“Smack!” The sound the ball makes as it bounces off my face lifting my feet well above my head as the ball rolls back towards my dad. My tiny lungs gasping for air frightened at what had just happened. Little me in a daze, as my dad comes running asking, “Are you okay?” hell no, I said as a little kid getting completely drilled in the face with a soccer ball. Mumbling under his breath, “GREAT! He is going to hate soccer” my dad witnessed me jump up right back to my feet. Although I had just been knocked to the ground and in pain, I got right back up to continue playing. What my dad and I realized in that moment is soccer was going to be the sport for me.
Throughout the next year my dad continued to work with me. Putting up miniature goals to practice shooting at, cones to begin to dribble through or around, anything to get my base foundation as a soccer player higher than average. By the time I was four years old I was ready to play on a team. I remember being so excited to be a part of my own team. Not only could I begin to make friends, it was not just my dad teaching me everything. Little did I know from someone else implementing the exact same things my dad was, I understood he was not so crazy after all.
I continued for a few more years of playing in the same little city league. Until one day my dad received a call from the guy who was my coach for my first season. He told my dad, “I want your son to be a part of my club team I am going to establish out of Redlands”. By this time, I was eight years old and had a better foundation to my skill level. I had two try-outs for this team that I had to attend, but unfortunately was only able to make one of them. To my benefit since this guy had coached me before, I made the team. Being a part of this group was much flashier as a competitor than a city recreational league. Flashy play only came with more training though. We had two practices a week that were both 2 hours long to drill in or skills. Practices were all about how you were going to play in games, so everyone moment I got to give it my all, I did. I had my own team bag with my number on it, two kits, one for home games and the other for away. This all came at a price of immense amounts of effort and time to dedicate myself to the team.
Being a part of this club led me to learning better social skills, because our level of play had to become more advanced. We also learned formations to be put into and more about being positioned in our play. I enjoyed it all, until I was slacking a little on putting all the effort in to continue playing competitively. Unfortunately, after only have being with the team for about a year and a half, I quit. With just getting up and leaving from a team, it taught me how to continue to give it my all even when the conditions may not be the fairest. I was not receiving the respect or playing time that I had deserved for the effort I had been putting forward. Therefore it was my time to leave.
“Get up” my dad banging on my door to wake me up on a weekend bright and early to practice. “Since you are no longer on a club team anymore, we must begin practicing again”. I HATED it!!! I made every excuse to not have to get up and better my skills and even just maintain my stamina. I did not understand why I had to continue to work on my skills, but there I was running countless sprints and dribbling a stupid ball around a grass field with my dad yelling at me to keep going. I had learned so much already with the amount of “years” I had been playing. Communication skills, trapping and passing a ball, a formation such as a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2. Why did I have to continue running sprints, dribbling a ball through cones to keep my ball skill level up, anything that would maintain my skill level. It was all for my next step of having another tryout later on or in a life aspect to never give up when it gets hard and always work on myself to better my chances.
I only spent another year or two back at the recreational league before I was ready to have my next try out for another travel team. My dad came to me, “Hey buddy, you have another opportunity coming up to play for the Los Gauchos”, a club team based out of Redlands. I was ecstatic! Another shot, for me? I didn’t believe it. I played mid-field and it is a highly assertive, captain like position. This team was shorthanded for my role. After about a week of tryouts and having played a few scrimmages with the team, I still had heard nothing. The team’s evaluation process was taking longer than usual. Which as a little kid wanting to just be a part of a team again, I was getting antsy. Luckily a few days later, here comes my dad, “You did its buddy!” “They want you on the team”.
Going through these evaluations time and time again it trained me to maintain something you want whether it be a job or even as little as a soccer position on the field, you must always put forth your best effort. Even when the eyes are off you. By getting kicked down and remaining down you will not get anywhere but, when you get back up even stronger than before, your goals will soon be achieved. If you truly want to get places in life it takes a group effort for it to happen, but you also have to put in the work as an individual for the group to perform. Which being involved in soccer made me realize.
I remained with this club team for years, watching faces come and go. Going through multiple more evaluation processes and horrific conditioning practices which was grueling hours of just running. After about 2 years we joined forces with the club called the Pateadores based out of Riverside. With this team we had a rocky start, but we learned how to combine our talent together with new players and coaches coming and going. “It is all about how you react” coming into the last few seasons of my soccer career, my dad just tried to prepare me for life with soccer.
During my very last season, I broke my hand and chipped half my tooth off as well as being on a suspension for violent conduct. It sounds bad, as if I did something violent. But no, I had been chasing after a fight on the field trying to break it up. Little did I know I would be elbowed in the face and thrown to the ground. With being suspended for only breaking up the fight. I was placed on a three game no entry rule, also having to recover from an injury it made me cherish the times of me being healthy and just able to play. I was always someone who was told to tough it out and just keep going till I cannot go anymore. Until one injury lead to another and soon I only had the time to recover for a job or career and no longer for just sports.
Along the journey allowed me to acquire many life lessons and have loads of fun. Soccer will forever have a soft spot in my heart. I could not replace those years and times I spent with the people I was surrounded with for those memories. Enjoy the little things, and never take anything for granted. Come time we will be no longer able to recover from those injuries or get even second or third chances. Be grateful for what you have now and cherish where you have come from. My time with soccer made me the person I appear to be today.