A Story About Friendship
This is a story about Amanda Cromwell, the defensive midfielder for the D.C. Freedom. But it's also a story about friendship, the impact one person can have on another, and the way individual journeys become woven together.
Amanda was serious about soccer all through high school, although she never thought about being professional. Her goal was to earn a scholarship to college and make the National Team. And she did. She received a scholarship to Virginia, and made the National Team in 1991.
Virginia was not the only college to offer Amanda a scholarship. She was also recruited by Michelle Akers, and offered a chance to play with the University of Central Florida. "She turned me down", says Michelle. Later, their paths would weave together again, and the impact would be great.
"Michelle had a great influence on me," says Cromwell. "I was confirmed when I was 14, and always went to church, but I never understood the relationship part. I never understood what it meant to know Jesus.
"I watched Michelle. She was doing a Bible study and she brought it on the road when we traveled with the National Team. I thought it was cool. I wanted to get into Bible study. I wanted to get into the Word like Michelle was."
|"I watched Michelle go through struggles, but with a certain sense of peace"
||Akers remembers the same thing. "Sal (Amanda) grew up going to church. Her family goes to church. But she didn't understand the concept of having a relationship with Jesus Christ. I tried to encourage her to deal with her circumstances and get her to explore more deeply where she could be in her faith. It's gratifying that while I was going through tough times, God was using me to connect with someone else."
It was during those tough times that the spiritual bond between Cromwell and Akers grew stronger, as Michelle dealt with adversity in a way that revealed the strength of her heart, the courage of her spirit, and the power of her faith.
"I watched Michelle go through struggles, but with a certain sense of peace", recalls Cromwell. "I was her roommate in 1995 when she got knocked out during the first game. She wouldn't let anyone know how down she was. She was carrying balls and equipment, wanting to be part of the team and trying to be a positive influence. No one knew how hurt she was, but I could see the disappointment in her eyes. I saw the strength in her too it was like she knew her sufferings couldn't be compared to Jesus' sufferings."
|"We'd kick the crap out of each other. We would battle tooth and nail. The refs would give us cards for the way we played against each other. She just wouldn't quit."
||It was then Michelle recognized that Cromwell was a "feeler." "I kept my fatigue from the team," Akers states, "but Sal (Amanda) saw it. She is very intuitive to people's feelings and perceptions. She perceives hurts in other people and tries to help them in practical ways. She's actually a big softie on the inside. In fact, she's made a difference in who I am and how I see people and how I deal with people."
Of course, you'd never watch Amanda Cromwell play soccer and call her a "soft." In fact, Michelle calls Amanda "tough as nails."
"We'd kick the crap out of each other. We would battle tooth and nail. The refs would give us cards for the way we played against each other. She just wouldn't quit."
"I'm gratified that Amanda has not only grown in her faith, but touched others within her circle,"
That tenacity has allowed Cromwell to excel in her sport. "The strongest part of my game is my mental approach. I want to be both physically and mentally tough. I love winning balls in the air. It's a liberating feeling to go after a ball and not back down even when someone else is coming at you. I just don't want to get beat. I'm not flamboyant. I'm not a big goal-scorer. I'm a defensive role-player. I give the ball to the play-makers, and I take as much pride in denying a shot as in scoring a goal."
This story is about Amanda Cromwell, the defensive midfielder for the D.C. Freedom. But it's about so much more. It's about friendship, and shared journeys, and the way God uses adversity to touch the heart.
And this is a story that has come full circle the faith Michelle shared with Amanda, Amanda now shares with others.
"I'm gratified that Amanda has not only grown in her faith, but touched others within her circle," says Michelle. "She's now doing the same thing with others I did with her."
"I was drafted by a team call Freedom," says Cromwell. "And that's important to me. In the Christian realm we're free because we know we're saved. There is a great freedom in knowing that Christ is with us, and that we have a heavenly Father who loves us no matter what, and is taking care of us. There are girls on my team I'm trying to reach out to, because I want them to know that same sense of freedom."
And so the story continues, as friendships are develop, and individual paths are woven together, and hearts are touched.