Growing up I was shy, very awkward, uncoordinated, self-conscious, and total weirdo (said with a badge of honor). In 1999 by seemingly random chance I watched the USWNT win the World Cup. I was hooked for months I tried to pretend to be different members of the team with varying degrees of failure.
I continued to follow the US National Teams through major competitions and when the 2010 World Cup rolled around I would sneak off at work just to catch a glimpse of the US games. At that time watching soccer and caring enough to pay crazy data fees to stream a game wasn’t something a lot of people got.
Really that was a tipping point, the momentum had been building and people were starting to care about soccer. That was the moment in time for me when it no longer felt like you were total social pariah for watching or caring about soccer.
Not long after some friends of mine decided to start the Nashville chapter of AO. It has been an incredible journey. Not just to watch AO grow but, to see how much I have been able to grow as a person through AO. The little awkward weirdo who watched in awe as the 99-ers took home the trophy is still 100% an awkward weirdo, don’t get me wrong.
But, AO is truly a family, a tribe, a community that I have come to depend on. It is one of the rare environments where no one is there to judge or criticize. If you love the beautiful game, want to cheer on the US, and have fun you are welcomed.
As a leader it is incredible to watch people from diverse backgrounds, careers, life experiences; that if it weren’t for AO wouldn’t come together and become a family that supports and embraces each other no matter what. Personally, it is shocking that I went from being terrified to talk to people to being able to stand in the front of group and lead chants.
I became happy with who I am as a person and learned to be OK with the fact that I am an awkward weirdo. But, it’s cool because literally everyone is and everyone else is just as much a weirdo as you are most of the time.