The Great Tragedy This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

April 25, 2013
Thrilled, I watch the clock slowly tick, tick, tick. 5:30 cannot come quicker. Today is my first practice back from my injury, and the time could not come any slower than it is right now. Thoughts and emotions fill my head with feelings of excitement, nerves, and anticipation. No words can describe the immense amount I have missed this sport. The thrill of the team, the joy in winning, the pain of losing, and the connection with the game are all feelings impossible for me to find anywhere else. So here I sit, waiting for practice.

I arrive at the green fields that I haven’t seen in a while, and step onto the thick, full grass excited for a new beginning. The smell of freshly cut grass and sweat fill my nose, and in this moment I feel like I am infinite. I am surrounded by my team, which I haven’t played with in nearly a year, excited for my comeback. Nothing but angst and excitement are filling the air around me. 5:30 finally arrives, and we begin warm up. We jog a few laps around the field. Then we begin to stretch, preparing for practice when coach tells us we will be having a shooting practice followed by fitness. Usually, fitness is the word I dread hearing most, but today this word is music to my ears. I feel unstoppable.

We all line up to begin a simple shooting drill. I move towards the back of the line. Nerves begin to fill my stomach because this will be the first time I touch a soccer ball in almost ten, long months. Thoughts of doubt begin to fill my head.
You’ve done this drill hundreds of times. It will be easy. You can do this so easily.

I watch each one of my teammates go ahead of me. The calmness they go with makes me envious, as I stand behind them silently freaking out because my turn is rapidly approaching. I turn to my closest teammate, Megan, for reassurance before I have to go.

“You can do this,” she says with a comforting tone, “You’ve been waiting for this for so long, Sophia. You got it.”
Stay calm, and relax. Take your time, and be smart.

Then I turn around, and it is my turn. Coach blows his whistle, and I take off. A rush fills my body as I quickly and instinctively dribble down the field. The wind against my face and the ball at my feet make me feel more at home than I think I have felt all year. Soccer is my escape, and for the first time in so long I feel like I am back where I’m supposed to be. As I approach the goal I take a slight touch, with my recently injured leg, to the right. I look up; nothing but our team’s goalie, Abigail, and the goal stand in front of me. I take a shot full of power, anger, but also happiness as I watch the ball fly through the goal. I follow through, and then it hits me.

The worst thing that could happen to me happens. I land on my right leg, the leg that has just recovered from an ACL tear. As I land I hear my knee push forward more than any knee should, and then it pops. I hopelessly yell, and I fall to the ground hitting the soft grass I was just so happy to be on. I lay filled with pain as my teammates stare in disbelief. My coach runs over to help me up, tears uncontrollably flowing down my face. Anger fills me; I’ve never felt so angry about anything before. The worst possible thing is happening, and there is absolutely nothing I can do to change it. The place that has always been my escape has turned into my worst nightmare, for the second time, in just a matter of seconds. The joy of smelling grass and sweat and the love of being with my team again has completely vanished. All I want to do is start over. I dream that 5:30 will come again, so I can go to practice one more time. The time never comes, and I’m afraid that that time never will.

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