It was in China that Aleisha Cramer got the answer to her prayers. The answer was simple yet hard to do at the same time. She was supposed to give up her lifelong dreams, go home, and live the life of an average college student. The answer surprised her, but she was willing to do the things the Lord told her to do.
Aleisha Cramer, from Lakewood, Colorado, had made it to the top as a star soccer player. She had reached most of her goals, working her way up to become a member of the United States national women’s team, giving her a chance to play in the World Cup and the 2004 Olympics.
She had it made. But it wasn’t making her happy.
“I had everything,” said Aleisha. “I had a good family. I had friends. I was going to school at BYU. I was playing really well for the national team. But would I keep working towards making the World Cup team and still feel this emptiness?”
Then, while in China to play exhibition games, Aleisha woke up one night crying. She felt a wonderful warm, comfortable feeling. “I remember putting my hand on my heart, and then I just had all these thoughts: ‘You need to quit the national team. It’s not okay for you to break the Sabbath day. It’s okay for you to take a different path. Things will work out.’” She describes being filled with the Spirit and having the experience repeated several nights in a row.
Although she had been a member of the Church her whole life, Aleisha’s interest in the gospel had been increasing. She was reading her scriptures at least 30 minutes every day, and she had noticed that her prayers were changing. She was asking the Lord what He wanted her to do. And in China, she received her answer.
“I’ve never had those feelings before, the comfort and the warmth. I wish I could have those experiences every time I have questions. Everything seemed so clear. It made so much sense.”
Aleisha acted on the inspiration she received. She said, “When you get inspiration, you have to follow it right then. If I had said, ‘Yes, that’s right. But I really want to play in the World Cup, so I’ll do it after that,’ then things may not have worked out like they were supposed to.” So before she left China, she told the national team coach and her teammates that she would be quitting. Aleisha appreciated their response. “I told some of the players that this is what I believe and that I wanted a more balanced life,” said Aleisha. “They said it was awesome I could do that, and if it made me happy, they were happy for me.”
Giving Up Soccer
Giving up soccer on the highest levels was going to be a big change. Soccer had been part of Aleisha’s life practically since she was born. Her older sisters and brother had all played soccer and basketball. Aleisha was particularly interested in soccer because of her older sister Chrissie’s success in the game. Growing up, Aleisha had progressed until, while trying out for a regional team, she was selected for the U-16 (under 16 years old) national soccer team.
“I called my mom and told her I made the team. She said, ‘You did! I didn’t know you were that good.’ She was completely shocked. That was the first time I realized that I might be good.” Aleisha then progressed to the U-18 and U-21 national teams until she was selected for the women’s team. She also earned an athletic scholarship to BYU.
Playing soccer is fun for Aleisha. “It’s the best when you are in shape and you feel like you can go forever. Some games you have so much energy. You just run and feel like you’re floating.”
And competing in a sport has been a good chance to learn. Aleisha said, “It’s great to try to be good at something. I’m all for developing and becoming better at whatever you’re doing as long as there’s balance in your life. I’ve learned a lot of good things. Just learning how to work hard and learning to be unselfish and being excited when someone else scores. Playing your best and playing hard, that’s great.”
She also learned about the downside of competition. “I don’t like some of the feelings I get from being competitive. It’s okay to try to do your best, but sometimes when you’re focused on beating your opponent, you just get angry. I want to be my best, but I want to focus on working hard. Competitiveness to an extreme can be harmful.”
Aleisha plays center midfield. “That’s like the quarterback. Center midfield dictates the tempo of the game and creates opportunities for people to score. The center midfielder is known as the playmaker.” But after her experience in China, Aleisha was more than willing to execute some new plays in her life.
Learning New Skills
Not being on the national team gave Aleisha time to try some new things. Her grandmother taught her how to crochet. She had time to go snowboarding. She started learning to cook, and she wanted to learn to play the guitar. “A friend said, ‘Oh, I have a friend who can teach you how to play.’”
And that started the biggest change of all in Aleisha’s life. She met a musician, Chris Rose, who was not at all like the young men Aleisha had dated in the past. In fact, at first she looked right past him. But then they started hanging out together, then dating, and now they’ve been married in the temple for a little over a year. “I am sure that I was prepared for this change by what happened in China. I gave something up and got something way better,” Aleisha says.
Her goals for soccer have changed too. She’ll finish up her last year on the BYU team; then, one day, she hopes to teach her own children a few of the moves that got her to the highest levels of the sport. She still wants to work hard, but now it will be working hard for her own family.
The playmaker is listening to the greatest coach of all, her Heavenly Father, the one who can help guide her and give her direction and inspiration. As Aleisha said, “The Lord knows each of us. For me that’s so good to know and have a testimony of.”