Michelle Betos as a young basketball player, with the Portland Thorns (Ray Terrill), and Reign FC headshot (Reign FC).
Photo credits: Ray Terrill / Michelle Betos / Reign FC

Letters to a Young Player: Michelle Betos

Dear Michelle,

Put the basketball down. Yes, yes, I know it’s your first love, but your future will require a ball at your feet. Turn those thousands of jump shots and free throws each day into goal kicks and passes and it will save you a lot of catching up to do in the next decade.

And while we’re at it, put the Skittles down, too. Yes, they’re your favorite, and so is four helpings of Mom’s Greek lasagna, but both will slow you down and make where you’re going much more challenging.

Dad was a professional goalkeeper but you never imagined you’d follow in his footsteps. Then again, there’s never been anything that you love more than competing and playing. A lot of kids are like that and then they grow out of it. As far as I know, you never will.

You were born a dreamer, and are surrounded by people who teach you anything is possible. Some people grow out of that too, but again, as far as I know, that belief never truly leaves you either. It will be challenged in ways you can’t quite comprehend right now, but just hold onto it. In the darkest times and most difficult circumstances, it will drive you beyond where most others are willing to go.

Your path won’t look like anyone else’s. That will be really hard for you until you decide to embrace it. Every twist and turn is helping you become who you’ve always wanted to be.

You dream of playing professionally, of playing sports for a living. In fact, it’s the only thing you’ve ever considered doing. You look at the women in the WNBA and WUSA and they show you what you can be. You will do the same thing for other little girls one day, so anytime things feel too challenging or you’re struggling with the unknown, remember that you’re setting an example. Who you are is more important than what you do. And, in fact, who you become is what allows you to do what you love.

Goalkeeper Michelle Betos scoring on a last-minute header for the Portland Thorns FC.
Michelle Betos scoring a header goal for the Portland Thorns FC.

Lastly, Michelle, if I could tell you anything, it would be to give everything you have to achieve your dreams. Invest wholeheartedly, challenge yourself, and allow yourself to both succeed and to fail. Never settle and never limit yourself.

You will have a hard time forgiving yourself for any moment or situation where you give less than your best. What no one tells you is that chasing a dream can also be terrifying. Giving all of yourself in the pursuit of something out of your reach requires risk, resilience, and bravery. It feels easier and safer to give less than all that you have, but I can tell you right now that you should fear regret way more than you ever fear failure. They both hurt but the first is far worse than the latter. Always remember that.

You’re a very lucky kid surrounded by the best friends and family in the world. Love with the love they’ve given you, be relentless in your pursuits, and live a story you are proud to tell.