** The 2023 League1 BC season gets underway this weekend and we’ll have you covered every step of the way again here at AFTN over the season and beyond. We wanted to add to our coverage of the league this year and bring you some of the in-depth stories and thoughts from those on the ground, the players. So we’re delighted and excited to announce that we’ve added Altitude FC women’s player Taya Shokker as a regular columnist on AFTN where she’ll be bringing you just that, from what it’s like to be a player in the league, her goals and aspirations as a footballer, the highs and lows of the season, and a lot more. Here’s her first piece for us. **
Earlier this month Altitude FC started preseason training, preparing for our first match at the end of April against Rivers FC. The excitement and nervousness of showing up at practice had nearly paralyzed me… nearly. The joy of being back with the club won out, and I couldn’t contain my smile through the first session. No amount of fitness could wipe the grin off my face, and the number of laps we ran makes me think the coaches tried. Altitude’s head coach – Faly Basse – usually reserved, looked just as thrilled as I was to see the team together again.
During the first week of preseason, it was so nice to see familiar faces and welcome new ones. I’d worried how Altitude would feel after so many months apart, but with each passing day, the team feels more and more united. Each practice brings us closer. Our strength as individuals and as a club continues to grow as we approach the beginning of the season.
Putting on the familiar white and blue Altitude colours brings me back to last season – the nerves, uncertainty, and passion. Being part of the historic inaugural season was an honour. My experience was a mixed bag of good and hanging in there. The season is already tough as it is, with so many games in the scorching heat, but being the youngest player for Altitude and dealing with anemia gave me a lot to overcome. I knew how much I’d grown over the season but my own ambitions felt unsatisfied. I parted with Altitude with a fiery determination and desire to come back stronger next season.
All through the fall and winter, I had my sights set on one goal; coming back to Altitude with everything I needed to succeed – the strength, speed, and confidence to compete with the talented women in League1 BC. Coach Faly once said, “all you need is a moment to prove yourself. Thirty seconds can change your life.” Last year so much of my struggle came from not feeling like I could attain the level I wanted to. There was still so much distance between myself and what I knew I could be. This season I feel a step closer to the ideal version of myself, on and off the pitch. And that is beyond exciting.
As the season opener approaches, I’ve had some time to gain perspective and reflect on how far I’ve come. The accomplishments along the way, small and great, have gotten me where I am now. Altitude is a milestone. It’s not the top of the mountain but it’s a lookout along the way. It’s a chance to breathe and look back at the younger me who so desperately dreamed of one day climbing as far as I have. I know exactly what my younger self would say if she saw me now, “You? Really? Impossible.”
Back then, the steps felt as wide as a football pitch is long – too far to jump and no clear way across. Knowing what I do today, it doesn’t feel quite as impossible. And this is why being heard is so important to me. Using my voice, especially when I’m unsure. Being seen, especially when I’m afraid. It might mean something to someone. It would have meant the world to me at that age. Just knowing a path exists is all it takes to dare
to dream a little bigger.
This season is important to so many aspiring young footballers in the province. Season two of League1 BC represents the excitement we feel for the development of opportunities in Canada. It represents hope and passion for football. And it represents a new trail being forged. Another path around the mountain. This season reminds us that there are steps to reaching the top and they’re not impossible when you take a running leap.
Going into this season, my head and heart are in the best place to make the most of it. I’m playing for something much bigger than myself and that’s always more fulfilling. Every time I put on my gear and lace up my boots, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride and responsibility to leave the game better than I found it.
This season we keep reaching new altitudes.