The world's most successful soccer player, Mia Hamm, once said "Somewhere behind the athlete you've become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game....and never looked back."
I started playing soccer when I was five years old, where I couldn't care less about the big picture. I stood on the pitch, with my shoes that weren't cleats and my shinguards I put over my socks. When I was in third grade, I joined the traveling team, where I began to open up and appreciate the sport I was blessed to be able to play. As time passed and I grew older, I gladly joined the high school team.
My high school career was successful, ranging from the opportunities I had to make life-long friendships, all the way up to scholarships to play in college. Many have worn this number fifteen jersey before me -- many memories have been made. Each jersey has a story; here is mine.
Freshman year, I wore this jersey when my name was called in the starting varsity lineup. I wore this jersey when I scored my first high school hat trick and had some kickass cuts and bruises. This jersey was worn when I scored the beginning goal for the second round of playoffs against a tough opponent and was embraced by my fellow teammates. I wore this jersey when we lost a heartbreaking 5-6 in said playoff match, which resulted in thousands of tears and a bus ride filled with memories.
Sophomore year, this jersey was worn when I made friends with all eight of our seniors. This jersey was worn during the traditional start, where the team huddles with arms around one another, moving our shoulders left to right chanting, "Osky, Osky, Osky...Indians on three, 1, 2, 3, INDIANS!"
I was blessed to wear this jersey as I broke the school record of 'Most Hat Tricks In One Season" and hit an all-time personal record of 14 goals that season. I wore this jersey when I bawled my eyes out after losing to our rival in the second round of playoffs, meaning I was saying goodbye to the best season of my life with my best friends. This jersey was worn when I was embraced by my parents and was told numerous times how proud they were of me.
Junior year, I wore this jersey during the most difficult time in my life. I wore this jersey with a new coach, where many aspects of my game then changed. I struggled in that jersey. I fought for my spot in that jersey.
I said goodbye to teammates I'd played this sport with for what felt like a hundred years. I received my third letter in soccer with this jersey on my back. I overcame some hardships and lost to many others during this season. I learned the most important lesson in life with that jersey -- not everyone is going to like you, and that's okay.
Senior year, I wore this jersey. However, not every aspect was the same. My junior year changed me in a way I'll never be able to explain, which changed how I performed in sports. I had chosen to swim in the fall and fell in love with the sport. I struggled to love the sport of soccer as much as I loved swim in that jersey. In this jersey, I cried too many times. Every practice and game was a battle between my head and heart. I played my last ever game in this jersey and hugged my fans who drove up to watch. In that jersey, I walked off the field for the very last time. I earned my last letter with that jersey and watched my last season video with my teammates at my last banquet.
So, to the girl who will wear my jersey next,
Know that many tears were shed in it, happy and sad. Know that every game was played for the name on the front and each game was played for a different reason. Know that lots of history was made, whether it was personal goals or a school record, like beating one of our rivals for the first time in school history. Know that there were several bouts of disappointment in that jersey, that can equally be matched with the several bouts of joy. Know that my blood is truly on that jersey forever. Know that when you wear this jersey, you wear years of hard work, so please don't wear it lightly. To the girl who wears it next, honor the time you have; not all of my years were perfect, but I wouldn't trade what has been done for anything. Give it all you have, play as a teammate and not as an individual, finish that last sprint set, and last but not least, remember the little girl who fell in love with the game...sometimes she's all you need.