Most Saturday mornings throughout the year, I get up early, get dressed and go play soccer in my local league.
My wife loves it when I wake her up with my talking, loudly getting dressed and then double and triple checking that I have all of my shin guards and cleats, but I always offer her some reassuring words that make her feel better.
“You knew what you were getting into when you married a big time athlete like me,” I say before she throws my shin guards at me. I know she is really just making sure I have everything I need, and it always inspires me to go out and be the best soccer player I can be!
Unfortunately, though, that player is not very good.
My soccer team is a made of a lot of really nice people who are all much better players than me
When people ask why my team is in the rec league and not in the competitive (better) league, my teammates reply, “Well, we have Nick on our team, so we must be in the right league.”
We play each Saturday for about 9 months out of the year. I never played soccer growing up and I still don’t understand everything about the game, but it is a good workout and it is super fun.
The frustrating thing for me with soccer is that I know where to go on the field and I know what to do, I just have no idea how the other players control the ball so well and make it look so easy.
Two weeks ago, for example, I was on defense and ran after a ball that was rolling toward the sideline but then stopped and stayed inbounds. No one was near me, so I took my time and tried to kick the ball up the field with a pinpoint pass going past a defender so that one of my teammates could run up field with it and get in position to score. Instead, though, I instantly kicked the ball out of bounds. It was terrible! For some reason, the ball shot off to the right, instead of going straight, and flew like 15 feet out of bounds.
My teammates gave me that familiar look again, but they knew I wouldn’t catch what they were thinking because they know I can’t catch anything on the soccer field.
This last week, though, things finally changed.
After only giving up 5 goals as goalie in the first half of my first game, I was playing midfield in the second half when I had my big chance. I made a good play for a steal, and then pushed the ball ahead so I could get a clean shot. A defender was closing in on me so I didn’t have much time, but I sized up the goalie and then aimed the ball hard toward the goal to my left, thinking it would fire past him and into the back corner of the net. Instead, the ball bounced slowly to the right and out of bounds again.
“Arrgghhh,” I yelled.
“Maybe we should move the goal over to your right,” one teammate kindly suggested.
“Do you need a sub yet?” asked another.
In the second game of that day, though, things changed for the better. On one play, I made an aggressive move and got in front of the goal when one of my teammates gave me a perfect pass. I was just to the left of the goal, about a foot away, and somehow my left foot shot out and I crushed the ball. I had no idea I could kick it that hard with my left foot, and I still don’t know how I was able to kick the ball with such terrible aim so that it hit the post and then bounced harmlessly away from the net.
“At least I missed with my left that time,” I said.
Finally, in the second half of that game, another teammate gave me another crazy good pass in front of the goal. This time, I didn’t even have to really kick the ball. I just kind of stuck my left leg out, and the ball bounced off of it and flew hard into the goal before the goalie could get to it.
I had finally scored! It was a happy moment and I am fairly certain that I heard dramatic music playing in the background.
“I can finally die a happy man,” one of my teammates said to me (seriously, I am not making that up).
“You’re like cicadas, one goal every 17 years,” another teammate said.
Most of the players on both teams congratulated me and one of my best friends gave me an awesome fake high five (ran by me with his hand up so he could high five the goalie instead). It was a really cool moment.
I have not scored a goal many, many years (at least not a goal for my team…. seriously) so it was really very exciting for me. We lost the game, but I honestly didn’t care.
I have fun playing every week, but it can be tough to get a goal (unless I am the goalie), and it felt great to finally score one for the right team. Best of all, after the game I was able to tell the story of my goal over and over again to my wife, kids, co-workers, strangers on the sidewalk and now to all of you.
I’ll have to wake up my wife again tonight and tell her about it again! I bet she can’t wait for that!