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Kat van der Hoorn | Re-discovering sports & belonging

As a kid, I was terrified to participate in team sports. I was indoctrinated to believe my clumsiness and awkwardness was unchangeable, that I was too fat, that I was a theater kid who had no place in sports. I was always picked last for any game, felt uncomfortable and miserable when I was forced to play, and always, always had the deep shame that I was disappointing my fellow teammates.

For the past two years, my beautiful partner @Mccauseyartstudio has inspired in me a love of women’s soccer. She brought me to my first (second, third, fourth… you get the picture) Thorns games. She showed me the joy of being on a recreational team and the friends you make, built on trust and laughter and shared sweat, effort and sometimes misery. And finally, after my curiosity was piqued just enough, she helped me learn the basics of how to play, never once coddling me but always treating me like an athlete, like someone who deserves respect and a chance to play.

This strength and belief in me helped me build that in myself, and so I joined a brand new queer team just starting out in the league. When I wanted to quit before it even started because I was “too busy,” Miche reminded me that putting others’ needs, even my kids, before my own is a path to losing myself, and so I stayed. I am so grateful to Miche, and also to myself, for all the choices that brought me to playing last night.

The first game was tougher than I could have imagined. It was 80 degrees when we started. Most of us had never even met each other. Many of us hadn’t played soccer in a decade. For some of us, it was our first game. And yet, we had a blast. We scored a few goals, started to see each other’s styles and strengths, and best of all, cheered each other on in a way I haven’t gotten to experience due to fear and negative self-talk. In a way, I now imagine, is exclusive to playing a team sport. I am so grateful, and even though my body is feeling every muscle in new ways today, and I am still bone tired, I cannot wait for our next game.

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