When A Student Athlete Stops Playing Sports

One day, my dad put me in a car, handed me shin guards and a very simple pair of black and white cleats and brought me to the field for the first time. I was given a ball and was told to go stand in line as I waited to run up and shoot the ball at the other coach who was standing in the goal as the goalie.

I was horrible.

Every time I missed or kicked the ground, I was so embarrassed. I kept trying to hit the ball with my toe as hard as I possibly could, only for my coach to tell me to not kick the ball with my toe. I wished that my dad had never brought me to play. I thought that kicking the ball out of bounds was a good thing. The whole season was miserable.

The next year my dad asked me if I wanted to play and I desperately wanted to say no. However, I knew how much he loved seeing me play, or so he said. I decided to make him happy for at least another year, although I did not want to. I never knew that the decision to play would lead to so many memories, heartbreaks, lessons, good times, and friendships. You truly never realize the value of a moment you are living in until that moment is a memory.

That single decision and point in time changed my life forever.

What I didn't realize as a 6 year-old-is that one day you will wake up on a Saturday morning without a game to go to. There will be no more going outside in the morning to see if you need to put on a long sleeve dri-fit under your jersey. There will be no more cramping up getting out of a car after an hour-long ride. There will be no more warm-ups filled with stretching, shooting, and possession drills.

One day there will be no more practice. There will be no more fear of conditioning after not playing too well the game before. There will be no more going through the motions in countless drills that you do not want to do. There will be no more excitement when your coach tells you he is letting you play the world cup.

One day there will be no more team bonding. There will be no more talking about boys throughout the whole night. There will be no more gathering around the TV to watch "She's the Man." There will be no more stuffing your face with as much food as possible because you know that you will just burn it off later.

One day there will be no more out of town tournaments. There will be no more running around the hotel, knocking on people's doors and running away. There will be no more aching muscles from playing four games in two days. There will be no more spraying your whole uniform with men's Axe because you haven't gotten a chance to wash your jersey. There will be no more silent drives home after barely losing in the championship game. There will be no more piling your teammates into one car and singing at the top of your lungs after a win.

One day there will be no more high school soccer. There will be no more coming together with the girls that you have played against for years to play against the girls who were your teammates. There will be no more long bus rides. There will be no more classmates filling the stands to cheer you on.

One day there will be no more playing through injuries. There will be no more head balls that make you feel like you cannot see straight. There will be no more having your trainer tape you back together. There will be no more ramming yourself into another player and feeling the air in your lungs basically completely escape your body. There will be no more hating ice baths, but knowing how much you desperately need one.

One day there will be no more soccer.

Sure, there will be some adult indoor leagues, but it will never be the same. There will be no more slipping your shin guards into your impossibly too-tight socks before you step out onto the field. There will be no more chanting "(Team Name) on three!" before running out onto the field. There will be no more butterflies in your stomach before the referee blows the whistle. There will be no more coaches yelling across the field. There will never be that energetic feeling you get when you score a goal ever again. There simply just won't be any of that.

One day it will all be a memory.

It doesn't matter if your last game is in a few years, months, or days. Appreciate every single moment that you are out on the field. Hell, appreciate the moments that you spend on the bench, too. Play the game that no one is at against the team you know nothing about the same way that you would play against your rival school with the bleachers packed. Sometimes, when athletes get older, their love for whatever sport that they are playing can fade. Never forget why you fell in love with the sport, because one day you will look back and wish that you could have it back.

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