Hey So cal Blues,
My name is Lauren Markwith and I've played for the Blues for the last six years. Currently I play for U16 Draluck.
Last year I was invited to play soccer for the Guatemalan Youth National Team. The experience started as soon as I applied for dual citizenship. I traveled to Guatemala in October to try out for the U17 WNT. I was pretty nervous going in for the tryouts. I didn't know anyone and didn't speak the language; I know that sounds funny. I tried out at the FIFA Project Goal in Guatemala City. The first day of tryouts we lifted weights for the first hour, practice for an hour, then a scrimmage. It was very new for me to do all that activity on the same day. I was so sore from weights. I remember thinking to myself, how am I suppose to practice and play...but I sucked it up and did my best. After practice I was told that I had been selected to play and travel to Jamaica to play for the CONCACAF WCQ. OMG I was so excited and nervous at the same time.
It was a very hard experience physically, mentally, and emotionally. I had to travel to Guatemala on several occasions and I learned that the culture is very different. I told my self that soccer is an international sport so that even though I did not speak Spanish fluently, everything would be ok and it was as somehow. I got the plays and was able to communicate with my teammates and coaches.
In Jamaica, Guatemala was in a group of death playing against Canada, USA, and Trinidad. Canada was tough, but it was even more difficult playing against USA as I am a USA citizen born and raised, so I had to put my emotions away. On the USA team I had a couple of Blues friends (Kat Hess and Anika Rodriguez...who is in the photo) so it was fun to play against my friends and fellow Blues players. We lost to Canada and USA, but we beat Trinidad; I scored my first international goal and had my first international assist...it was such an amazing experience I was so thankful to God, my family, and Guatemala for selecting me.
The coach then selected me to play for the U20 WCQ...OMG and a half. The qualifier was to be held in the Cayman Islands and we would play Jamaica, Costa Rica, and the USA. I had to travel to Guate on January, 1st 2014 to start training with the team. This time around I kind of new what to expect, but I also new that the girls would be older then me so I was still nervous. Both the U17 and U20 girls were so accepting of me. Their mentality is very different then the mentality of a 17 or 20 year old girl from the USA. They have a lot less then we do so they are very grounded, hard working, and humble. We played Jamaica and tied 0-0. Then we played Costa Rica and lost 1-5, and last but not least, we played USA... losing 0-10. Again I had mixed feelings playing against my own country, as deep down inside I wished that I was and/or could play for USA. Just like the first time when I played for the U17s, once the game began I forgot my emotions.
The Chapinas (a nickname for a person from Guatemala) work so hard and have so little that I bonded with them and without knowing it I found myself with the same passion of wanting to score against the USA. The Chapinas don't have individual trainers, the right type of diet, good guidance, state-of-art facilities, or the structure that we have here in the USA. They do have incredible heart and passion for futbol and life for that matter. The coaches try, but with very limited money they do what they can. While in the Caymans the team didn't have the 5 star accommodations, or good transportation, the most modern equipment to train with, but the girls never complained about anything...not once did I hear a complaint.
My teammates were all happy and grateful to be there. Overall, I learned so much on this journey. This experience has helped my soccer skills, my confidence, and my attitude. It opened a window to a view of a world where material items don't necessarily lead to happiness; rather celebrating life and the gifts we have in life become much more important.
I look forward to playing soccer in the PAC-12 some day and I also hope to continue to play for the Guatemalan WNT. I want to do what I can here at home to support my WNT teammates and the success and growth of under privileged girls soccer here in the USA and in Guatemala.
Thanks to the So Cal Blues for giving me the opportunity to play the sport I love with the passion of my heart!!!
Lauren "Lolo Champina" Markwith