I played soccer competitively from the time I could walk until I was 16 years old. I was pretty good too due to the fact that I had elite speed and stamina for my age back then. I wasn’t the best leader (I liked to chuck it up from distance), I didn’t have the best skills (I was not known for my ability to bend it a la Beckham), and I certainly didn’t have amazing vision (not with cold winter winds whipping into my face… well, at least as cold as they can get in Tampa, FL).
The only reason I was effective for my youth squads was because of my speed. You could either put me at forward and let me run past everyone or stash me at sweeper and instruct me to let no one sprint by. I always was among my U-15 team’s leading goalscorers, but I honestly loved playing defense too (except that one year when my team was terrible so we played defense the entire game). But when I was 16 some soccer coaches basically forced me out of the sport.
They saw that my actual soccer skills had not developed as nicely as some of my contemporaries, and they blamed my lack of technical ability on the fact that I was also playing baseball basically year round, anchoring every sprint relay for the track team in the Spring, and (of course) hitting people on the football field every Friday night in the Fall. They knew I was a raw athlete and that I could help their team, but it was clear to them that they were not priority #1.
So, they made it clear that I should focus my attentions elsewhere. I wasn’t disappointed by their decision and neither were my parents (after all, our family’s schedule was already getting impossible to navigate, especially when you consider the fact that I had 2 brothers who were playing as many sports at the same time, but in different age groups). Soccer would have been just another thing to do. I think I played for 2 different winter baseball teams instead.
Eventually I gave up the track and football too and concentrated only on baseball. I played baseball every day, probably close to 100 games per year. After a couple years of nothing but BP and bunt defenses, I was burned (or burnt?) out and hated baseball with a passion that really hasn’t waned since. Yet, now I love soccer. I wish I had kept playing it, as it would have perhaps kept my athletic interests alive. Baseball is boring. That’s right America, I said it.
Soccer is not boring. Soccer is a spectacle. But you have to possess speed and stamina to be successful, and those are two things that I misplaced a long, long time ago. My 15 year old self wouldn’t just best me in a fight (and, sadly, a battle of wits), he would absolutely ruin me (and persuade me to buy him some beer). This is a sad fact. So, I am thinking of playing again soon because (1) I need to get into shape (the Wii is not cutting it), and (2) I miss soccer.
So, if you are at your next local men’s league game, and you see some guy hurling on the side of the pitch after he has only played for four minutes, that will be me.
Have a good Memorial Day everyone.