When I was eleven, I was lost. I didn’t have a core group of friends who were willing to stay together no matter what. I was just barely out of elementary school when my friend’s dad offered me a spot on his soccer team. I soon found out that a few of the girls from my school were on the team and I subsequently said yes. We were the Rock Creek Valley Griffins, and we were terrible. But that isn’t the point. The point is that being on this team gave me the friends I never knew I needed and taught me a lot along the way. So here are five lessons I have learned from playing soccer!

1. Teamwork

You’re probably thinking that every sport requires teamwork, which isn’t wrong. But, teamwork in soccer is different. There are no plays to be executed like in football or basketball, nor is it a stop and go type of game that requires minimal interaction with others. Soccer is all about communication; it teaches kids skills they could not get anywhere else.

2. Patience

If you are not a patient person, then this is the sport that will teach you that. Yes, soccer is fast and requires thinking quickly on your feet. But half of the time you are waiting for the ball to come to you and you need to WAIT. Think before you act.

3. Leadership

Especially when you are young, you have no idea how to lead a group of people. Usually, you’re fine just being a follower and waiting for someone else to step up. In soccer, you can’t do that. This is a sport in which you become a leader every time you have the ball on the field. You have to decide whether to keep it and shoot or pass it because you don’t have a clear shot. It is your job to keep the other team from stealing the ball from you. In that moment, it is all on you. All of soccer is about making the right decision as a leader.

4. Work Ethic

When you are on the field, you are never allowed to give up. Whenever the ball crosses the middle of the field into your half, everyone needs to spring back to keep the other team from making a goal. You always need to be hypervigilant even when you are on the sidelines. The second you stop paying attention or you stop running, you are done. Soccer teaches you to never ever stop trying.

5. Physical Health

If you eat something unhealthy before a game, you will feel it when you play. The cramps and lethargy will be too real. If you don’t go to practice or work out every day, you will feel awful. Arguably the most important aspect of soccer is that it teaches you the importance of maintaining your physical health. If you do not take care of yourself, you are essentially screwed in this sport and in life. Working out and eating well boosts your self-esteem, helps you perform better in school, keeps you more alert, and makes sleeping more effective than if you do not play.