To all the athletes out there who must give up a sport they love- whether it is because you're graduating high school or college and are not playing at the next level, I just want to say trust me I know how hard it is to give up playing a sport that you have been playing your entire life.
Growing up, my family and my friends around me were filled with athletes. My grandpa played basketball at the collegiate level, I had aunts play college basketball, and a bunch of my friends played all sorts of sports. In a sense, it was always in my blood to play some type of sport. As I got older, I started playing more and more basketball. I had my own personal trainer who played college basketball, and eventually I was good enough to play basketball at the high school level. Although I wasn't good enough to play college basketball like some of my teammates, I will never forgot the things I learned during my time as a player such as the hard work and dedication that goes into being an student athlete and most of all, I will always cherish the comradery between me and my teammates. After basketball, I had to find another sport to fill that missing hole. So, I moved on to football.
I was always decent at football. I played football throughout middle school before I started focusing on basketball. However, my parents would never let me play high school football due to injuries, even though that is where my true passion laid. So, I eventually started playing flag football from my church, and we compete nationally in tournaments against other churches. Just last year we won a championship in Texas but unfortunately, I wasn't able to compete because of school but that is beside the point. Obviously, I love playing football, but never did my family and I imagine that I would ever get injured playing flag football.
I would argue from personal experience that flag football can be just as dangerous as tackle football. Although tackling isn't necessarily allowed, the physicality of the sport still remains. I have seen some of the worst injuries through my 6 years of playing. I have even seen people literally fracture bones in their faces, break legs, arms, and so on. In fact, one of the injuries that happened to me almost caused me to give up sports completely.
When I was 16, my second year into playing for this team, I had one of the worst injuries I can remember. Competitiveness and physicality are always at its peak, even at practice. At this point it was 3rd down and I was playing cornerback. I saw the ball get thrown into the air and so did my teammate, and we both ended up going for the interception as I managed to catch it. However as soon as I landed, I ran into my own teammate at full speed. Obviously, we were not wearing helmets, so it was our heads butting into each other at full force. Next thing I remember, I am on the ground and everything is black. I slowly started to regain consciousness and I could not feel any pain because of the adrenaline, but I was actually gushing blood from my mouth and face. I remember my clothes and shoes were covered in blood completely. The injury I had was so severe that I had to get immediate surgery. Fast forwarding 3 years to the present, that same injury came back to haunt me. One day out of nowhere, my face started swelling. At the time I thought it was allergies, but it progressively started getting worse and worse; eventually my entire face was swollen and in pain. The pain I felt was insurmountable, so I went to the ER and the doctors told me a nerve died likely from the injury I sustained 3 years ago. So therefore, I had to get surgery for that too. Never would I have thought an injury like that could come back to affect me 3 years later.
Unfortunately, this was not the only injury I had to deal with. I have fractured my ribs, my foot, torn ligaments, have had concussions and so on. Throughout all this I've been asked many times by friends and family, "Why don't you just stop playing?". I've thought about this question many times, but always arrive at the same conclusion. When you have a passion for something and love doing it as much as you do why would you give it up? In fact, on my team alone, the oldest guy that plays for us is 33 and he broke his leg in the Texas tournament. His wife wants him to quit but he is just not ready to give it up yet. To me and to many other athletes it's not just another sport or game. It is about connecting through a shared passion of sports; it is about building relationships, going to team dinners, and building friendships that will last a lifetime.
There will come a day where I have to hang up my cleats and call it quits, but until then I will continue to cherish every moment of the sport I love.
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