We made it so far together, 16 years to be exact. I started out as a little four-year-old girl and our relationship only grew from there. Although it hasn’t been mentioned for quite some time now, I still remember the endless nights of practicing how to dribble, pass, and shoot in the backyard as the light was fading.
I remember my first all-girls rec team. Those goofy practices with ten other nine-year-old girls gave me my first set of friends. Everything was so innocent and simple back then. I was surrounded by orange slices at halftime and smiling faces. I had no idea what was ahead of us, soccer.
It seems like in the blink of an eye my childhood-self was transformed into someone who was more than just a soccer player. I found a passion in my life. I established a dream and the soccer field taught me that with hard work and dedication, I have the power to be whatever I want. I can face anything that life throws at me.
I felt invincible.
In the summer of 2007, I tried out for my first competitive team. The thought was scary, but it was the first test in life that you threw at me. I ended up on the third team and at the time, I wasn’t completely sure what that meant. Eventually, my competitive spirit kicked in and I knew I wanted to be on the best team.
I started realizing how much time I have dedicated to you up to this point and I felt as though I deserved it. So this is when you taught me that hard work can get me anywhere I want to be. Halfway through the season, I got moved up to the second team, and by tryouts of next year, I was on the top team.
That’s when I decided that I loved you so much, I gave up my other two sports, swimming and volleyball, so I could focus on improving my game.
From here on out, the stakes only got higher for us.
In middle school, I started learning the minor aspects of the game and where I fit best on the field. At this point, soccer began to feel like an occasional job for me. At times I felt lost; I had never had a negative thought about you before.
Some of my teammates couldn’t take the pressure and many of my dearest friends quit during this year, I couldn’t help to wonder if that would be best for me too. I’m sorry for doubting you because through it all, I still had a great love for you, the game itself. You taught me to have perseverance even during the toughest times.
By high school, the tables had turned. By persevering through the tough times, I got four years of amazing memories in return. I was on a team with 18 best friends who I wouldn’t trade for the world and a supportive coach who wanted us to succeed both on and off the soccer field. This group of girls and I accomplished a lot together, and we share a bond that can’t be broken. We were a family. Even though we all went separate directions, I feel as though I can count on these girls for anything. I have you to thank for that, soccer.
You were always a constant in my life and as much as I love thanking you for the gifts you gave me, I definitely had unanswered questions along the way. Why did my grade school team get stung by a swarm of bees? Why did my high school club soccer team lose in State Cup finals our senior year? Why did I tear my ACL during junior year of high school? Better yet, after working hard and coming back from an injury, why did it happen again ten months later?
The only answer I can come up with is that you tested my character from day one. Not being able to play made me appreciate the time I had with you. It’s a level of appreciation that not everyone can relate to. I can’t control everything that life throws at me, but I can work hard and become a better person from it. This applies to all aspects of life.
At times toward the end of my soccer career, I wondered, “Why me?”
Yes, it’s true that at one point I loved playing you. But after facing physical challenges and coming to terms with hanging up my soccer cleats, I love the other aspects you gave me even more. And I have learned that whether I am playing or not, those aspects of you don’t disappear.
I love that you have taught me self-discipline, perseverance, and responsibility. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without learning them. I love being part of a team, whether it’s in the workforce, in the classroom, or extracurricular activities. Finally, I love that you have given me my best friends.
Life is unpredictable, but no matter what happens, I would not be the girl I am today without the 16 years we had together. So thank you, soccer, for blessing me with extraordinary opportunities.