I Left Behind Soccer And Regret It

I'm The Girl Who Left Soccer Behind And I'll Forever Miss The Friends, Cleats, And Orange Peels

As the saying goes..."You never know what you have until it's gone."

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Ten years. That's a long time to put blood, sweat, and tears into something. I suppose it could have been even longer, but I didn't know that at the time. My decision was rash, ill-thought-out, and all too quickly made. But what do you expect of a 15-year-old who was losing their first love right before their eyes?

Ten years. I wouldn't change those ten years for anything. Oh, how I wish I could have them back.

Let me make this a little clearer for you... Beginning at the age of five I found myself falling hard for a sport, and that sport was soccer. It started out in a church league, but it led to early morning games and weekend tournaments. For ten years soccer was my life. It was all I knew. It was all I wanted to know.

All that changed following the fall season of my freshman year of high school. The majority of the girls on my team decided they no longer wanted to play on the challenge level and were content to playing school ball in the spring, so our team disbanded. That forced me to make a decision. I could either join a different challenge team the following fall, or I could quit CASL soccer altogether. I'm sure by now it's quite clear the decision I made. As opposed to continuing my love, I decided I would focus on academics and work on getting accepted to my dream school.

Looking back on that decision, at the time it seemed right. But now, I realize all the reasons I left soccer were merely excuses for why I thought I wasn't good enough. I'd played with the majority of the same girls for those ten years and it scared me to leave all of those friendships behind in an attempt to try to mesh with another group of girls. Stupid, I know, but at the time it seemed like a big deal.

I'm sure you're curious as to why I didn't just join the school team that next spring. I thought about it, don't get me wrong. The truth is, I ended up talking myself out of it by saying I wouldn't have been good enough to do well on a high school soccer team. Now, I'm not going to say I'm the next Mia Hamm by ANY measure, but I was pretty decent. My reasoning for not joining the school team was ridiculous. But that's the decision I made and now I have to live with that.

So there you have it, at 15 years of age I left behind the sport I loved more than anything in the world. If I were to go back now, I wouldn't have made that same decision. But I can't change the past and I have to live with that.

Regret's a funny thing. At the time you don't feel it, but it's there. It hides in the shadows until you least expect it.

For me, it wasn't until my junior year of high school when I went to my cousin's soccer game and realized the mistake I made. As I sat on the sidelines watching these young girls run around the field, my heart yearned to be able to put my jersey on once more and play the sport I knew oh-so-well.

Of course, there are still opportunities for me to play. I could join an intramural team or tryout for club soccer, but it wouldn't feel the same to me. It's as if I'm too far removed from that young girl who loved that sport with so much passion that it consumed her entire life. The competitive fire and love for playing will always be there, but there's rust. Just as there would be if you left a bike out for years without using it. There's a chance I could one day get back to the skill level I was at, but there's no guarantee. Also, as I'm sure almost any competitor knows, it's infuriating to not be able to compete at the capacity you once did.

Maybe I'm once again making excuses, who knows. None of that really matters though because it will never change the decision I made five years ago. Soccer will always have a place in my heart, and will always be a huge part of who I was and who I am. That sport raised me. Not in the way a parent does, but it taught me so many things about myself. It provided me with structure, friendships, and a happy place. It supported me and loved me.

So, yeah, I do regret giving all that up. The day I gave up soccer, I gave up so much more than just a sport.

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How Soccer Has Connected The World

The "beautiful game" and its impact on the world.
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Regardless of whether you call it soccer, football, futball, or fußball, the terminology is all understood throughout the world. There are so many ways of calling soccer by a certain name but there is only one true way of playing the "beautiful game." Passion, sweat, love, appreciation, dedication, hardship and triumph are all shared between the players and fans of the sport. The universal language of "football" is essentially understood all over the world. You see a captain suffering for his team's loss and you feel the suffering. You see a team score a winning goal to put them into the World Cup and you get goosebumps.

Soccer is unlike any other sport. It's unlike baseball, basketball and American football. Although those sports may have become globalized and admired by fans all over the world, the love for them isn't as apparent as the love the world has for soccer.

The universal symbol of the soccer ball has become a symbol of love and passion. Passing the soccer ball around on the streets or on a field has essentially become the desire of everyone, rich or poor. From the poor children playing in the Brazilian favelas without shoes but with a ball made out of scraps, to the rich son of a world-star player who is able to afford the best cleats and balls.

The rich can afford to get the newest soccer jersey every season with their favorite player's name on the back, while the poor write the name and number of their favorite player on their backs. Everyone, regardless of class, loves the universal language of soccer and money becomes the least important thing when you are playing with a ball on your feet.

The NBA finals may have thousands of viewers, the Superbowl may have hundreds of thousands of viewers, but the World Cup finals have millions and almost billions of viewers. People all over the world tune in to watch the beautiful leagues of England, Spain, and Italy. People argue over the games all over the world in hundreds of different languages.

Fans travel from all over the world to follow their teams. Fans stand through the heat of the summer and the arctic cold of the winter snow to watch their teams perform in the grandest stage of them all.

When a team loses, the world of soccer doesn't celebrate. Rather, they sympathize and cry with the teams.

The beautiful game isn't about the winner. It's about the respect. At the end of a game in any sport, the winners celebrate while the losers feel angry or upset because of their loss. The difference from soccer and the rest of the sports is that the winners come together with the losers, fans, and players. This can be seen when players exchange their jerseys at the end of a game and give their "rivals" a warm hug.

