I Lost My Love For The Game In Just Four Years

I Lost My Love For The Game In Just Four Years

And I want it back.

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So if you're reading this, I'm going to assume you've played sports at some time in your life. Whether or not you stuck with it or fell in love with it, is another story. But I was the girl whose world revolved around her sport. I wanted the soccer ball pillows in my room, I sported my soccer tournament t-shirts everywhere, and I kept up with the USA Women's soccer team's every move. Soccer was my life and love. My closest friends came from soccer. My favorite memories came from soccer trips and tournaments all over the world. My biggest lessons learned came from soccer. For years I swear it was like everything in me was created for the game and I thrived.

I never struggled with depression or anxiety, I always made new friends, I was given new goals to strive for, and was always healthy and happy. Honestly, I give a lot of my stability in childhood to the consistency of the sport and the team atmosphere no matter wherever I got moved to. I was never cut, never didn't make a tryout, and often got asked to play up on the higher teams. I got to play on the Olympic Developmental team for a couple of years and I played on a German team when we lived there. My schedule revolved around soccer and hanging out with my non-soccer friends rarely happened on the weekends unless we didn't have a soccer game.

I don't say all of this to boast and brag, I was most definitely never the absolute best player. But I share this all to really let it sink in how much this sport meant to me and how much I naturally and without hesitation, poured into it. Throughout all of those years, in the back of my head, was the one big deal goal: college soccer. Scholarships. Playing for a college. So I toured colleges, talked to coaches, and sent out emails. I fell in love with a campus in Southern Alabama and last minute jumped in a full day tryout camp. And just like before, I wasn't cut, I made the first college team I tried out for. And it was the highest level of collegiate athletics. What are the odds right? Could life be better?

The problem is, no one ever prepares you for the reality of college athletics. It's not for fun anymore. Your teammates will be more selfish than they were before and you may struggle to find genuine friendships amongst them. Your coach won't tell you straight up, you'll see blatant favoritism, and chances are you'll give absolutely everything you have, and still see no reward, no scholarships, no playing time, no respect.

It's a harsh reality and it smacks you in the face over and over again and it slowly but surely sucks that love for the game out of you.

You try to hold onto it. You try to remember that excitement and sheer joy you used to have before practice with your teammates. You try to focus on the positives and tell yourself that any sort of reward for your work and time and love doesn't matter, except it does. Because you used to do this all for love. But now it's hard to even do that. Because it's not for fun. You get yelled at and put on the line if you goof off in practice, you have teammates talking behind your back, you have a coach who tells you one thing and tells someone something different. There's no consistency or stability anymore. It's not a safe haven or getaway from the rest of the world.

So in just four college years, I lost my love for the game. I don't want to walk out onto that field anymore. I don't want to lace up my boots and juggle for fun. I'll watch my younger siblings play and only then do I miss it a little bit. I miss the creativity and freedom and fun. But when I see my teammates getting ready for practice or talking about the team or games coming up or coach, I don't want anything to do with it. I put my four years in. I saw it through. And sure it taught me perseverance and hard work and humility, but it also sucked me dry. It turned me into someone I wasn't and in just four years I lost my love for the sport I loved my whole life.

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn't sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It's obvious your calling wasn't coaching and you weren't meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn't have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn't your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that's how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “It's not what you say, its how you say it."

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won't even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don't hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That's the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she's the reason I continued to play."

I don't blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn't working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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I Wouldn't Trade My DII Experience To Play DI Athletics Any Day

I'm thankful that I didn't go DI because I wouldn't have had the best four-year experience as a college athlete.

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As a high school athlete, the only goal is to play your varsity sport at the Division 1 level in college.

No one in high school talks about going to a Division 2 or 3 school, it's as if the only chance you have at playing college athletics is at the DI level. However, there are so many amazing opportunities to play a varsity sport at the DII and DIII level that are equally fun and competitive as playing for a division 1 team.

As a college athlete at the DII level, I hear so many DI athletes wishing they had played at the DII or DIII level. Because the fact of the matter is this: the division you play in really doesn't matter.

The problem is that DII and DIII sports aren't as celebrated as Division 1 athletics. You don't see the National Championships of Division 2 and 3 teams being broadcasted or followed by the entire country. It's sad because the highest levels of competition at the DII and DIII level are competing against some of the Division 1 teams widely celebrated across the country. Yet DII and DIII teams don't receive the recognition that DI athletics do.

Not everyone can be a DI athlete but that doesn't mean it's easy to be a DII or DIII athlete. The competition is just as tough as it is at the top for DII and DIII athletes. Maybe the stakes are higher for these athletes because they have to prove they are just as good as DI athletes. Division 2 and 3 athletes have just as much grit and determination as Division 1 athletes, without the glorified title of being "a division 1 athlete."

Also, playing at the DII or DIII level grants more opportunities to make your college experience your own, not your coach's.

I have heard countless horror stories in athletics over the course of my four-year journey however, the most heartbreaking come from athletes who lose their drive to compete because of the increased pressure from coaches or program. Division 1 athletics are historically tougher programs than Division 2 or 3 programs, making an athlete's college experience from one division to another significantly different.

The best part of not going to a division 1 school is knowing that even though my team doesn't have "DI" attached to it, we still have the opportunity to do something unique every time we arrive at an event. Just because we aren't "DI" athletes, we still have the drive and competitive spirit to go to an event and win. We are great players, and we have broken countless records as a team.

That's something we all have done together, and it's something we can take with us for the rest of our lives.

We each have our own mission when it comes to our college athletic careers, however together we prove to be resilient in the fight for the title. Giving it all when we practice and play is important, but the memories we have made behind the scenes as a team makes it all worth it, too.

The best part of being apart of college athletics is being able to be passionate about your sport with teammates that embody that same mindset. It's an added benefit to having teammates who become your best friends because it makes your victories even more victorious, and your defeats easier to bare.

No matter what level an athlete is playing at in college, it's important that all the hours spent at practice and on the road should be enjoyed with teammates that make the ride worthwhile. The experiences athletes have at any level are going to vary, but the teammates I have and the success we've had together is something I cherish and will take with me forever. I'm thankful that I didn't go DI because I wouldn't have had the best four-year experience as a college athlete.

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