It’s been two-and-a-half years since I played competitively.
I didn’t believe my dad when he said I would, but I miss those early mornings. I miss the slide tackles, the way the ball felt against my cleats and traveling with my teammates to all those tournaments. I even miss running those 120s when we didn’t perform to our trainer’s expectations (and that strong, fit bod that came with it).
There’s something special about soccer. It taught me discipline, patience and time management (and a lot more, trust me. But we’re focusing on these three).
“If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late and if you’re late, go home.”
Today, I’m fortunate enough to attend a big university with an intramural league, but it’s not quite the same. Attendance isn’t reliable, whether it’s your own team or the team you’re playing, and some players haven’t even stepped on a real soccer field before.
“Just have Sally come stand on the field so you don’t have to forfeit.”
Okay…but that’s all she is—a body. I can’t count on Sally to understand what “mark up,” “press,” or “to be goalside” means. It can be taught, yes, but at the end of the day, it’s frustrating and I signed up to play, not to coach (maybe one day, but not today).
In select and high school soccer, you had scheduled games and practices, and you could count on your teammates to show up every weekend. And your teammates were talented, wanted to be there and you could trust them if the ball went past the forwards. Ugh! Okay okay, I’m done complaining.
Let’s get back to what the greatest game ever played taught me. 🙂
Would you rather have a trainer yell at you or just let you play? If you said, “just let me play!,” you’re wrong.
A trainer that yells at you means that they care about your performance. And more importantly, they care about your improvement.
No matter how many 120s I ran (and how much I hated running them), it spoke to me as a soccer player. This trainer cares about my fitness and wants to shape me into a better player (I might be stretching that a bit since this trainer is clearly POed right now, but it sounds good so let’s just roll with it).
And for as many times I got yelled at on that field, you could only imagine how good it felt to hear the words, “Nice work, Carolyn.”
After tearing two ACLs and a meniscus, I was sitting sideline for a total of two years (1 ACL = 9-12 months, 1 meniscus = 6 months). Suddenly, my role on the team switched from starting right outside mid to the bench—for nine. months. It was a hard pill to swallow, no doubt, but it required that I change the way I approached practices and games.
During my recovery period, I discovered a different meaning to the word, “teammate.” I was no longer attending every practice or getting the opportunity to play a full game. My role truly (and quickly) changed from player to supporter.
Rain or shine, I was there for my team. I cheered for them loud and proud, and I continued to bring my bag to every game. I came prepared with an extra pair of socks, shorts and jerseys (in both colors of course), shin guards, cleats, even sports bras (TBH, I was more prepared as a cripple than I was as a player). I carried a first aid kit with me as well and still brought a full jug of water to games for my teammates to use if their’s ran out.
I’ve overcome my fair share of obstacles, and although it absolutely sucked to sit on a bench when all you want to do is help your team physically, I’m thankful for my injuries as they taught me how to help my team mentally and emotionally—which is just as important.
Like I said before, “if you’re late, go home.” And that is no joke. I actually witnessed one of my teammates get kicked out of practice one time because she was ten minutes late. Yeah, it was a little aggressive, but my teammate was never late to a practice or game ever again.
On the other side of time management, I knew I had to stay organized. With three practices a week (which, might I add, were all scheduled 8-9:30 p.m. since I turned 14), life was a little more than stressful. And two of those three practices were located at a field 40+ minutes away, which meant I was leaving the house no later than 7:05 p.m. and getting home at 10:15 p.m. At that point, I still had to shower, get ready for bed, finish any homework and still fall asleep at a decent hour.
The life I lived back then was a hectic one, but it required that I stay on schedule. It helped if I finished my homework before practice and, if we performed well, no 120s after practice!!! Score.
No matter how much my life continues to change in my twenties, the environment I surrounded myself with as a teenager is similar to the life I live now. You see, instead of having teammates to turn to and count on, I have a team of coworkers. And instead of a physical goal to shoot in, we have goals to strive for and achieve. I still have a mentor to coach me in my career path, and sometimes a few 120s (long hours and long days) will do me some good in terms of improving my endurance (how far I can push myself).
And when all is said and done, I still have a soccer ball to physically pick up and kick around when I need a break from the world around me.
I understand the different hats a team player must wear, whether that’s carrying the team as a captain, supporting them by being their cheerleader, or both.
#IWishIKnew how much I’d miss soccer, but I’m glad that I’m able to find the great game in little aspects of my life now and in my future career.