Soccer is the only sport that is recognized in every country in the world. Although basketball is making its way into the globalized world, it will never be able to compete with the power and love that soccer has. People love soccer and people speak through it. Not only has the sport become a symbol of love, but it has become a universal language and connection for the whole world.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Just Because You Can Throw A Ball Does Not Mean Your Rape Is Admissible

Why are university athletes more likely to commit sexual assault?

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I wish rape didn't seep into every sphere of my life. But, like ink, it has.

Interpersonally, my childhood friend was gang-raped by members of the University of North Texas basketball team. As uncovered in an investigation, her circumstances were not isolated, unlike what it says in UNT's initial statement. I am proud to know my friend. I am proud to stand with her. However, I am ashamed at the situation and the commonness of her suffering among students just like me, on college campuses.

Politically, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, promotes new fortifications for students accused of sexual assault. Basically, the rules would reduce the legal classification of harassment while offering protections for those accused of wrongdoing. In my emotions, I firmly believe in the American ideal of being "innocent until proven guilty". However, even in a crime so entrenched in emotions, I must look at facts. Facts say that the falsification rate of rape is the same as most other crimes, somewhere around 5%. Therefore, I believe that DeVos' proposal would tilt investigations in favor of the committer and significantly lessen the number of victims who would have the assurance to come forward and tell his/her story. In a campus-setting, where 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted, her "solution" adds gasoline to a country-wide fire.

Educationally, Brock Turner, a swimmer at Stanford University received just six months in county jail after being found guilty of five felonies, all of which amount to him raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. In defense of the light sentence, the judge said, "the more time (Turner spends) in jail, the more severe impact" on his future, who wanted to go to the Olympics. Never mind the future of the victim.

First off, rape culture, a sociological concept in which sexual assault is pervasive and normalized, exists. And while it exists everywhere, I can only speak with any authority on the campus setting, where hook-up culture is both catalyzed and camouflaged. Here, the area that needs the most treatment is in the locker room, on the court, or on the field.

Student athletes are proportionally the greatest perpetrators of sexual misconduct.

While a tiny 3% of male students are athletes, male student athletes are responsible for almost a fifth of sexual assaults on campus. And that is just the events that are reported, (just so you know, about 3 out of 4 go unreported). However, the NCAA has no policy that lessens a student's athletic eligibility in the face of sexually violent behavioral patterns. If you have allowed these numbers to simmer in your mind, you can see that this is unacceptable.

Why are university athletes more likely to commit sexual assault?

Most experts make cultural and institutional arguments.

Culturally, student athletes are not seen as "normal" students – rather, they provide a service to the college. Where most students get something from the college, student athletes give to the college, and we should be so lucky to have them grace us with their presence. It is a part of the status quo: high-status students on campus are athletes, especially males who play the most popular sports, like football, basketball, or baseball. These students carry social privilege.

Obviously, athletes are not naturally ethically worse than other students. I am simply saying that absolutely no one is immune to the culture that surrounds him/her, and we have a weird culture.

On average, athletes are more likely than other students on campus to buy into the cross-cultural concept of robust masculinity, which, in extreme cases, can lead to increased sexual aggression. Don't just take it from a non-athlete like me. Even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an NBA champion and a former UCLA basketball player, declared the cultural privilege from which he benefited.

"I'm especially aware of the culture of entitlement that athletes feel... they strut around campus with the belief that they can do no wrong."

I am not going to sugarcoat the point that we all know well: football players are comparable to celebrities on campus, which has dangerous implications for a certain untouchability in mindsets.

Institutionally, colleges are as inclined to protect the perpetrator over non-athletic peers. A Senate report concluded that administrators tend to do three actions to protect their athletes, and therefore, their brand.

1. Higher-ups at the school discourage victims from reporting to police outside of the university. In this method, they let the campus police "handle it" and not report to less-biased city forces.

2. Admins downplay an assault's severity, making it less 'criminal', more unintentional and of an event to "move on from".

3. The athletic department can work with the administration and strategically delay proceedings while athletes finish their season.

If these three things are not enough as far as systemic ethical transgressions go, when athletes are found responsible for sexual assault, they may face small consequences.

Just to pull an infamous example from my home state of Texas, Baylor University continues to wrestle with how to deal with battery; I don't need to go over the sheer amount of claims that they were conscious and compliant to most allegations of assault involving their student-athletes.

So, not only is our mindset messed up, but the administration who is supposed to protect us is similarly bungled.

Obviously, athletes are not bad people, only people that are subject to their environment and protected by their talent. But crime is crime. The unnamed victim of Brock Turner said it well as she argued that being "an athlete at a university should not be an entitlement to leniency, but an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law" no matter your status.

Throwing a ball does not make someone above the rules.

Yes, I realize that my words have become trite. Scary articles, documentaries, and books about the sheer magnitude of sexual crime in college abound. But I see my seemingly-repetitive diction more as a reflection of our fallen collegiate system, rather than of myself.

With my article, I only ask that you keep fighting for victims like my childhood friend, for the classmate who sits next to you in lecture, for yourself. This institutional and social discrepancy of "athletics above all else" happens at more universities than I had the breath to mention.

Your first step is taking a searing examination at the failure of American universities to grapple successfully with campus rape in the systematic pattern of protecting student athletes more than other students. The next steps follow naturally. Take part in the activism at your school, encourage survivors, and productively confront the problem. Fear not, the policies will change with your effort.

Politics aside, we are in a time for you to continue speaking the truth, even if your voice trembles.

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