So normally I post every Friday… But this was the first week in my life I’ve ever worked a 40 hour week. Needless to say, I’ve been pretty busy. But hey! I’m back!
Today we’re gonna talk about soccer because I had no idea what kind of story I wanted to tell. Plus, with the last story being kinda heavy, I needed a happy story today. So soccer… First off, I know absolutely nothing about soccer. I grew up an American football fan and when I mastered that, I learned basketball. Soccer wasn’t even in the equation. That is, until I got cut from the football team. I had played kindergarten and first grade but took a break second grade (I don’t know why but I’m almost certain my Mom had something to do with it). When I tried out in fourth grade, I was severely out of shape. As a result, I didn’t make it past the second week.
To say I was devastated is an understatement. Football was all I knew. Basketball season was over. And I sure as heck wasn’t gonna sit out another year and do nothing.
As I drove home, feeling defeated, my family and I passed a flyer encouraging the Miramar youth to sign up for the local Charger soccer team. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was a right defender for the Miramar Chargers soccer team.
What was cool about the Chargers was that they didn’t cut anyone. They just split you into A team or B team. They said it didn’t make a difference which team you were on, but for pride’s sake I tried my best to make A team despite not knowing jack about soccer. Miraculously, not only did I make A team but I was a starter too!
Sounds good right? Problem was, I was trashhhhhhhhhh as a defender. I couldn’t defend but the only reason I was there was because I was even worse at scoring… We lost several (and I mean SEVERAL) games starting out. If memory serves me right, we started out 0-4.
But then everything changed when our starting Goalkeeper broke his arm.
Funny story really. We kicked the ball over the fence at practice one day and rather than use the gate opening, our GK wanted to hop the fence. A simple task for him to show off how athletic he was. Except the poor kid’s foot got caught on the top and he fell head first into the ground. And just like that, we were without a goalie the day before our soccer game.
The next day was brutal. Without a backup, coach was forced to just try any one he thought would be decent enough to hold the fort down until our starter could come back, if he came back at all. By the end of the first half, we were down 5-1. At that point, we had nothing to lose so I asked coach if I could go in at goalie. Coach just shrugged and let me switch into the GK jersey.
Okay, now I’m going to paint the scene because this was a monumental moment in my athletic career.
Imagine the driest, brown grass possible. Dirt patches everywhere the eye can see. The field looked almost as defeated as my teammates faces. I mean, we were about to go 0-5 and with 11 games in a season, we didn’t have a whole lot of time to scrape into the playoffs.
Now, imagine me. A scrawny, tiny kid with no soccer experience. But as I’ve explained earlier, American football was my life. So I knew how to put myself in position to catch a ball. Within seconds of being subbed in, it came time to put my skills to the test. Number 12 from the other team weaved right through my team’s defense and put himself in perfect position to strike a shot into the goal. Instinctively, my feet reacted and before my brain could interpret all that happened, the ball was in my hands. It wasn’t until coach screamed at me to kick the ball away that I realized that I actually saved it.
The rest of the game followed suit and with every blocked shot, my team grew more and more confident. Don’t be mistaken though, we definitely lost with a final score of 5-3. But it was the knowledge that we had an all-star goalkeeper that made us excited to play the next game.
Now, before you get on me for referring to myself as an all-star, let me first say that I wasn’t even the one who established that title. It wasn’t even my teammates, nor my parents, nor my own coaches. It was the OTHER TEAMS’ coaches. During team handshakes, I was getting asked about transferring parks MID SEASON. Often, the most common pitch was “You’d be playing for a championship team”. There were so many “championship teams” I began to question how many championships there were lol.
But I stayed. Partially because I was loyal to my teammates and friends, partially because I liked my team’s color scheme (royal blue, lightning yellow, grey, and red if you were a goalie), partially because all these other parks were mad far away and Mom wasn’t going to drive all that way for a sport I just started playing two months ago.
There was one game in particular that stuck out to me that season. Our team had made a miraculous comeback with a five game winning streak. It was at last game 11. Win and we’re in the playoffs. Lose and we’re sitting on the sidelines, supporting the B team who somehow went 8-3 that year.
