“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… play for her.” – Mia Hamm
It is very easy to take my sport for granted. I have been playing soccer since the age of 4 and besides about 2 seasons of basketball, soccer is all I have ever done. It is my life. It is all I have ever known. I can’t begin to imagine the day when my career will be over. I will not know what to do. For 15 years now, I have had soccer everyday. Whether a practice or a game, it has consumed my schedule for as long as I can remember. I have had to miss out on A LOT because of soccer. Weekend after weekend after weekend, I always missed birthday parties, school events, times to hangout with friends. Many people stopped asking me to do things because they knew my answer would be, “Sorry, I can’t. I have soccer.”
If I could go back and do it all over again would I? Yes and no.
I often think about how my life would be different if I didn’t play soccer. I would not have the same friends. I would not know what it feels like to be apart of a team and have 20 girls constantly behind my back, supporting me. I would not have a sense of competitiveness. I would not know what it feels like to work hard for something and see results while you perform. I would definitely have a lot of more free time. I often wonder if I would have the same moral values and beliefs that I hold myself to. I wonder if I would have turned out the same. I could have taken more trips and had free weekends to get more involved in activities inside and outside of school. I would not have a coach and would not know what it is like to have someone pushing you and wanting to make you better. I would not have those moments as the clock is ticking down to the last seconds and scoring the game winning goal. I would not experience playing in a stadium filled with hundreds of my friends chanting my name as I run out onto the field for the game begin. My life would be completely different.
As great as it sounds to reap all those new benefits, there is no doubt in my mind that if I was given the opportunity again, I would definitely choose to play soccer again. There is something that I think all athletes can understand. There is something about just being able to play your sport that is the most incredible feeling ever. It’s hard to explain but there is just something about going out and playing your sport. Now I will be the first to admit that I hate doing all the extra running and weight lifting. I love improving, but if you tell me I have to run 20 120 yard sprints in 20 minutes…I will probably question what I am doing to myself. However, I realized really quick that it is not what you are doing, but what you are doing it for. There is no way to describe the feeling I get when I have a soccer ball at my feet and I just get to play. I went through a period of time when soccer was becoming complacent. It wasn’t fun anymore and it was just becoming routine. I participated in a strength and conditioning program the summer before my sophomore year of high school and it drastically improved my strength and quickness. I can never thank my coach for what he did for me. Although it was not soccer specific, the camp gave me a new outlook on sports and made me better. I couldn’t wait to go to practice now to see how much my game had improved. He gave soccer a new meaning for me and it was not boring anymore. I realized that at the end of the day, all I wanted to do was play. I was going to have to put in extra work to be able to maintain my skill and stamina so that I could continue playing. I had to take a step back to realize that I was in love with the game. If I were to quit, I would hate my life. When I go to practice or go to play a game, everything goes away. Every problem I am struggling with. Every burden, every stress, it all goes away. I would miss that. I would miss having a team to rely on and to continually support me. I would miss having a coach push me and care for me. I would miss having structure. I believe that who I am has come a lot from the structure and standards I hold myself to in sports. I would not be competitive (although that might be a good thing because sometimes I am WAY too competitive). I would miss having something to look forward too. I would miss having something to work for. I would miss being able to see the rewards I gain from everything I pour into soccer. I would miss every experience and miss those moments of glory. I would miss everything.
I would miss everything. As my freshman year at college is starting to wind down, I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My years as a soccer player are winding down. Do I want to keep playing for as long as I can? Of course I do. Would I want to go play professionally? OF COURSE, but the likelihood of that happening is very slim. Pretty much when I play my last game my senior year, that is going to be it. It will all be over. Knowing this and thinking about this, makes me cherish every moment I have now. Every 6 am practice, every shooting practice, every scrimmage, and especially every game, I make the most for I know my days are limited. Not many people get to experience playing collegiate sports or playing sports at all. I am honored to play and I try to make the most of every opportunity I am given so I can be satisfied when I look back and it is all just a memory. Sometimes I get so caught up in all of it that I forget why I play. When you are little, you play because you just love the sport. As you get older, more and more factors begin to play a role, for example, playing to please a coach/parent, playing to impress a college, playing because your parents are making you. I find myself sometimes questioning what I am playing for. Why am I really still doing this? I have to remind myself that its because I just the game. It is a great way to glorify the Lord. I play for those who can’t anymore. If you play to please others, it takes all the fun out of everything. You lose your passion. You have to remember why you play.
Find it within yourself to play for YOU.