Saturday mornings were clearly the best day of the week. Without fail, for numerous seasons in a row, not one game was lost. We were the Champions of our own story, year after year the streak never failed. Our team was a true family. Teammates, siblings, and parents all enjoyed the victories never even considering what it felt like to experience defeat.
Family activities and vacations were centered around soccer. Annual trips to state championship games were tokens of achievement. It was my life and my everything. My friends, family, and school all encompassed my life through sports.
Saturday morning arrived, this time we had back-to-back games in a highly competitive rotation. The first game had gone into overtime. The whole team was exhausted but by endurance, striving for what we loved most, we came out victorious. With one game down and one more to go, we took time to regroup. Time to drink water, wipe our foreheads, take a deep breath, and go on to the next game. No worries, this next team was the underdog. By playing our rehearsed roles, we would without a doubt come home with the win, advancing to the next round.
Halfway through the quarter, I stole the ball from the striker on the other team. As I strategically got away, I stepped down awkwardly. My knee shifted; in that instant, I knew this fantasy of a blissful undefeated season would have to proceed without me. I could not fill my lungs with air let alone stand up. The indoor surface that we had been playing on had a fault during installation that had been ignored and because of it, I, a 13-year-old girl, had her dreams crushed. I suffered from a lateral dislocation of the patella and other associated injuries. You would not think a young child would grasp the concept of a life-altering accident. But I knew, I knew it instantly. For the next several weeks, I had to have assistance with simple day-to-day tasks. This is not what a champion did. No injuries, no whining, no weakness, and absolutely no defeats.
During physical therapy, I became fascinated with medical procedures and methods to rehabilitate my knee. Although frustrated with the disconnect between my mind and body, I was able to put everything back into rehabilitation. This being a common trend among injured athletes, I would put ultimatums that if I did exactly what the physicians were telling me to do, I would come back better than ever. This never became reality for me though. I was never able to return to my soccer family as a player because of other variables that were out of my control.
While missing actual field time, I became one of the coaches on the sidelines, calling out plays and easily predicting where the ball would go, and which player could put the ball in the back of the net based on the opponents’ abilities. One of the skills I developed during this time was reading body language, foreseeing the next actions of an individual. This talent directs me out of uncomfortable conversations and away from toxic situations.
You would think this reality was a fantasy, but failure was not part of my story. Dealing with failure for the first time created a need for immediate reaction. Although family and friends were still around, a new direction was mandatory to survive, leading to exploration of many fields. It was not long before many new interests were discovered. Travel, cooking, rock climbing, medical exploration, and individual sports became where I strived.
My intuition of setting up the field, putting the ball into play, and achieving perfection developed in grade school. However, gaining knowledge about my abilities, applying the knowledge and wisdom from previous failures, that began coming in abundance, expanded my possibilities to become myself and improve each day.
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