Sat 07.Apr 2012 19:11 Tanya Taylor,
Blog - Christen Press: "Moderation good in everything but sports!"
Christen Press plays for Göteborg
On you can find a blog that Christen Press writes about her stay in Sweden. Below you can read her most recent blog:

I’ve gone on before about just how difficult the Swedish language is to learn. The pronunciation of a single word can take several tries, and still, a subtle mistake results in a botched mess. My teammates laugh as I push my face forward, straining to mimic the movement of their lips. The Swedish people are proud of their language, they claim it sounds like a song (yes, if you like to listen to songs played backward), and my new friends are enthusiastic to teach me one of the most popular words: lagom. As difficult as it is to pronounce, the real challenge is accepting its concept.

There is no English word for lagom. Subsequently, the Swedish proverb -- "lagom är bäst" -- does not translate for me. When is "enough [ever] as good as a feast"? My teammates told me that this notion is a cultural norm here in Sweden. For the most part, excess is not welcome. They explained that that is why you do not see flashy cars on the streets. I have surmised that lagom means enough, sufficient, adequate, just right, in moderation, in balance, optimal, and suitable. It is the idea of not too little, but not too much. Lagom suggests the feeling of appropriateness. In similar circumstances, we Americans tend to use words like “sufficient” and “average,” which carry connotations of mediocrity. In my world, people strive for perfection and anything less feels like a let down.

Although during my time here I will be enjoying the benefits of the social democratic political system -- low rent, free schooling, free health care -- I cannot imagine a life waking up and simply being content. I cannot fathom my high school experience without the stress of the college recruiting/selection process. In Sweden, not only is college tuition-free, there is no hierarchy in higher education. Anyway, how could anyone view my intense, overly competitive, Type-A, high-strung, rigidly organized, highly status conscious, obsessive, deadline-oriented, relentless personality as a little bit too much?

Okay … moderation can be good for a lot of things, but sports … I’m not so sure. When it comes to diet, I preach “everything in moderation!” When it comes to spending money, I admonish myself, “everything in moderation…” but when it comes to applying pressure and criticism on myself as an athlete, “Enough is no feast!” After all, isn’t sacrificing happiness and sanity expected on the road to the top? Hmmm…

Actually, when it comes to football, I see both the pros and cons to a lagom mentality. One positive aspect is that the training environment in Sweden is very much team-oriented. An example is kvadde, the Swedish equivalent of 5v2 keep away. In my experience with the drill in America, it often turns into a screw-your-neighbor version of monkey-in-the-middle. American players will do anything to avoid being "the monkey," often making their teammate’s bad pass look terrible, so that they don’t have to take the blame and go on defense. Here, players are willing to slide, jump, and tackle to maintain possession, and they cooperatively accept going ‘in the middle’ because of a teammate’s error. The point here is that the team comes first and the team’s goal -- keeping possession -- is never lost behind the individual’s agenda. Recently, I made a bad pass to a teammate in kvadde and thought that I should go in even if, technically, she touched the ball last. When I offered, my teammate looked at me and said, “No, these are the rules. I go in and you just have to live and be ashamed.” (I have recovered from my shame and can once again look others in the eye.) This prioritizing of team over individual may not be revolutionary but often gets overshadowed by the American individualistic mentality.

Of course, my American mind fears the effect of too much lagom… But I think, by definition, that is impossible…right? Anson Durance’s “competitive cauldron” is the archetype for a successful American soccer program, and my whole life has been an attempt at going the extra mile to get that one-inch edge. Although I like to think (à la Nicki Minaj) “I am not a girl that can ever be defined,” if I had to pick a pigeonhole, it might be “a girl who is never satisfied.” I always want more, and as far as football goes, I thought that was a positive thing. So how does lagom fit in my life?

Like all lessons, it is an active and sometimes difficult process to incorporate new ideas; but I am going to keep an open mind and keep asking questions. I know the answers are all around me both on and off the pitch, so I continue to play on. I also know there is so much more to understanding lagom, but I have to be patient. After all, I’m both a rookie and a foreigner now.

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