Rejection. It’s not a flat out no, but enough of one to knock you back, slightly stumbling for a brief moment followed by a sea of questions rolling one after the other. Is this it? Is this where the story begins and ends? The most prominent question: what’s next?
Sitting at a desk surrounded by classmates in a lecture at the University of Louisville, Gaby Vincent pulled up her laptop and watched the names, one after another, flash across the screen during the 2019 National Women’s Soccer League College Draft.
As the rounds and picks neared their inevitable end, Vincent sat with eyes glazed over as her name failed to appear.
For a brief moment the ugly face of rejection reared its head, but as quickly as it appeared it was vanquished. Right then and there in a classroom in Louisville, Kentucky, Vincent opened up a note on her laptop and began to write ‘Every moment is an opportunity to learn, to grow, to discover. Do not waste them.’
While Vincent’s story of perseverance and her rise from a tryout player to a member of the full Utah Royals FC team is one of empowerment and motivation, perhaps the most inspiring thing about the young defender was her attitude through it all. It’s easy to pick out Vincent when the team goes on the road. She’s usually the one with one too many bags, schlepping behind in an effort to make it a little easier on everyone else.
It’s not to get seen by the coaching staff or applauded by her fellow teammates with a slap on the back, but rather an innate part of her being.
She’s the last player to exit the practice pitch each day, taking time to get an extra touch in whether it be for her or for one of her teammates and when she’s done collecting all the rogue practice balls, she carefully puts them back in their place and returns them to their rightful home.
Vincent is the type of person who will walk 500 miles to be of service to another, all the while giving every part of herself to be the best player, teammate and defender she can be for her team.
Perhaps this is why she has gotten to the place she is today.
Her rise as the number-three centerback for Utah Royals FC was not flashy, there were no goals that made SportsCenter’s Top 10, no assists to her name or jaw-dropping saves. Rather it was slow and quiet, in the background of the noise surrounding the league.
But again, her journey is a mirror of who she is.
At a small table in a Chipotle I listened as Vincent shared her story through bites of tacos and sips of her apple juice. There was a naivety to it all as the humility of her success soaked in after every word out of her mouth. Laughing as she recalled the weeks surrounding the draft, she shared the moments when even her parents scratched their heads at what she was doing, wondering if she knew the absurdity of it all. A thought she would later acknowledge knowing all along.
Still in utter disbelief she spoke about the realities of playing behind defensive legends Becky Sauerbrunn and Rachel Corsie, the privilege and honor of learning from two of the world greats and of how she went from being a girl sitting in a classroom in Kentucky to playing next to a FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion.
And while it is important to recognize her talent and skill on the ball, part of me wonders if not for her resilience in the face of rejection, would she be where she is today?
Vincent still has that little note, tucked away for safekeeping as if she knows that the day will come when once again she’ll be faced with that two-letter word, telling her she’s not good enough. But just like every time before she will charge forward, not wasting any opportunity.