“Hey, Dad could you grab me a Gatorade bottle from downstairs before I go to practice?”
“Yeah, sure, what color?” He responded.
“Surprise me!” I expressed. I was packing my soccer bag before heading to my first practice, excited but also anxious to play with my new team. It was mid-August then, a warm, sunny day, I was an incoming Freshman, so I was around fourteen years old. It was around 4:30 in the afternoon, right when the sun starts to move down the bright blue sky, moving down hiding behind the hill. Practice starts at 5:00, but I want to get there early to get ready before practice starts. “Right away I’m gonna be a starter, work so hard they have to give me the starting spot”. But before that practice was the beginning, the beginning of my High School soccer career, just two months before this, it all started.
Bumps under the wheels, windows down, music blaring, sweat dripping down my face, my dad tries to calm my nerves, but him talking to me is the last thing I want to hear. The sun rays danced on my skin while it was beating down on my pale and nervous face making me even more nauseous. We pulled in and I froze. I couldn’t move a muscle, couldn’t say a word, couldn’t feel a bone in my body. I felt like Austin Powers frozen in ice for thirty years. My dad gave me a pat on the back which woke me from my nerving petrification. I grabbed my foul smelling bag filled with cleats, shin guards, ball, and off I went. I saw some of my friends on a bench, so I joined them. I tried talking to them through the nerves and fear. All I wanted was a chance, a shot, a moment, to prove what I can do to the coaches.
They called it “Soccer Practice and Conditioning” but everyone knew that when you were in front of the coaches, your life was on the line. When I’m a ninety pound, 5’ 2” kid going up against a 150 pound, 6’0” man, I not only looked like an ant, but I also looked hopeless. That’s how I thought the coaches saw me, hopeless with no skill. My goal was to prove them incorrect. Was it going to be easy? Not a single bit. I ran and ran and ran as fast and as hard as I could hoping I wouldn’t come up a little bit “short”. My legs agonizingly screaming, I felt dizzy, I thought I was going to throw up my intestines every day I had conditioning. Going to the High School turf three days a week was the last thing I wanted to do, but my dad made me.
“Alex, you need to get stronger and faster if you want to make the team,” my dad would say every time I didn’t want to go. I thought giving up was the only answer, an easy way out. Each time my dad tried to keep pushing me, I had the same response,
“Why? I wanna go home and enjoy my summer, not exercise for two hours.” But just like in every family your parents are in charge of you and not the other way around. So, three days a week, two hours a day I would do something I hated--at the time. My whole life I loved soccer, every aspect, until now. I wanted to make the team but going through this gut-wrenching pain so often I didn’t think was worth it.
But, for some reason, I kept going. Every week from five to seven P.M. I would be there with my bag, filled with malodorous cleats, shin guards, and a ball. I kept going because this is my life and why would I accept giving up on a dream? I would be quitting on my future if I didn’t keep going and persevering. The coaches would talk to me after practice every now and then which gave me a comforting feeling and a little confidence to help me keep coming every week. But, tryouts were now just around the corner. From June until early August, I went to conditioning in hope of making tryouts go a little bit smoother.
There were three parts of tryouts. The two-mile run, the beep test, and a day where all we do is scrimmage. The number of times I ran a practice two-mile run near my house was immeasurable. I did it as often as I could so that I wouldn’t embarrass myself when tryouts came around. On my practice runs, I averaged about a 14:30 two-mile. I wasn’t that happy with that number so I kept running. When the first day of tryouts happened, I ran in a group with kids my age. I used to run track in 7th and 8th grade so I knew that I needed a little “kick” at the end of the race. That’s where you save a fragment amount of energy so you can sprint the last 200 meters. And oh, boy did I have some kick. In that last 200 meters, I passed at least ten people blowing past them like I was Usain Bolt and they were sloths. After passing the finish line I collapsed, falling on my back trying to regain my breath, drinking a plethora of water.
“What was your time Alex?” One of the coaches advised.
I stood up, and boasted saying, “I ran a 13:21.” Being able to tell my coaches that with confidence, made time stop. After the first day, I was feeling very confident. That night before I went to bed I was lying in my cold, comfortable just thinking over and over again “C’mon Alex all you have to do is do well on the beep test and the spot is yours.” When I woke up that next morning I wasn’t just confident, I felt strong, I felt like a godly gorilla grasping a small animal. The beep test is pretty simple to understand. All you do is when you hear the “BEEEEEEP” you run to the opposite cone twenty yards away trying to make it to the cone before it beeps again. I hated it more than anything. I would rather run ten miles than do it, but of course, I had to do it if I wanted to make the team. I ran back and forth close to eighty times before I couldn’t feel my legs and had to stop. The following day was the day, the day when my life would be decided. The day when I would walk away being a hero or walk away being the embarrassment of my grade. When I got home I iced my legs and then went to bed, hoping to get a good night rest before the biggest day of my life.
Here it is, the big day, not my 16th birthday, not my wedding, not the day my kid is born, but the day I possibly make the Boys soccer team. The practice was extended so that they could communicate with each player to tell you what team you were on. After practice, all the Freshman sat on these series of brick walls waiting for the three coaches to call you over. There were about twenty-five of us, which seems like the selection wouldn’t take long but you would be wrong. I sat on that brick wall for at least forty-five minutes waiting for my name to be called. They did it alphabetically so with my last name, I was towards the bottom of the list. While I was sitting on that rickety, maroon colored brick wall I had a flashback, back to the days I was at my home about to leave for conditioning, thinking what it would be like if I did give up. How dreadful my life would’ve been because I would’ve possibly wrecked my future. But I was still nervous. My nerves were worse than the first day of conditioning; my body was trembling out of fear. When they called my name, I could barely walk. My legs weren’t only sore, but they were quivering from the immense amount of fear. I stepped up to the coaches because the time has come.
Bumps under the wheels, windows down, music blaring, sweat dripping down my face. My Dad tries to calm me down, but I can’t stop shaking with excitement. The biggest day of my life was a success, and I was a member, a contributor, but most importantly a player on the high school soccer team.
Riding in the rusty old 2001 Jeep Wrangler I look back on those days not wanting to come to conditioning, and I wonder why I would accept defeat. From the point on I vowed to not give up on anything. No matter how enormous or inadequate, it is because those things are what can make a huge impact. I realized that giving up doesn’t just happen, it’s a choice with two options both being the same but also different, change my future. I could wreck my future by giving into procrastination and laziness or I can change my future by pushing forward and persevering through the merciless times. If I’m at home doing homework, no longer will I give up and “throw in the towel”, I’m finishing that homework no matter how hard. This experience changed my life and future. Even though I hated going to conditioning I’m thankful that my dad forced me to go because, without him, I wouldn’t be where I am now, I wouldn’t be who I am now.