It was a ferocious game. Tons of yellow cards, a couple ankle injuries and best of all, low scores! At the end of regulation it was 2-2 and there was no score in overtime. You know what that means? Penalty shootout *DUH DUH DUHHHHHHHHHH*
I can’t speak on behalf of all goalkeepers, but 99.9% of us can mutually agree that penalty shootouts are our worst nightmare. Mano y mano. One on one. Kicker and Keeper. An intense shootout between two teams and only one can come out victorious. Bare in mind that I had never practiced these kinds of shots ever. Our coach said they were so rare, we didn’t need to work on them. Besides, we had other parts of the gameplan to work on.
For those who are like I was and have no idea how soccer works, penalty shootouts are scary becasue no one can help the keeper stop the offender’s kick. The kicker lines up ten yards away from the goal, sets the ball up in the middle of the field of play, and without crossing the ten yard mark blasts a kick toward the goal in the direction of their choosing. Speed alone won’t save the goalkeeper. They have to have a certain sense of instinct to stop the kick because they are not allowed to move off of the goal line or interfere with the kicker. Once one team shoots, the other team shoots. Each team gets five chances and whoever has the most shots scored after that five wins. If it’s tied, we keep shooting out.
We went first. They went second.
We were neck and neck. Our star striker went last and made his shot. It was up to me to make the game-winning save or else we’d go into P.S. part two. I can’t make this up. Everything in the world went silent. I couldn’t hear the crowd. I couldn’t hear my teammates. I couldn’t hear the wind picking up. Most athletes will tell you they could hear their lungs exhaling or their blood rushing but I couldn’t even hear that. I was beyond scared and almost certain that I just wouldn’t react when the striker kicked the ball. What made all of this worse was the kid was a lefty. It’s hard enough watching a regular footed kicker. Lefties do everything in reverse and UGH… It’s just so frustrating.
Anyway, I was prepared to fail. The striker kicked the ball. Unlike the previous shot attempts, this ball came out much slower than usual. Or maybe adrenaline was going haywire in my body. I don’t know. All I know is I heard a voice clear as day tell me to move. So I did. I stretched my arm as far to the right corner of the as they could go. And then when I reached my limit, I stretched them even further. Don’t ask me how I did it. I just did.
I could feel everything at that point. The butterflies in my stomach holding their breaths. My feet leaving the ground as I leaped for the ball. Gravity letting go and leaving me to fly. My shoulder popping as I forced it to shift past its comfort zone. The ball smashing into my open palm. The sharp grass stabbing into my skin as I crashed into the field. But nothing felt real until I watched the ball roll nonchalantly in front of me. The best thing about penalty shootouts is that there are no redos and the striker can’t come back for a rebound. Once the ball is saved, the play is over. Like, OVER over!
We won! Ironically the score was 6-5 and our record was 6-5. We were going to the playoffs. That picture you see at the top is the post-game celebration. Sure, the game winning save was memorable. But this game is so iconic for me because my Dad came to see me play. My Dad was usually busy working and while I’m sure he may have made a few games here and there but this is kinda the only one I can remember from my first season. That picture you see up there is the picture from the game.
The playoffs actually went well. Our original goalie came back but the spot was pretty much mine now so he took my old defender spot and we won every game en route to a championship. Before we knew it, it was championship week. It was us, the Miramar Chargers A Team versus………..
The Miramar Chargers B Team! I know, crazy right? Two teams from the same park? Unheard of. But in our case, reality. What’s even crazier was the fact that we lost 2-1. That just goes to show that you can never underestimate anyone for anything. I guess they were actually serious about there being no real difference between A and B team.
That’s okay, though. I ended up sticking with soccer the next year and we won a champtionship that year. And the year after that. Then we started getting cocky and tried our hands at travel league soccer because we were back to back champs and got our butts KICKED. Those travel kids were no joke… By eighth grade, I got bored of soccer and quit. Coaches all over Miramar were quite upset. They were hoping to recruit me to play for their high school teams. HA! Jokes on them, I was moving to Tennessee for high school lol. I tried out for football and, again, got cut so I ran track that year. Worst. Decision. Ever. It was a whole sport dedicated to running which was literally the one thing I was bad at. I did pretty well at field events but by the end of that season, I basically predicted that my organized team sport days were behind me (this was further proven to be true when I quit high school football sophomore year, attempted a comeback senior year only to quit again).
Nowadays I play recreationally at my school. Flag football and basketball mostly. I’m still out of shape but everyone is so it’s okay lol. Though I’m happy with how my life turned out, switching from athletics to arts in high school, I do wonder what would’ve happened if I actually stuck it out with soccer.