We ride up to the field on our bikes, my dad and I, as I feel a breeze wash over me like a welcoming. My eyes glance from one thing to another as I see the soccer field, my mom, and her team. “Stay focused! Look where you’re going!” My brain screams at me. I look up startled, but find no reason to be alarmed. “It’s just grass and a few trees here and there,” I tell myself. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” I think. I hop off my bike and search for a tree to rest it against. “Where should I put it?” I ask myself, “Should I put it next to my dad’s bike or will that be inconvenient? Naw, I’ll just put it next to his.” I gently lean my bike down against his, making sure it doesn’t fall, then I look up and follow him as he heads toward the field. I jog a little to catch up, his huge legs giving him an advantage. He walks fast. I look back at the field where my mom is playing with her team. This is where they usually have practice at Edgely Field, and my dad and I often come watch her play.
The game pauses for a bit. She comes over to say hi. It looks like they’re just taking a break. She talks with her team about something I don’t register, and after about five minutes they walk back on to the field. Just then an idea springs into my mom’s head, and she walks back towards us. Now usually this wouldn’t happen, but on this one particular occasion, my mom thought that I would like the opportunity to play. I was only seven at the time, and had played soccer with the Fairmount Association for a few years, but these women were definitely bigger than I was, and had played soccer for several more years than I had. Because of this, my mom decides that it would be safest for me to play goalie. I had played goalie before and was pretty good.
I think about it. My mind races for an answer, searching for pros and cons of this situation. “Sure they are big and tall, and I am very small, but I will only be playing in goal. Maybe I could make some decent saves, and if I said no I’d be passing up an exciting opportunity.” Since that was the position I liked to play and that is what I wanted to play, my final answer was yes. Everyone on the field is waiting as I build up the courage to walk on to that field and join the team. I could feel the excitement in me bubbling, rising through my body and I step over the side line of the field. I jog across, the blood pumping through my veins. My heart starts beating just a little bit faster as my feet lead me closer to my position. I stop on the goal line right between two red flags. We unfortunately did not have full sized goals. The game begins. I am ready, I am hopeful, I am going to do well, but nothing happens. The ball doesn’t come anywhere near me, and to be honest I am bored. This is definitely something that goalkeepers have to deal with, standing in front of the goal and just watching the field is what you have to do.
All of the sudden, the other team stole possession of the ball. I feel a surge of energy and excitement rush through me this was going to be my big moment. I was not sure what would happen and I was definitely nervous, but there was no way I was going to let this breakaway frighten me. This is what I trained for. The player advances on me and I was ready to block the shot. My eyes were training on her like a hawk hunting for it’s next meal. Every little move of her body was a hint to me of what would happen to the ball when she kicks it. I see the shot coming and I jump into position, my bare hands extend out ready to block the shot no matter how much pain they would feel. Out of nowhere, I saw my teammate charge. Her only objective was to get herself between the shot and me. She raced for the attacking player about to shoot. She fought for the ball trying to get possession and I glimpsed my teammate trying to clear the ball, but nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
Without warning, I felt the ball slam hard into my face. I felt as if my face was permanently dented. I was thrown down on to my back by the force of the ball. The pain surged through my body and my injured head. I felt myself about to let out a scream that could not be contained any longer. I cried out desperately in pain. I couldn’t see, in fact I didn’t want to try, for fear that it might hurt my head even more. I decided just to lay down and cry for help. I heard voices, people worrying if I was okay. And I heard my own teammate keep saying “I’m so sorry I’m so so sorry!” Turns out, instead of actually clearing it, like she wanted to do, she accidentally booted the ball right into my face. It took quite a lot of coaxing and care to actually get me up and standing again. I slowly start to walk off the field with help. I feel drowsy. I was sure that without help, I wasn’t going to be able to stand up by myself. I would have fallen down without the team's support. They help me walk off the field and sit me down. I need rest. I need sleep, I need to lie down. My mom decides I should probably not play with the team until I was older. Showing up to their games and cheering them on their games, we agreed, was the best thing I could do to support them.I will have to wait nine years before I can officially join their soccer club, and I don’t mind waiting. Now nine years later, joining the soccer club that my parents have been apart of since I was six months, is something that I was ready for. This summer I played with some of the same women in Summer League, as back then. But now, I’m a lot taller than them. I can certainly say it was worth the wait.