Everyone takes a different path on their soccer journey. Every year, hundreds of little girls and boys are joining the sport, looking for that special something, that I think soccer provides. For me, my journey started at four years old. I was a little kid with a ton of energy, and my mom decided to find some way to channel that energy into something productive. At first, she tried placing me in ballet and tap, I made it through about two classes before we realized that dance just wasn’t for me. Since dance didn’t work out, she started looking for something else. When my mom found soccer she saw it as a great way to get my energy out as well as have me make some friends in the process. At that age, it was the peewee leagues, which meant that each team had a max of 10 players, 6 players played on the field at a time, there was no goalie, and everyone clumped together over the ball running every which direction. I absolutely loved it. The next year meant recreational (rec) leagues, one practice a week was added into the mix.
My coach went over how to dribble a ball, how to properly kick the ball, how to pass, and how to score, I soaked it up. I played rec leagues until I was eight. My coach, who had been my coach for the past four years, decided he was going to take his daughter to play for the best soccer club, in my hometown at the time. My parents decided that I could follow him to play club. Club soccer means traveling, more practices a week, more commitment, more money, and tryouts.
In club soccer, there are two levels. The select level, which is a step up from recreation leagues, and the premier level, which is above select levels, and is for the kids who are 100% dedicated to the sport. I was the only one from my previous recreational team that my coach didn’t take with him to the premier league. Instead, I played select, where I would stay until I was thirteen. In the five years, I had played select soccer I had only had two coaches, one for four of the five years. With those two coaches, I had switched between three different clubs. At age thirteen, the coach I had had for the previous four years of my life, quit coaching. My parents and I decided to move me back to my original club, this time at the premier level. To my parents, it didn’t matter how much it cost as long as I was having fun playing, and I was. I didn’t care that I was now playing outside in the middle of December in Washington state, I also didn’t care that in a season of sixteen games, thirteen were in Seattle, meaning 9 separate trips to the other side of the state. For me, it has always been about my love for the game.
How club soccer works are that tryouts for the next year are held in May, and you practice with your new team and coach all throughout the summer and into the fall. For girls, club soccer then stops just as the high school soccer season starts in the fall. As soon as the high school season is over around the beginning of November, club soccer starts again. Your senior year of high school doesn’t have another set of tryouts in May. Once the club season finishes around the beginning of May, we are done. You don’t practice over the summer, you don’t have to endure another set of tryouts. For me, I have never had a gap where I wasn’t playing soccer until three weeks before the end of my last club season. It was just a normal April soccer practice, the field being one hour from my house, and the weather cold. Fifteen minutes into practice I fell, I had extended my arms to try and catch myself as I went down. Everyone around me was laughing, including myself at how dumb my fall had been.
Once I got up I realized that it hurt to move my arm, I thought I had just landed on it weird and would take some ibuprofen at the next water break but I was fine. Twenty minutes later and I still in a ton of pain, I ended up calling my mom who thought I should leave practice early. I could only use my right hand to drive myself home, by the time I got it was decided that a trip to the emergency room was needed. Several hours and x-rays later it was decided that I was going to need another set of x-rays at the end of the week, most likely an MRI and that I would not be able to play in final weeks of my club season, for fear that I would hurt my arm even more. A week and a half later, it was discovered that I had broken my radius and ulna bones in my wrist and that I was going to need to see an arm specialist. At first, it didn’t really hit me at how much I missed soccer until the end of the season team photo was sent out in the group chat that I was still in. It made me realize just how much I had missed playing soccer, even if it had only been three weeks. All summer I suddenly had too much time on my hands, even with a full-time summer job. I felt like I was missing something. To this day, I still absolutely love the sport. For me, soccer is a way to relax. For two hours, four days a week, all I have to think about is the game I love. I can ignore everything else that is going on in my life. Out on the field, I am in my element. I joined the club team, pretty much the second I stepped on to the Saint Mary’s campus. The girls on the team were immediately super welcoming to me. Joining the team here on campus, immediately made me feel more at home. Throughout my life, soccer has given me some of the best friends I have ever made. I have been on teams that are more families. Some relationships formed through soccer, go beyond far the field. The game has shaped me into the person I am today.
The game has taught me so much, such as how to fight for something I want, whether that be starting line or something else, it has taught me how to manage my time. Soccer has taught me motivation, how to focus on what I can control not what I can’t control, how to celebrate success and learn from losses. Practice doesn’t always make perfect but it does make you better. I have learned that it is better to practice to be the best that you can be rather than trying to be perfect. I learned how teamwork can make or break you and that communication is essential in everything you do. My coaches have taught me a large amount about the game, but the game has taught me many life lessons that I will carry with me forever. While I don’t see myself playing soccer for the rest of my life, the game will always be a part of who I am.