Like most boys and men, I have been playing sports since I could walk, and also like most boys I started playing YMCA soccer at a very young age. I've worked my through all the various levels starting with the days of herd ball and making my way through club, high school, and collegiate soccer.
Now, I sit in my living room this summer, no longer playing the game for true competition and watching the Euro's and Copa America tournaments. I want to write a thank you to the beautiful game that we call soccer also known as the real football.
Thank you. Thank you for the countless hours of practice and sweat. Even though we all hated running suicides, Liverpools, or timed two miles. You are the reason that I'm still in a half-decent shape. Every ounce of sweat was worth it. Thank you.
Thank you for the hours of lost sleep. Whether it was getting up at 6 AM to travel to a tournament or traveling in some dinky school van and getting home at 1 AM from a long trip away. Playing FIFA with your mates all night long. Not sleeping because you're nervous about tomorrow's championship game. Thank you.
Thank you for the life lessons. Finding the ability to push through adversity and run one more sprint, make the last ditch slide tackle, score in the 90th, or make a game changing save. Learning to be organized. Finding a way to balance school, home, girls, fun, and most importantly soccer. I can thank you for teaching me these skills.
Thank you for always being there. No matter what time of year there was always soccer. From club seasons in fall or spring. To indoor soccer in the winter. Practices never stopped and playing was always fun. If I was sad I could go play soccer and feel better. If I wanted to hang with my friends we'd grab a ball and go play. I can thank you for always making me happy.
Thank you for introducing me to a second family. My brothers. No matter what team I was on or how old I was we were all brothers. Grinding through the aches, the pains, the victories, and the losses. In college this was very true. My freshmen year we were the tightest family of them all. We all loved each other and had each other's backs. These guys were my brothers and do this day I can call any of them and they would be there for me. So thank you for my family away from family.
Most importantly, thank you for the memories. All the victories and all the loses. All the practices where it was freezing cold or hot as hell. Whether it was raining or snowing. I remember all the traveling we did. The inside jokes, the parties, the celebrations. Too many memories to count. Scoring last second goals to win the game, winning a tournament on penalties, exploring cities we traveled too, the long bus rides. So many memories. Thank you for that.
A retired player of the beautiful game.