Getting traded is another test of an athlete’s resilience
Being traded really helps you determine whether or not you are an optimist or a pessimist. Having been traded three times in my NWSL career, I’m much more of an optimist. For every team that may feel like you are no longer a great fit for their new coach/GM/formation/fill-in-the-blank, there is another team that thinks you fit quite well with them. And as much as you will miss your teammates, some of whom have become close friends, and the fans, looking forward is.
There’s no standard way to be traded. Every situation seems to go down differently. Sometimes you get a call from the team that lets you know you’ll be relocating. It’s just a basic phone call where someone tells you, “You’ve been traded. Thanks for your time.” And that’s it. Sometimes, you find out like everyone else on the Internet. And there are even some times where you may go into a team and ask for a trade.
When my contract came to an end in Orlando, I felt that I needed a new beginning. I didn’t feel as though I played my very best there. I was hoping to find a team whose style of play fit my skills and would reignite my passion for the game, and Houston seemed like the perfect opportunity. When I spoke to Orlando about it, they were very supportive. I was pursuing my happiness and they helped me get to where I wanted to be. A lot of things had to happen for a deal to occur. Orlando had to be ok with letting me go. Then, I had to agree to terms with Houston on a contract, and finally the two teams had to agree on what was fair in assets to receive in exchange for me leaving Orlando for Houston. I know my situation is somewhat uncommon in the NWSL, but thankfully, it all worked out.
When you get to a new city, the logistics are always different. When I was drafted by Seattle, I ended up rooming with Haley Kopmeyer, our goaltender. I had to get a car. Thank God my parents were able to help me do that, because there was no way I would be able to afford it on a rookie salary. When I went to Washington DC, that’s where I’m from basically, so it was a much smoother transition. In Orlando, they had furnished apartments for the players, which meant you didn’t have to spend a ton of money on a bed, a couch, a television, and whatever else you needed and then wonder what you were going to do if you had to move again. The cost of living alone can vary greatly from state to state.
Now that I’m in Houston, I hope to stay for a little while. I’ve tried to make my place feel more like home. You hang a few photos on the wall. You hang your clothes exactly the way you want. But after a few stops in your career, you realize that you’re lucky when you can spend a few years in one place. Even though you feel welcome by everyone, the actual place where you live still feels temporary, almost as if it’s not even yours. Yet, you try to make the most out of every minute of the experience.
The best part about being a veteran in the league is that no matter what locker room you step into for the first time, you are sure to see some friends. Maybe you played with someone on the youth national team. Maybe it’s a teammate or two from another city. Maybe it’s an old college teammate. In some ways, it feels like being transferred to a new school. You have to make new friends, and within a few weeks, you’re really glad you did, because they will be your friends for a long time, even if you have to slide tackle them someday.
Sometimes it’s hard when you think about the friends you’ve left behind. It’s not like switching jobs in your own city. You just can’t get coffee with them whenever you feel like it. To be part of a team is a really intense form of friendship. It feels more like family. You compete for one another. You’re willing to fight for one another. The stakes feel enormously high every season. If your team succeeds, you all succeed. That means we get to do what we love to do for at least another season.
That’s what made it hardest to decide to get traded from Orlando to Houston. But at age 28, I realized that I’m likely closer to the end of my career than the beginning. When I spoke to our coach James Clarkson, I was excited to make the move. I feel he is giving me an opportunity to be analytical in my approach to the game. I still have plenty of time to learn and grow and be the best player I can possibly be. And when you feel that way, soccer doesn’t feel like work at all. It feels like home.
In addition to being a star midfielder for the Houston Dash, Christine Nairn is the founder of the Finding Euphoria clothing line.