…a very small soccer league, but still…Yes! I did it.
A while ago an old friend reached out and asked if there was anyone who wanted to join a soccer team she was heading up. At the time my brother was in a league with friends from work and we had seen a few of his games. It looked like fun and sparked some interest in me. But I had never really played much before. I had only kicked the ball around the yard with my brother and stepped in on a few pick-up games at the park. I knew my friend played on the high school team and I was beyond intimidated by the idea. So I let the request go unanswered—the first time.
The next time the offer came around we were going to be in the middle of moving into our new home for the first few games. I knew I was going to busy, and stressed, and tired. Timing wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot. Yet, the invitation to join the league still tugged at something inside of me. I really wanted to do it. I wanted to do something I had never done, connect with people, and compete again. The whole idea sent a thrill through me. So I talked to Spence and asked my friend a few questions. Was it okay that I had never played before? Yes. How much would it cost? The price was a little steep for 8 games, but I still really wanted to do it. Would Spence mind if I did it? Not at all. It felt foolish and a little selfish, but I committed, paid, and signed on for the team.
That first game the other team forfeit—they didn’t have enough players show up on time to play. I was bummed at first. But then our team used the time to get to know each other, practice a little, and play a quick game. I invited my sister in law to come play on the team, and was delighted to find out I knew another player on our team—she used to baby sit me years and years ago. What fun! By the end of those forty minutes I was exhausted, and hurting in places I hadn’t worked in a long time, and completely thrilled. I was still really intimidated and nervous about actually playing in the future, but that first experience had been great.
Before the next game I felt sick, much like the feeling I used to get before a swim meet. My stomach churned and I felt like I had to use the bathroom every five minutes. But I pulled on my socks, stuffed in my shin guards, and tightened the laces on my thrifted cleats. We had nine ladies on the team, so that equated to six on the field and three subs. I rotated off every time I was out of breath and soaked in what was happening on the field. I would listen closely to the others on the bench and picked up as much as I could about the rules of indoor soccer, some tactics, and of course, the jargon.
“Shoot!” that one was easy.
“Man on!” meant a defender was closing in on you.
“Line,” meant drive straight up the middle.
“Wide,” or “corner,” meant to look for a teammate in a corner or on the side.
"Drop," meant you had support behind you if you needed to pass backwards.
“Take ball,” meant to step up on the offender with the ball and let someone else pick up the player you were defending.
Aside from learning how to play, I also enjoyed getting to know the players on the team and the consistent rotation of new subs. We always had a nice combination of veteran players and newbies like me. And those first couple of games felt like we would be well matched. We won the second game and lost the third, but just barely. It was fun, and I could feel the pain in my muscles for two days after game.
During the fourth game my parents and little brother also came to watch, which was just funny to me. It was like I was a little league team or something. Unfortunately, before they arrived I rolled my ankle—badly. It popped twice on the way down, and I jumped up and hobbled off the field before the pain could really set in. On the bench I could feel the zing of the sprain and immediately sat down. After a few minutes I tightened the laces on my boot and started testing my weight on it. It was so painful at first, but I knew people were going to want to rotate out. If it was just a small sprain I could probably walk it off. After a few minutes of pacing I was walking decently and ended up back on the field throughout the game. We lost that game, and by the end I was tired, and felt the low throb of pain in my foot, but still had so much fun. My family went out to sushi after and I could feel the swelling set in. I iced my foot as soon as I got home, but in the morning it was black and blue and a complete cankle.
I had to use the bad ankle the next day to help move our big stuff out of the storage unit. And I had responsibilities on Sunday as well. Walking on it actually helped keep away the stiffness, but nothing I did helped with the swelling and bruising. By the end of that week the purple was finally fading to green, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to play soccer on Friday—and I was surprised at how sad that made me. I had really come to enjoy the weekly games. After that I found a brace and was sure to play the next three games a little more carefully. We lost all three, but I enjoyed every minute.
Now we only have one more game left, and I’m sad. I have had so much fun these last few weeks. And despite still getting queasy before each game, I love being out there. Half the time I feel like I have no clue what to do, but every once in a while I fall in step behind the ball and do exactly the right thing. During one game I accidentally scored a goal—it just sort of rolled in amidst a tangle of legs and cleats, and because I was the last one to really touch it the goal was mine. But that wasn’t even the highlight of the game.
The highlight for me was when someone passed me the ball and we had teammate downfield with an unimpeded shot. But there was a defender between me and her. So I dribbled a bit to draw the defender up and then booted the ball over her head. It went just as high and as far as I wanted it to, landing right in front of our player, and she went in and scored. Giddy with delight I whooped and danced—not believing that I had just done that!
Those are the moments make every stress, every failure, and every misstep so worth it. And I am sad I won’t have any more of those. I guess that means I will just need to sign up again some time. And to anyone debating about doing something new, or scary, or out of their comfort zone—just go for it! I can’t say that playing in this league has been a life changing experience, but it has been exactly what I needed during this crazy time in my life. I am so grateful for the experience, the people I met, and the confidence it has given me.