A Different Kind Of Family

A Different Kind Of Family

With the right chemistry a sports team can become the best family.
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I awoke to the beeping of my alarm clock with butterflies in my stomach and the mindset of ‘game day’. Reluctantly rolling out of my warm, cotton sheets and into the chilly morning air, I threw on a pair of old soccer sweats and my hair into a messy bun, and out the door, I went.

Running through the rain, I hopped into my car and instantly cranked the heat dial to HIGH, and with cold hands, started the car. With the occasional direction from my GPS, I drove through the small town of Otego with rain pouring and leaves dancing from the trees through the air, and Bon Iver’s voice playing from the radio.

Two right turns, and through many puddles, I had reached my destination. Pulling in right after my fellow teammates, the rain had turned into huge snowflakes, wet and heavy, falling from the sky. A cold, rainy day had turned into a beautiful snow sparkling scene.

After watching the snow for a few moments, I made my way up the steps and inside the McCoy’s log cabin. I was instantly enveloped in the aroma of breakfast and surrounded by a cozy feeling room. Pancakes, bacon, sausage, fresh biscuits, and many more smells instantly made my stomach growl and my mouth water.

The snow falling outside, the smell of delicious food and the chatter of the rest of my teammates around the table only built my excitement for later that day. Surrounded by lots of laughter and loud conversation, I realized just how lucky I was.

I had a team that was not only talented, but these girls became a kind of family to me.

In the past, our teams had talent but always lacked chemistry. Someone was always fighting and it affected the way we played together. This year, our team is a totally different story. We’ve become incredibly close, hanging out together constantly even though we see each other every day for practice. We laugh a lot, and by a lot I mean I don’t think we ever stop. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to spend my final season of playing high school soccer with.

I made my way through the living room and into the kitchen. The home had wooden walls and a rustic country design that made you instantly feel at home. It gave me the feeling of wanting to curl up on the couch with my favorite book and a cup of tea.

It was comfortable with its light wooden floors and dark wooden walls, and the plaid, quilt tablecloth under my arms. From the table, I could watch the snow falling through the glass doors that overlooked the rest of the hill. As I made my way through the line of food displayed along the counter inside shiny silver tins, the combination of smells was overwhelming. I took as much as my plate could handle and sat at the table with the rest of the girls.

There was an anxious buzz in the air, everyone getting ready to play. The feeling I have on game day is one of the best feelings a person can experience. I get nervous, but an excited kind of nervous. I become totally focused on the game and all the outcomes that could possibly happen, whether it's six hours before kick off or five minutes.

The game consumes my head and I become immune to anything else. This is what each and every one of us was feeling as we sat around the table, knowing that this game mattered more than any we had ever played.

It was do or die. If we lost, that was the end, and if we won we moved on, one step closer to section finals. We all wanted to win more than anything and hoped that would be the outcome.

Sadly, we got the call that our game had been canceled due to the weather, the rain leaving puddles all over our field. The vibe in the room went from serious and focused to disappointed. We were all sad we wouldn’t get to play that day, but knew we would be playing only two days later.

Instead, we began scheming and planning for the game, using our time wisely to make sure none of us were unprepared for Monday. We soon began joking and having a good time now that the seriousness had vanished.

The room was enveloped in chatter and laughter, everyone in there own conversations. The snow was still falling, leaving a thin white blanket across the ground only to be melted away later on. Girls began to make there way back up to the counter for seconds, knowing a full stomach would no longer slow them down for the game.

Soon, one by one, teammates began to leave for home. As the people decreased, so did the volume of the room. It became quieter, and the breakfast smells had started to vanish, leaving the smell of wet shoes and pine in its place.

I soon left as well, hugging those who remained goodbye and running back through the rain into my car. It was colder inside than it had been that morning, and I cranked the heat up as high as it could go.

As I drove back home, I thought about how lucky I had gotten to be given a team as great as this one.

With the whoosh of windshield wipers and the ping of rain on the roof, I pulled in my driveway and entered my home, only to be hit with the smell of breakfast all over again.

Cover Image Credit: Cambre Codington

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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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Ronaldinho: A Gift From The Soccer Gods

It was always exciting to see him wearing that iconic number 10 on his back.

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Watching soccer over the years, I think as fans we have been fortunate to see transcendent talents like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. As great as they are, I don't know if I could ever say they were my favorite players to follow all the time. Its kind of like both Messi and Ronaldo have become the generic response for anyone who briefly talks about soccer because of their reputation and popularity. Similar to how Michael Jordan is well known in basketball or Tiger Woods is thought of in golf. The player I always admired to watch growing up was definitely the magnificent talent that was Ronaldinho.

Growing up seeing someone like Ronaldinho play soccer was out of this world. He had skill moves that would make your jaw drop. Just the way he'd be able to move the ball and place it in areas unreal to the naked eye was pure entertainment. Ronaldinho had balance, elegance, and swagger every time he stepped onto the field. He is one of only seven players to have ever won a FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League title and a Ballon d'Or award. Honestly, it has not been the same since he left the beautiful game back in 2015. Sure, he wasn't the greatest player to ever live or the most prestigious, but I would say Ronaldinho was certainly iconic.

He was a spectacle for the soccer world and I don't think there will be any other player quite like him to be on a pitch ever again. Brazil has been able to produce legends over the years like Pele, Kaka, and Ronaldo. Ronaldinho is definitely one of the athletes on my bucket list to meet someday. His legacy will forever be cemented as one of the greats in my book.

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