Emma Coolen - Voetbal is de mooiste verslaving

Soccer: the greatest addiction

‘You never do anything half,’ my dad tends to say. ‘It’s on or off, white or black, 110% or not at all.’ And that’s how it’s been my entire life. When I do something, it’s all in, caution to the winds, no inhibitions. In school, I can easily focus on a project for ten straight hours, emerging with 60 pages of printed paper and RSI. But back in the days when my relationship with food wasn’t always that easy, counting calories had made me better at maths than grade school ever did. On or off. Black or white. Always.

Soccer as addiction

In the beginning, soccer was the same way for me. I was going to become a professional player, so everything else in my life had to be pushed aside. Quitting school was the only solution, so I could spend every single waking hour training, watching games and reading soccer books. My family still jokes about ‘that one season’ in 2014, when I had set out to watch every single game of the American women’s league. the NWSL, on YouTube. 108 complete soccer matches in a little over four months. Trust me, that’s a lot of time spent on the couch in your pajamas.

It might sound a bit weird, but this is also why I’ve been terrified of drugs for most of my life. After my first cigarette I was hooked, and ‘a few drinks’ was never in my dictionary. It was either drinking nothing at all, or going home crawling and having no memory of the evening the next day. Which, in spite of what the media and your peers might want to make you believe, is not amazing at all. It sucks.


But okay, in the present day I think I have found the right balance in most of those areas. I no longer count calories, watch no more than a few soccer games a week, quit smoking and have decided to go the entire year of 2017 without drinking a single drop of alcohol. Only putting my phone down every now and then is still a bit of a challenge. That’s why I don’t want to glorify the changes I’ve made in my life so far, because I realise that my brain now gets its daily dose of dopamine from likes, retweets and responses, instead of nicotine or alcohol. But then soccer enters the picture.

You can blog, vlog, tweet, and write about it, but all of that stops once you put your phone in your bag in the dressing room and walk outside, onto the pitch. ‘Well, Emma,’ I sometimes think. ‘There you are, with your loud mouth and your brave stories on the internet about the 2019 World Cup. Time to show it.’ In the 90 minutes that follow, there is no room for YouTube subscriptions, Facebook likes or a positive reaction to a blog. For 90 minutes, the outside world doesn’t exist, only the world within those white lines, and the focus on everything you can do that day to become a better player.

The greatest addiction

So perhaps soccer is my final new addiction. All the stuff that I’ve added online is an added bonus, mainly because it means that I never have to stop talking about soccer, but when push comes to shove, all that would never exist without everything that happens on the pitch. And who knows, an ‘all-or-nothing’-mentality in that context is a very useful one to have.

‘Ladies, I’d like to see a little bit more effort from everyone in the second half. Everything can be done with a bit more intensity.’ the trainer said a few weeks ago in the dressing room. ‘Except for Emma. She can perhaps tone it down just a few notches.’ Okay, so maybe I haven’t found that perfect balance just yet. But at least I’m heading in the right direction…

Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂

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