It was right before play offs. My teammates and I were having a great season with winning results. The coach told us at the beginning of the year that we were going to make it far in the State round. We were motivated and believed in ourselves even though we were a young team.
I had a passion for soccer (football as we call it in Africa) since I was a young boy, who used to play on the dusty streets in Africa. I have never played in an organized team. Mostly, it is a match between friends or against players from a different town. We used to play for money. Sometimes disagreements occur in this situation, and the disagreements sometimes turns into a fight. But it is no surprise to see that in Africa, or at least the place i grew up in. It was a different story when i came to the States. It was the first time that I played on a ‘real’ team and on a turf. And my most highlighted time with my real teammates was the road to the semi-final state championship and reaching it.
My head coach had a motto that came to a reality. The motto was ‘come November’. November is usually where state play offs start. Coach believed that we were going to make it far to the season- to November. The last time we made it to the semi- final state was five years ago. We believed that year, my senior year was going to be a different year. But I learned that in this kind of chance, a little distraction might close the opportunity to proceed forward.
Here is my point. It was right before the playoffs. One practice we had, I had a tension with one of the teammates. I was mad. angry. The intensity and the environment of the practice suddenly changed. A little agreement heated up. I almost punched the teammate. The head coach was not there at that particular day. The assistance coach got in the middle of us. I took off my cleats and left the practice. I told myself that I was not going to come back to that field again. I was stubborn. The whole practice got messed up because of my attitude.
They stopped the practice and had a talk with the assistant coach. Practice cut short. I went home. The assistance coach came to my house the same night and explained the situation to my parents. My parents tried to talk to me, but I was still not settled. Maybe I would have felt better if I have actually punched him, but that is not the point. I told my parents that I was done playing soccer when they asked me why I decided to quit.
We were having the first round of State in a couple of days. I missed the following day practice even though my dad told me to do so. He called me two days in a row from work to make sure I went to the practices. After a long conversation with my dad, he brought up an other idea- that i should go apologize for the team. By the time, I saw apologizing as a failure. I never liked letting myself lose even though it is my fault. Sorry, but saying sorry was not my strong suit. The third day, my dad and I went to the field to apologize for the team and the coach. I apologized for the teammate I almost got in a fight with and
for the assistant coach. The head coach was present on that day. Coach started talking to me about what happened. I told him what happened and added that I was not going to be returning to the team. He began talking me in to it; “since the first day you stepped on the field, I knew you had a talent, and you have added a lot to the team. We need you. I want to see you with your uniform on in the the locker room tomorrow morning” coach said.
I went home that night and sat on my bed thought things through. I was on the edge of quitting, but the coach’s speech wouldn’t get out of my mind. He have said a lot.
It was my last year of high school soccer career. I got some texts from friends messaging me that they need me. That added into making my decision. I wanted to come back to the team for the coach. But I also have realized the team needed me as well. I texted the coach I would show up in the morning.
I showed up in the locker room in the morning for the first State round. I didn’t play the first half as a part of punishment. I got in the second half. We played a great possession. I had an assist to close our first round with a 1-0 victory. Now we are off to the quarter final match. Parents, friends, and a lot of other participants added excitement atmosphere to the great arena. I got my first cramp during the game.
It was the worst.
I tried to play with it. I tried. I didn’t want the referee to see me limping. But one of the fans told me to get on the ground so the ref could take me out. I couldn’t bare with it so I got subbed out. I hoped i would get back as soon as possible. I was anxious to get back. The trainer helped me and I got back in after 10 minutes.
The game and the chanting from fans was intense. We tied 1-1. Then we had to go to the shoot out. I was in the first five shooters. I scored, but we were tied. So the shooting went on to the second set of five shooters. We were nervous because the next five guys were young and didn’t have experience shooting a penalty kick in a game. But we ended up winning. The next day was the semi-final. We played against the number one team in the State.
We defended them really well but unfortunately the State champions took it home with a 3-1 victory.
We were proud of ourselves to make it this far. It has been five years since the Lynx(our team) went this far. Even though we weren’t the State champions, we were team champions. We have come this far with the right mind set and determination.
I rewind back to my decision and choices that I have made. Quitting vs. getting back to the field. I thought about the first round of State, which I assisted to win 1-0.
Could the result been different if I didn’t assist?
I also thought about the quarter final game that ended with the shooting out. Who would have been the kicker to replace my spot? Could he have made it or missed it? These are the questions I asked myself. I am not trying to be a hero for the team, but to reflect back on how my decision have made an influence.
The choices we make. They make a difference–for the best or for the worse.