Greek soccer

Kathryn Crawford Saxer Career Transition

Sometimes my coaching clients tell me they are scared to reach out to their network as they navigate a career transition.

I tell them I don’t care.

I mean, I care that they’re afraid, and that fear doesn’t get to slow them down. And I tell them the story of my 12-year-old daughter’s Greek soccer game.

I took my family to a small Greek island for a couple of weeks this summer. I was chatting with our lovely innkeeper (another word for networking, by the way) and we discovered our kids both love soccer.

“My son has a game tonight. Your daughter could play with his team,” she said in her gorgeously accented English, making calls to the coach and finding a pair of purple cleats that fit.

And we found ourselves at a Greek soccer field, my daughter making her lonely way across the pitch to introduce herself to the team of boys and one other girl, none of whom spoke English.

“I don’t want to play, Mama,” she had told me, her voice small. “What if they’re way better?”

“Just try,” I said. “If it’s fun, we stay. If it’s no fun, we’ll go home. No biggie.”

My daughter’s body language was stressed, scared — her arms wrapped tightly around herself. I could see the opposing team laughing; I bet they were laughing at that blonde American girl out there on the field. (“Just you wait,” I thought to myself.)

“It’s weird for girls to play soccer here,” the field manager told us. “Do lots of girls play in the U.S.?” (Angela, the other girl on the team, won’t be allowed to play when she turns 14. There’s nowhere else for her to play on the island.)

And then play started. Both teams were skilled with the ball. Quick. My daughter was running hard, her body language relaxed and happy, her fear forgotten as she focused on playing her game.

She was playing right forward. The back of the field passed the ball up the line. She trapped it just outside of the box, and with all the time in the world, put it into the lower left corner.

“Bravo!” shouted an old man on the sideline, raising his beer. She flashed us a smile that lit up the field.

Moments later, the center forward crossed the ball to her and in an unstoppable shot, she volleyed it out of the air and into the top right corner of the goal. “Bravo! Bravo!” shouted the sideline, the old guy nearly spilling his beer.

“That was fun, Mama,” she told me afterwards, the score 2-0. “When can I play with them again?”

I tell my coaching clients, “If you don’t make that call or send that email or go to that event, you know exactly what will happen: nothing.”

But if you go, you could score a goal.

First published in The Seattle Times. Read my archive of Seattle Times Explore columns.