Hard work, ambition, determination,& a little team rivalry

November 8, 2007
By
Imagine this: you’re standing on a field, the wind comes whipping trough, but you barely notice. You’re too busy scouting the other team, trying to discover a weakness or find a diversion to overcome one of their strengths. You can tell that their bigger, stronger, and probably more skilled than you, but you don’t care. You’re ready to face this challenge that has been thrown at you; ready to show the other team how hard you’ve been working to become the best. Or imagine this: you’ve just finish chanting the words you’ve spoken so many times before, but it never gets old. You dig your brand new adidas cleats into the freshly mowed grass and know in your mind that everyone is counting on you to lead them through the challenge that lies ahead. These are a few examples of the challenges I had to face and ultimately made me a better person when I played on both my under fourteen and under twelve soccer teams.
Lastly, before I begin telling my story, I want you to know that team rivalry is a big thing in soccer. A big, big thing. Teams always want to show how good they are to other people, and if other teams stand in their way, they aren’t too friendly to each other. It’s sort of like you got an A- on a test; you think it’s great, but then one of your classmates comes along and brags: “I got an A+!” Obviously, you become not too fond of that person. Why does team rivalry matter so much? You’ll find out…
On the under fourteen team, I had to give it my all no matter what. If I was exhausted, then that was too bad. I had to suck it up. Everyone was much more physical and skilled than I was, so to improve myself as a player I would listen to what my teammates had to say. They really helped me improve and I always tried to put what I learned into a game. One game, I remember, there was a very intimidating girl that I had to mark, or watch and stand by. There was no way I would let her get around me. Then my mind wandered to the practice before that game.
We were practicing one on one, and I was at a disadvantage. I was one of the smallest people there. One of my teammates and friends, Megan, noticed I was I bit scared. She came up to me and said “Alex, you can’t be afraid to stand up to someone, now matter how big they are. Besides, being small isn’t always a disadvantage.” As my mind refocused on the game, I thought of a way to beat the girl I was marking. Sure she was tall, but I was much quicker. Someone from the other team booted the soccer ball up the field, and I trapped it with my thigh, bringing it down so it laid only a foot or two in front of me. Then I saw the tall girl (we’ll just call her Tally) charging straight for me. I knew that if I tried to stand my ground, I would get trampled. She came closer, closer, and closer still… until she was only about five feet in front of me. I faked as if I was going to my left, and instead started dribbling to my right. Tally was totally dumbfounded by my move that she couldn’t catch up to me. I chipped the ball over two players of the opposing team. Then, one of my teammates, Tara, ran toward it, pulled a sweet move and got by a player on the other team, and scored! Then I heard Megan shout to me as we were running back to our positions “Nice kick, Alex!” We ended up winning that game 2-0. I didn’t have the excellent assist of the game winning goal, but I did learn that listening to advice can really help you improve on what you’re working on, and in this case, help me improve my soccer skills.
Moving way from under fourteen to under twelve… our team was playing a very skilled team, but even though they were good, I knew that our team was better. Of course, I knew that we had to watch to person next to us and anticipate their move. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “Watch the player next to you!” and I can’t even begin to tell you how many times the other team has scored off of those people. If opposing players were left unmarked, the player could dribble down the field freely, score, and possibly beat us. I personally thought it would be nice to defeat the team that called us “losers who can’t beat anyone”. EVERYONE on my team wanted to beat that team. If we could choose on game for the rest of our lives to win, it would be this one. We did our usual warm-up: passing, chipping, shooting, but with much for ferocity than usual. Before long, the game was about to begin. Our coach, Paul (also referred to as Paullina), gave us our starting positions. “Tara center forward, Alyssa center midfield, Leah right defender… Alex, sweeper” TIME OUT FROM THE STORY to bring you this information: The sweeper is that farthest back player, besides the goalie. Now as I was saying…“Tara center forward, Alyssa center midfield, Leah right defender… Alex, sweeper” Of course those weren’t all the positions, but I was scarcely paying attention. All I could think about was what the other team’s player’s faces would look like after our victory, and how I would gloat for a long, long time. The more I thought about it, the more I knew that we HAD to beat the other team. It was practically our destiny! As the whistle blew for the game to begin, I got prepare for the pass back. Once I had the ball at my feet, I passed it to Leah at my right.
As the game progressed, the scored remained the same; 0-0. Then in the last ten minutes of the game, the other team scored! Our team was devastated, and I blamed myself since I was supposed to tell people what to do and who to mark, but I knew that wouldn’t help our team now. “Come on team! Are we going to let one goal keep us from winning? Pick your heads up and let’s play soccer!” I shouted, while looking around and seeing some of the fighting spirit return to their eyes.
“Two minutes!” hollered the referee. Two minutes. That’s all we had to come back and at least tie the game. Then, just as my mind was giving into defeat, the referee brought it back into the game when he shouted “Goal kick!” I chipped the ball over a girl from the other team’s head. Leah trapped it, passed it to Jenny, who then passed it to Tara. She dribbled up the field, and just like in the other story, she scored! The whistle blew, and out team cheered for sheer happiness that we didn’t lose! Sure we didn’t win, but we showed the other team that we weren’t weak or pathetic and that we’re more skilled than people believe us to be.
I’ve learned a lot from my most recent year of travel soccer. I’ve learned to work hard and use my brain to become a great soccer player. I’ve learned that there are times to be a leader, and times to listen to what advice others can give you. I really hoped that you have learned something too; not that soccer teams hate each other, not that winning is everything, and not that Tara Teal scores in every single soccer game she plays in. I hope that you have learned that hard work, ambition, determination, and a little rivalry can help you become the person that you want to be.





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