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My breath was coming in short gasps. Did I really want to see the page, or just melt away into the eager crowd? Melt away, like fog on a summer day.
Soccer was always something that had come naturally. When I was four, my parents gave me an opportunity. Little did I know how much that opportunity would end up controlling what seems like every waking moment of my life. They introduced me to 4-year old soccer at my preschool.
“Bunch ball,” as it was affectionately called, was more of a sport for the parents than it was the kids. However, everyone eventually matured past the awkward stage of not knowing what to do.
After I moved here to this mountain town from Los Angeles in fifth grade, the dedication stepped itself up. I learned all the lingo, from “man on” to “square.” After passing those first confusing moments playing with the girls who had used these terms all their life, I began to enjoy myself. Soon, the puzzle began to come together. I was climbing the steps to improvement, one at a time. Slowly.
With the seventh grade fall season came the breaking point. Yours truly was placed on A team, while all the undeserving girls who came for the reputation of being a “soccer girl” landed on B. The day I found out from the club director, my smile couldn’t have been brighter. The sun itself probably had to blink a couple times to adjust to the intense light.
From eighth grade to ninth grade fall season passed uneventfully. Sure, there was the usual team drama, and the competition between players, but there weren’t any major team shifts. But looming on the gray horizon was high school season. The new coach. New players. Tryouts.
I spent my winter trying to get into optimal shape (or so I thought). Going to the gym everyday and lifting with running afterwards was always a satisfying workout. The last thing I wanted was to be on C team, the team that no one cared about.
Varsity seemed an unattainable goal to me, judging by the number of upperclassmen trying out. Junior varsity, however, was a different story. I expected it, but I worked for it, too.
February rolled around far too soon. The month of tryouts. The month of terror, especially for us underclassmen. I felt confident that I was ready. The tests included running 2 miles in 14 minutes, running the pacer test back and forth across the gym, and various sprints. After the fitness tests had continued for a week, we began to play.
Unfortunately, there was still a mountain of snow on our field outside. Tryouts were conducted indoors in the basketball gym. Not exactly the best place to show off any skills.
The day came to post the results. Who had impressed the coaches, and who had clearly eaten Cheetos all winter. Out in the hall, the piece of paper went up.
It’s incredible how much one sheet of paper can toy with your emotions. Sometimes “toy” isn’t even close to the right word. Sometimes words and phrases like “wreak havoc upon” and “shred” work better.
My eyes scanned the page under the varsity column, not expecting anything there. Nope. They moved on to the JV section. Nada. Desperately, they pored over the C team list, only to find my name right there smack in the middle. Me. On C team.
After this emotional breakdown, I was forced to sit through a mandatory spring sports assembly. I had never been more aware of red vampire eyes and sniffles.
Since then, I’ve adapted to my team and its members. I’ve realized it’s not all about punishing yourself. I have fun. But the drive is never lost, oh no, never.
The fire is still burning deep inside. A raging inferno screaming at me from all directions, telling me to improve, to work, to push myself. That’s what matters. The hunger within.