17 days ago I played my last ever college soccer game. I was incredibly emotional for a full 48 hours. I cried like a baby immediately after the game while embracing a few of my teammates and coaches. I teared up multiple times on the long seven hour bus ride home and I sat wept like a child the next day while sitting in a bar. I wasn’t incredibly emotional because I was sad it was my last game, I knew soccer was finite and the end was coming. Im 26 and took a six year break between my junior and senior year and had already lived for a significant period of time without the game. I was so emotional because of everything I had to go through to complete a dream I started pursuing as a young kid.
My #1 goal for 2018 was to come back and play my last year of college soccer. I knew it was going to be tough, being 26 with bills, out of shape, not having played the game at that level for six years, and going into a demanding environment with teammates quite a bit younger than me. The two months leading up to playing were two of the hardest months of my life. Left with the responsibility of making $10,000 in two months so I could afford to live without working during the fall semester so I could play. Dealing with an injury that left me without the ability to train and get fit till about a month and a half before preseason. Working eight hour days in the sun on turf coaching so I could make that money. Dealing with a break up that honestly devastated me. Wondering if I should just quit because the easier thing to do would be to not play and just choose to coach so I could relax.
I felt a sense of destiny and responsibility though and that kept me going. I felt like I was supposed to come back to play this last year and help lead the program and team back into national contention. I felt like maybe this was how it was supposed to happen all along? I quit soccer at age 20, frustrated with the game. Feeling like I was always constantly having to prove my worth because all of my identity was tied up in my performance. I always felt like I was climbing an uphill battle despite my work ethic.
I was told in high school that I would be lucky to play for a mid-level division 3 school. I was constantly overlooked by club coaches. I was never valued by opposing coaches and missed out on individual awards constantly. The only coaches who really valued me as a player from a quality program was those at Notre Dame College. I felt they really believed in me and because of that I chose to go to school there. I wanted to play for a winning program and throughout my career we had 71 wins, 11 losses, 1 tie, finished 2nd in the country, had an undefeated season, and competed in three national tournaments. We won a lot. It was a blast.
But for me this last season was the season I always wanted to have and felt like I deserved to have. I played the third most minutes of anyone on the team, started every game, and got the opportunity to wear the captains arm band the last three games of the season. I helped the program to get back into the national tournament for the first time in three years. I helped the team finish ranked in the top 25 for the first time in three years. I helped the program to have the best regular season since 2011. I was told by my head coach that I was the best player on the field, something I never heard at the college level.
I didn’t receive any individual awards but it wasn’t about that, it was about the fact that I did what I said I would do. I didn’t miss a single practice or game the whole season and gave it every thing I had everyday leading up to and during the season. I gave back to the program that believed in me when I was 16 when no one else did. It was never about me being a starter, wearing the captains armband, or being told I was the best player on the field. It was about finishing what I started, giving it everything I had, and giving back to the program that believed in me when no one else did. It’s been an incredible journey. One that I will never forget and will always cherish. I don’t love soccer because of an obsession with the ball, I love soccer because of all the things I had to go through in the pursuit of being the best I could.