He’s done this move before. He’s packed up his life and come to the Nation’s Capital. He’s found an apartment. He’s settled in. He’s driven down East Capital street. He’s parked in lot 5B. He’s put on that Black-and-Red uniform. RFK was his home. But this time, it’s different.
“The first time I did this move, I didn’t have any responsibility,” recalled D.C. United center back Bobby Boswell. “It was just me.”
He explains this as he is on hold with the electric company in Houston, trying to get the power turned back on. His family was still in the house in Texas at the time of this interview, and hadn’t planned to begin the 20 plus hour road trip for another few days. So, while preparing for United’s last preseason game against Seattle, Boswell was also preparing for his family’s big move.
Growing responsibility is a theme throughout Boswell’s life. He comes back to D.C. United a father in his personal life and a leader in his professional life.
“My first coach in the pros was Peter Novak here in DC. He told me my defining characteristic would be my voice and how I can organize, read the game and try to make guys better,” said Boswell. “He said ‘as you get older and more experienced, guys will listen easier.’ I’ve learned a lot over nine seasons.”
His development into the leader, the energizer he is today began with two very familiar names—names that will forever hold a special place in the hearts of United’s faithful.
“For me, the two big leaders when I came to D.C. were Jaime Moreno and Ben Olsen,” he remembered. “Jaime was our goal scorer and our leader that way, and Benny was pulling the strings. He was really good at managing guys. He would always keep me even. He wouldn’t let me get ahead of myself when I played well, and there were days when I was frustrated, and he would tell me to keep on plugging away.”
Now it’s his turn.
“Keep your head down and grind.” That’s the advice Boswell gives to United’s rookies and young players. “It’s just what Benny had said to me when I was a rookie. You make relationships and learn what guys need, a little push here and there. It’s not a one way street. They’re teaching me things too.”
Boswell, at age 32, is still learning from teenagers and players just out of college. That willingness to learn and keep an open mind stems from one thing—respect.
“It starts with respect. Respecting each other, respecting the staff and respecting the rules,” Boswell explained. “You’ll hear me say this a lot—if you do the little things right, the big things normally take care of themselves.”
Being on time, working harder today than you did yesterday, cleaning up after yourself; the little things.
“If you show up everyday willing to work harder than the other guys and work on your game to be a better player, a better person, at the end of the day you’ve made a step in the right direction. You’ll be rewarded for that on the weekend.”
The weekend is what matters. Results. Wins.
Boswell is well aware of the importance of putting W’s in the win column and keeping opponents off the score sheet. He played United twice last year while with Houston and has heard from current teammates and coaches of the struggles D.C. faced in 2013. Boswell is a key component in the overhaul that is 2014 D.C. United. He is a leader in the back, and with great responsibility comes, well, pressure. But for Boswell, he just has a job to do, and a clean slate to work with.
“If you go out and win MLS Cup, it doesn’t mean anything next year,” Boswell said. “The game that is coming up is the most important.”
Having a short memory is an asset as a professional athlete. But sometimes, it’s the taste losing leaves in your mouth that fuels your fire.
“I hate to lose. I hate to lose more than I like to win,” Boswell expressed with a smile, like he was remembering all the times that emotion has motivated him to do the little bit of extra work to win a game. That motivation is certainly visible on the pitch.
In just a few short weeks, it has become evident that the Texas native is driven, focused and determined to succeed, and always has been.
From a 22-year-old rookie Bobby Boswell in 2005, to a 32-year-old veteran in 2014, the goal remains the same, both individually and as a whole.
“The goals are always the same—to win games,” he said. “And obviously my job is to organize the team, organize the defense and not give up goals.”
“We’re paid to win games. We’re not here to do anything else,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to do that, and do it early. That’s the biggest thing.”