September 22, 2019
I started playing soccer when I was 11 years old. The moment I stepped on the field I knew it was the sport for me. It was the only time I felt fully at peace with myself and with life. It was an action-packed sport, yet somehow it soothed me. Plus the constant running made it hard for my ADD to get the better of me, unlike boring baseball. Over the past 8 years, my experiences on the field have shaped the player I am today. Anticipating a shot from the opposing team I stand on the sprayed white line on the dark green field between two posts. I wish the game wasn't tied. I wish I wasn't the keeper, I wish it hadn't made it to shootouts. I wish it wasn't the final game of the playoffs. I wish, I wish, I wish. Before my team shared the pressure together. Now, I hold the entire outcome of the game and that fate of my own team in my hands and feet. Waiting for the shriek of the Ref’s whistle, I feel the need to escape and run back to my brick row home two blocks away from the field. “Twwwwwwwt” the whistle sounded interrupting my thoughts. The sleek 2012 world cup ball cut through the air. I Jumped, but missed. It was over, we had lost and it was because of me. I remember choking back the tears after the game. I remembered my other teammates crying and felt that it was all my fault. I could never fail my team like that again. I had to step up and make sure that I would never let my team down again. Never again! My breath was visible in the brisk fall air. The trees around the field had begun to change to vibrant red, yellow, and brown hues. I kicked my feet in the dusty ground that had once been a green field. The clouds that arose from the ground reminded me of my breath. I was uncomfortable and unhappy with my placement on the field. I wanted to be up top again scoring goals and making runs, especially since this was a playoff game and our team, Spain, was down by one. Most of all, I want to redeem myself for my failure the previous year. I felt the team giving up, discouraged by the repeated failed attempts to score a goal. “Keep the intensity, let's win this”! I shout out trying to brighten their spirits.
I could feel the eyes of the enthusiastic and sometimes enraged parents on the back of my neck and it made my hair stand tall, like a cat confronted by one of its own. The ball was rolling toward me and I ran to greet it past half field. I kicked it with all my strength, my vision only trained on one thing, the goal. I turned around and began my shameful walk back to my side, the ball looked high. I subtle swush indicated that it went in and then a less subtle, “Aidan you did it” yelled by my teammate Gabe who rushed toward me at freight train speed. His excitement was matched by an overwhelming and frantic yelling booming from the sideline. The game was tied. Even though we ended up winning that game, I didn’t feel satisfied. Not with myself. I wanted to be the best; however, I no longer wanted to do it for myself. Well, maybe because I was scared. “Ref how much time is left?” I impatiently asked. “Five minutes,” he responded. The air was heavy with wet heat. I felt the cold beads of sweat escape my pores and roll off my nose and checks, leaving gray splotches on my white dirt stained jersey. My feet, hugged by black and orange cleats, were burning from the heat radiating off the field. The dark green synthetic grass had little black rubbery dots that held the sun’s rays. Looking left and then right I saw the red track surrounding the turf, my dad, my dog, my coach, and my team, decorated in the same white and blue I wore. My attention was swifty grabbed by the red and black jerseys, worn by strangers, weaving through our players. One broke through. My adrenaline forced me to run quicker than I ever had. Things slowed down, I was on his heels. He was split between me and the un-admittedly concussed keeper. I couldn’t let him reach him. My defensive instincts kicked in. My mind was shouting one thing, protect. This team is my family! I firmly grab his shoulder and peel him down like paint off a wall. Immediately the high pitched whistle pierces the air and engulfs my ears. A penalty in the bo was called against me. This was my worst fear, I had let down my team again. I was four years older, but the same 12 year old me walked off the field that day. I thought I was protecting, but I hadn’t. The MVP trophy I received after the season meant nothing to me because I did not see myself as MVP. The gold and blue statue topped with a soccer player mocked me. The congratulations of my teammates only served to remind me that I was a failure. Why had I tried to be at the front of laps during practice? Why had I tried so hard? I will forever strive to be the best, but I will never be satisfied not only in soccer, but because of soccer it now is a part of who I am in my everyday life.