A Journey to the Real Game

April 9, 2012
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Walk into a brightly colored room, walls covered in pictures of her favorite soccer players, her role models. You can find, hidden next to her bed, a binder and a notebook, filled with facts, figures, sketches, and plans. For any soccer player, it is easy to tell that this stuff is gold, to anyone, and to her. There is Spanish written everywhere with conjugation charts, vocabulary words, and grammar questions. This is the language used to announce professional soccer games. Also present is another notebook with scattered statistics from her personal games, papers littering the floor showing different strategies and lineups. “What is this girl’s story?” one might ask. Well, “this girl’s” story is my story, the story of me, and the story of my summer.

I have always loved soccer, ever since I was small and had just started it, along with kindergarten. Now I was venturing into a new level of soccer: high school soccer. For the past year, I had been watching professional Spanish soccer, making sure to learn from every important detail that had made those larger than life players so extraordinary, so talented, and so perfect. I wrote down facts, statistics, and formations that seemed to bring them success. I practiced soccer often. For a while, I would practice for an hour or more at home after school, and when it got too cold to go outside, I would go in my garage to juggle and shoot the ball, then up to two hours at a time. I was so excited for the high school soccer program and I thought that I would be able to compete with the best of them. I dreamed of coming to the first high school practice and amazing everyone with my newly acquired skills.

Then in the middle of a spring break vacation in Montana, came something that I had never expected. While going down one of the steep, snow-covered slopes during the ski trip, I took a huge tumble. All of that practice, all of that planning came to grinding halt as I broke my ankle. I was out of soccer for about two months, which felt like two years. It put an end to the first half of my spring soccer season, along with my entire lacrosse season. Although I was in despair over having to miss so much of this sport of soccer that I loved, I kept thinking about how I could still finish my spring season on a high note and I’d still be able to do very well in my high school career. As soon as my cast came off I jumped back into practices and soon was able to play in the final games of my spring season.

In the final months before the high school tryouts, I would work out at least twice a week and play in any soccer game that I could. As these would continue, my confidence in myself would grow. I would think, “If I can handle this, I’m sure I can handle the high school tryouts. I mean, they can’t be that bad, can they?”

Well, I was wrong. As it turned out, they could be ‘that bad;’ well, for me at least. Maybe I wasn’t as fit as I had thought I was, or maybe it was from my previous injury, but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t keep up. There were times that I would be unable to breathe and I would sound like a dying horse because I was trying so hard to run as fast as the other players. It was nothing to be proud of, because I was just not able to be as good or as fit at the rest of them.

After one hellish week, tryouts were finally over. Now was the time to receive our fates. The coaches would call each player up and hand her a sheet. That sheet had everything that you could possibly want, or the end of the world for a person. One by one, players would join their teams: Varsity, Junior Varsity, or C-squad, some with a feeling of ecstasy, others with disappointment.

“Elizabeth,” a huge grin and off she went, bouncing off to the JV team. Next, “Lydia,” As her eyes found the words, she slumped off to join the other JV players as well.

Now, remember that binder full of soccer stuff? All of those ideas and plans? If one were to flip through all of the scribbled notes and written dreams, they would find, hidden from view, a crumpled, folded sheet of paper dotted with the tears of a broken dream. You know, it’s amazing how six simple letters can shatter someone’s dream: “C-Squad.” It’s just a word, right? How can it be so important? Trust me, it’s important. As I slowly walked over to my new fate, I folded the paper dejectedly, and then smashed it into my soccer bag, which by then smelled of hard work, passion for the game, and determination. Barely able to get my legs to move, tears in my eyes, I slowly trudged over to my new teammates and started the long, new season. I couldn’t think; I didn’t want to think about it. Some people noticed my despair and tried to encourage me, “You’ll get pulled up to JV, trust me! You deserve it!” Unfortunately, it was not to be so. I tried my best; every time, every practice, every game. And every time I would pull on that old, worn out jersey and put on my cleats, I was determined to show them that I was something better, that I deserved to get pulled up to a better team. I think I was really playing my best. However, trying so hard had its consequences. I developed shin splints, which then developed into a stress reaction. I was out of soccer and in a walking boot for two weeks in order to prevent a stress fracture. By the time that I was able to come back and play, it was far too late for me to get pulled up for any team. I was able to play for our one closing game, and then my season was over.

From this whole experience, I learned one thing, which is the explanation for the hours of work that I have put into those scribbles and notes in my binder and notebook, along with countless games that I had watched and analyzed. I learned that even if you may fail the first time, you always have the next year and the rest of your life to keep trying. And if even then, you still can’t succeed, you can always help others so that, even if your dream is impossible, you can make someone else’s dream possible.

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