When I first started playing, I didn't know how important you would be to me. You were my first love. I played for 14 years. I started when I was 4 after discovering that tap and ballet were not for me. Since then I have spent a good portion of my time traveling, practicing, and playing the sport I love. It's been a few years, three to be exact, since I decided to retire my cleats and focus on school and other extracurriculars. It may have taken me a while but I've finally realized everything the game taught me and I wanted to say thank you.
Thank you for teaching me dedication.
Every soccer player knows the struggle of balancing a social life with a soccer schedule. In reality, there's very little to actually balance because soccer comes first. There's almost a sense of pride in saying "I can't, I have soccer" practically every time someone asks you to do something; especially when you played both high school and club. And in those off days when you can actually attend, you are welcomed like some mythical creature from the Loch since you are rarely seen at any social gathering that is not soccer related.
Thank you for teaching me how to work hard.
Of all my coaches, Coach Lindsay was my favorite; not because she made things fun but because she pushed us to be the very best we could be. That meant 20/40 full field sprints, lots of core exercises, and so, so much running. And while in the moment, each of these things sucked, I learned to put 110% into everything I did, both on the field and off.
Thank you for teaching me how to be a good team player and communicator.
When you're on the field, sometimes the only way you know what's going on is through your teammates. Whether they were telling me they were open or that there was someone fast approaching, they all had my back. Some of the best games I played were because we all managed to work as a unit and communicate efficiently. It's a valuable skill that I've used in the real world since.
Thank you for teaching me to jump back up after a fall.
As a contact sport, I had my fair share of face plants throughout the year. Between tripping over my own feet and being shoved, I was on the ground at least once during practice or a game. It was a rough sport but the blood, sweat, and tears that went into it made everything work.
Thank you for being my escape.
When I had a bad day, I loved knowing that I could go out on the field and play to escape for a little. Even if it was just running drills, that little time was my release, a way to get out my anger and frustration in a heathy way. I was able to find solace and joy in this sport, one of the many reasons why I loved it so much.
Thank you for my second family.
I met one of my best friends on the field. We had pre-game sleepovers, hysterical van rides, serious tactical conversations on the previous games. I consider her my sister even though she's off playing soccer in North Carolina while I'm still in Florida. There are so many other people that made an incredible impact on my life because we were put on the same team. They were my support system, my sisters. These girls were my family when my actual family couldn't be there.
Thank you for the memories.
I could go on and on with stories from my years with soccer but I won't bore you with that. This article is long enough as it is. There's just so many good times in hotels and end of the year parties. I'm incredibly thankful for those moments.
And finally, thank you for the awesome tan lines.
P.S. – A special thanks to my parents who gave up so many weekends and weeknights shuttling me to and from various practices, games, and tournaments. Thank you for all the support you gave me throughout the years. I couldn't have done it without you.