Christen Press had a lot of early success. In club soccer, her teams won national championships, and in college, she became Stanford’s all time leading scorer (71 goals) and the recipient of the 2010 Herman Trophy Award, college soccer’s top prize. But Press was more focused on what she hadn’t accomplished. In high school, she’d never been selected for Youth National Teams; and in spite of her individual success in college, Press lost in the NCAA College Cup championship two years in a row.
Coming out of college and entering the pros in 2011, she had one goal: play well enough to attract the attention of the National Team. The eight goals she scored for MagicJack ranked third in the league, and she was named Rookie of the Year. But it wasn’t enough to get her a call up to the National Team. Disappointed, she returned to California to train ahead of the next season, to try one more time to earn herself an invite.
Instead, the league folded. “Just like that I was unemployed,” says Press. “And I had to make a decision.” There was a four-day signing window for the European leagues, and within a week, Press found herself on a plane to Sweden. Press thought that was the end of her National Team dreams, “I thought, ‘I’m not going to play in the Olympics, or the World Cup. The National Team is just a thing that’s not going to happen for me. I need to just go do my own thing, see how far I can take my career without the National Team.” And ironically, as Christen puts it, “that was my roundabout way straight to the National Team.”
“In Sweden, I felt like I had nothing to lose. A lot of my playing experiences in college I thought I had everything to lose. Here I could just play free and enjoy the game and let it all go,” says Press.
Playing with more joy and less pressure, she scored goals and more goals; she was the second leading scorer in the Damallsvenskan league in 2012. And while she thought playing way out in Sweden meant she was too far away for anyway to pay attention to her, Pia Sundhage, then the U.S. National Team coach, was a Swede who was closely following Christen’s progress. “Three months after I got to Sweden, I got my first call up to the National Team,” says Press.
Christen Press, an academic All American and the Pac-10’s 2010 Scholar-Athlete of the Year, has always liked to write and read. In her closet, there are towers of journals she’s filled over the years. She describes writing as “the best way to express herself.” It also helps her reach new understandings, “Writing about my life experiences lets me analyze, compare things, sift through and really understand things and find a positive spin.” While in Sweden, she began a blog and you can follow her adventures at: http://footballschristenpress.blogspot.com/.