Summer of 2011. All twenty two girls are ready for blood. Well not literally blood, but you know, just the championship title. The girls playing in the first half jog to the field and get in their rightful positions while they wait for the referee. I quickly get down on one knee, silently say a little prayer, and quickly get up stretching my legs and arms one last time. And then, “BEEP” ! It starts, the opposite team has the ball and I know today is the day I have to score a goal, I need to be known as one of the top dogs of the team. Time goes by and the only thing I’ve done is throw ins and a couple kicks which is no good. Two of my new teammates have already scored and I’m happy but I want that small moment of glory for myself. The whistle gets blown which means that the first forty five minutes have ended. As I make my way onto the sideline I see my dad look at me with a “ Is that really the best you can do on the field?” type of face. I just look down and reach my hand out for my water. I know I could do better but those girls are huge; like seriously, they’re about ‘5,6’, they look like they weigh more than 100lbs., their legs have a ton of well shaped muscles, and they bodyslam us with so much ease. My 12 year old, 65lbs.,’4,8’ self can’t do much against them. But my dad who played soccer for 20 years and almost made it professionally didn’t see that as an excuse. After about 5 minutes we all got back in our positions and we were ready to play again. Time is going by so fast and my teammates are getting ambushed. Luckily they see me and send me the ball. I brought the ball down with my leg and I start running like a madman. I had outrun the defense and I was beyond ready to score. As I paused and pulled my leg back I decided to shoot towards the upper left corner and as I brought my leg forward a force pushed me down to the ground. I looked up to see my opponent smirking at me and falsely said, “oops”. I picked myself up and quickly began to gently twist my ankle to relieve the pain We ended up losing 3-2 which wasn’t so bad for the first day of the tournament but it didn’t matter to me. All I wanted at that point was to get my revenge on that girl for taking my moment of glory and to make my dad proud of his oldest daughter following his athletic footsteps. So this is how I was helped by an opponent and my dad to bring out my “angrier” side to the game of soccer.
The following day I was woken up at 8 in the morning by my dad. When I asked him why he said, “You look like a stick and if you want to be one of the best then you have to look your best.” He grabbed two squarish bean bags and drove me to the mountains. When we arrived he handed them to me and told me to put them on my feet. Confused I took them and noticed that they were both heavy; after putting them on I couldn’t pick my legs up as much as I wanted to. The 15lbs. weights were dreadful but my dad knew best so I slowly began jogging. And from then on that is how my excessive workouts began. At first my legs felt like noodles but after about 2 months I began to see the difference. My legs began to look buff which made me feel powerful but I was still being pushed down so we took my workouts even further. My dad would grab my boxing bag and he told me to run into it. I hated that workout so much because I couldn’t move my dad, not even an inch away from where he stood. But as I kept getting pushed by my dad and my opponents, I felt something bubbling inside me. When my dad came home and rested and a little while later he told me once again to get ready to push the bag. I looked at that bag with tiredness; my arm hurt and I didn’t feel like it would move. And I was right. Defeated, I told my dad that I didn’t want to workout and I went back inside the apartment and began to change for my soccer game later on in the afternoon. I was dreading the game because it was the same team that had the girl who pushed me down and I didn’t want to be humiliated in front of the audience and my team.
It was dark and cold later on that day but I enjoyed that feeling. It made me relax for a little before the game started and I hoped that she wouldn’t be on my side. Luck was not on my side but I couldn’t complain so I just began looking towards her direction thinking of how I would be able to avoid her but nothing came to my mind. The lights turn on top of the field and all the girls were ready for the game. It was important for our team to win because we wanted so badly to make it to the finals. Once again all the girls aligned themselves on the fields and we waited for the signal. When the referee blew the whistle we all put our attention towards our rivals. We began pressuring and defending and keeping the ball in our possession as much as we could. Sadly, we weren’t doing as well but our desire kept us pushing. During the game I received the ball but I wasn’t able to give it to another player so I took it by myself. I dodged the midfielder and as I got closer to the goal post I noticed my last obstacle: her. The same person who had stolen my moment of glory. I panicked for a moment but then I got the bubbling feeling inside me again; and I looked at her with a sudden anger that I think I might have even snarled at her. I ran towards her and dodged her but she was able to keep up with me. She began pushing me little by little and I could hear her laughing every time I almost lost my balance. Hearing her laugh just pushed me to my limit. I slowed down a bit to be aligned with her and then I started pushing her. Somehow little me began to actually move her away from me. After pushing her she finally fell down and it took me by surprise. I heard my team scream, “There you go Susy, run, keep running.” Taking the ball up the field felt amazing at the moment; I was smiling like crazy. Unfortunately the whistle blew, indicating that I was outside, but it didn’t matter to me. Jogging back I realized that being angry for a second helped me bring out my inner strength. Being seen as weak and tiny gave me a sense of aggression that helped me defy my opponents. The game ended with us tying and going into penalty kicks. Our best players went to the middle of the field while the rest of us stayed on the sidelines. Nobody said a word behind us as the girls, one by one would go up to the white circled grass where the ball was placed. Their goalie was able to block 2 of the goals which led to our defeat. Our girls came back to our side, trying not to cry and aligned themselves and we all walked down the mid field shaking the hands of the opponents. Our season had come to an end and even though we received third place, the girls all saw a growth in each and everyone of us. I was proud of the way I could hold my head up high and not cowering away from opponents even with a big difference in height and weight.
I continued playing for teams until freshman year of high school. Junior year of high school I moved to a new school where I was able to impress the coaches by getting hit by a ball in the face and getting a bloody nose and still wanting to play. When giving the scrimmage shirts back my new coach asked me, “ How tall are you?”, and I said “ I’m 4’11.” which made him laugh. “ Aren’t you afraid of the other girls? We go up against girls who are about a foot taller than you.” I laughed and shook my head “Nope I’m not scared of the height difference, that doesn’t make you good at soccer, the skills do,” I said to him. When tryouts ended I was chosen almost automatically. I don’t think I was chosen for being able to score because I never did score but I think my coach saw the potential and the determination I had when it came to every game.
Being put against the biggest girls and seeing the way they would look at me was my favorite part because it usually took them by surprise when I was able to take them down so easily. With some girls it took more effort and sometimes I’d be the one that would end up down on the ground. As the season progressed, one of my teammates came up to me and asked, “Hey Susy, do you have anger issues? I see the way you go crazy whenever they get near you and try to get the ball.” I laughed and told her that I don’t have anger issues but that I out of the blue do get mad whenever they get near me and that became what I was known for. My closest friends and teammates gave me the nickname of “Leona” which means lioness, for my sudden anger that would take over and for my puffy hair.
Growing up as tiny as I was and still am isn’t really fun because I’m always getting asked about it but I don’t mind it as much. When it comes to soccer I realized that the best players aren’t always the ones that are huge giants but the ones that are tiny. We’re super fast, we can dodge people better and we can easily get in front of other players with ease. And even though I’m looked down upon I’ll secretly enjoy it because it’ll just trigger the lioness from her slumber with a desire to feast on her prey.