It's been quite a year for Robbie Rogers. The once-former-MLS player came out publicly, retired, unretired, rejoined Major League Soccer, suffered an injury and is now in the middle of a run to (hopefully) his second MLS Cup.
All of that was in the midst of constant media requests, event appearances and demands on his time outside of soccer. While Rogers has enjoyed the opportunities 2013 has brought him, he told Outsports that it also hasn't been easy. Rogers said he's the kind of guy who wants to please people, to always say 'yes,' to do what he can to make people's lives happier and easier. That isn't always conducive to the training and focus it takes to be an elite player in a professional sports league.
"The first few months, it was tough for me," Rogers admitted, remembering back to the media whirlwind of the spring. "Every day someone wanted to talk to me. It was hard, balancing all of that, and seeing my family and friends, and obviously training. And also being in an environment that scared me. I had to realize I can't please everyone and I have to work my butt off and chill out when I can and do what's best for me. One of my traits is to always please people, so it's always hard to say no, but I've had to learn how to say no sometimes."
It's been an important lesson for Rogers. It's hard enough playing in the national spotlight, but to do so with the sudden hoopla, spectacle and demands surrounding Major League Soccer's first openly gay active player have been challenging. While Rogers hasn't shown up big in the box score -- failing to score so far this season and logging one assist -- "the beautiful game" is about much more than statistics.
"I contribute in many ways," Rogers said about his low number of scores and assists. "I haven't contributed as much as I would like to, but I have all the confidence in the world that I can do those things."
That he's started most of the games he's been physically able to play is a testament to that.
Compounding the pressure and scrutiny have been injuries. Rogers suffered a hamstring injury in July that kept him out for three months. Before that, it had taken him two months to get into good enough playing shape to play an entire 90 minute-game; Post-injury, he suddenly had to climb that mountain again.
"It doesn't matter how much running you do," Rogers said, "you need to play games. You only get that fitness and sharpness by playing."
Rogers has been here before. His career in England was derailed by injury, suffering both a head injury and an ankle injury during his stint with Leeds. Those injuries in Leeds took a physical and emotional toll, so he knew what was coming when he was sidelined this season with a bad hamstring.
"I've gone through stuff like that, it's part of being an athlete," Rogers said. "There are ups and downs. I just tried to not get too down on myself. It's been a big year for myself emotionally. I'm my biggest critic, so I try not to be too negative. There was a time when I was struggling a bit, but I've been trying to stay positive. It's tough sometimes. It's been a crazy year for me. Just to come out, it's been a great year, and I'm not complaining at all, and I've learned so much about myself."
While he said he isn't 100%, he is back on the pitch. He subbed into the Galaxy's penultimate regular season game and started in the team's final regular-season game, a tie with Seattle. He also got the nod as a starter in their first home-and-home playoff game against Real Salt Lake, which the Galaxy won, 1-0.
Rogers is convinced the Galaxy, the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, can win it all.
"We have such a great team," Rogers said. "Whether I'm starting or not, it's not about me; It's about the team and how strong we are together. I think we have a real chance to win a championship as a team. When I was younger in my career, I would want to start. Now I've just realized that it's a team effort, and the locker room we have is very special, and I want to contribute every way I can. I'm really excited. This one feels special to me."
The Galaxy complete their quarterfinal series against Salt Lake in Utah on Thursday.
While he hopes his offseason doesn't start until December, he knows he'll be writing his book and launching his non-profit, Beyond "It", which will raise money for other non-profits battling homophobia, racism, sexism and ableism. And yeah, he'll be staying in shape too.