I have learned different languages and cultures. How to be open when it comes to food. I have been introduced to customs and personalities, ways of life and difficulties that we might take for granted at home.
I've seen a game inspire and put hope, bring people together, whether it's cheering or playing. I've seen languages being learned and cultures being exchanged. I've lived with four female athletes under one roof and each and every one of us had a different home country, a different home language, and yet we found ways to not only just live together, but to thrive and learn and love together.
Sports are not just sports. They are a vessel that brings so many long lost but very important attributes to light. They hold to traditions, they ignite passions, they give something for someone to cheer for when their nations are crumbling all around them. They inspire.
So no, my sport is not just a game for me. It's not just a way of life. It teaches us about life. It helps us through life. And most importantly, it prepares me for what's beyond the lines and after the whistle blows.