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Blogs are a reflection of the author. And if I want to make a blog that reflects who I am, I wanted to start off my blog posts by sharing the thing that is the biggest reflection of who I am: and that is my life as a soccer player.
I was not an attractive child. You are probably wondering what this has to do with my life as a soccer player but bear with me, I'm getting to that. I was born weighing in at 11 lbs. 9 ounces and was 23 inches long. I came out more like a monster than a baby and was supposed to be boy, shocking everyone by turning out to be a girl. My parents figured that as I would grow, I would grow to be more proportionate with my weight and height to the norm that they had seen with my older siblings, but this wasn't the case. As I grew older, I grew bigger and taller, and it was not to my advantage. Most children start walking when they are around 9 months to a year old. Me on the other hand? I didn't take my first steps until I was almost 22 months old and wasn't fully and independently walking for another couple of months. My coordination and developmental processes were slow and lacking. But despite all these challenges, I was an extremely happy child and was loved by my family unconditionally, but it seemed that genetics was stacked against me and to the great disappointment me of my dad, I was not destined to be an athletic child. But that certainly didn't stop me from trying.
My older sisters both started their athletic careers by dancing. And because I looked up to my older sisters so much and pretty much copied their every move, I asked my mom to enroll me in a couple of the dance classes. As you can imagine, I struggled a lot. My balance was basically non-existent; I had a difficult time memorizing all the choreography, and had about as much grace as a horse in roller skates. So after only a couple of classes, I quickly learned that my body wasn't made for the world of dance.
Following my short-lived life as a dancer, I was extremely self-conscious and began developing some serious social anxiety and self-confidence issues. I knew I wanted to be involved in sports, but felt that I didn't fit the athletic mold and lacked the basic talent it required to be an athlete. My parents however, weren't as quick to give up as I was. They enrolled me in camps for swimming, softball, basketball, and tennis. And every camp just left me feeling more and more defeated. By the time I turned 7, my parents asked me if I wanted to try one last camp. A couple of my close friends' mothers had enrolled them in a local soccer camp, and wanted to see if I wished to join. The last thing I wanted to do was to embarrass myself in front of my friends, but I also feared missing out. So, with much resignation and hesitation, I agreed I'd give it a shot.
I'd love to sit here and say that a miracle occurred. That the minute I stepped foot into my cleats and onto that soccer field, my life morphed into a scene from a movie and I discovered my raw, natural talent for soccer. But my life isn't a movie and I was god awful at soccer. However, for the first time in my life, I didn't care. I had never felt so much joy doing a sport and never wanted that camp to end. My lack of hand eye coordination didn't matter, and I loved the aggressive and competitive nature of the sport. By the end of that summer, I actually had gotten a lot better and developed more skill, agility, and coordination than I ever had before. I developed a passion for soccer and never wanted to be without it.
My newfound love for this sport quickly turned into an obsession. I tried out for a local travel team, and actually made it. I quickly developed close relationships with my teammates, and still frequently talk to some of those girls to this day. I spent my days coming home from school, grabbing a soccer ball and heading straight to my backyard to practice. I'd stay out there until my mom would call me in to work on my homework for a little until it was time to get in the car and go to my team's practice. This ritual became my lifestyle, and was one I followed all the way up until my time in high school.
You may think that with all this time and effort I put into this sport was because of my love for it, and it was. But underneath, those insecurities and anxieties that followed me around from camp to camp and sport to sport as a young child never left me, and as much as I loved soccer, this love scared me. I didn't want soccer to be another failed attempt at me trying to be athletic. I didn't want to be left disappointed and crushed like I was when I played all those other sports, so I vowed to myself to work nonstop to be the best soccer player I could be. This promise yielded positive results, and I eventually went on to rack up accomplishments like being voted team captain, making my varsity high school team as a freshmen, winning a national championship at age 15, and even committing to continue my soccer career collegiately at the University of Mary Washington. But this positive results never came without its setbacks. The anxiety I felt with my insecurities of never feeling good enough manifested a permanent place in me, and was present in every area of my life.
Soccer gave me a place to work though these insecurities. I knew that with hard work, practice, and sacrifice, I would get where I wanted to go. Whenever thoughts of self-doubt would arise, I took these thoughts as a challenge, a challenge I wouldn’t succumb to without a fight. I work my hardest to prove these thoughts wrong, and this mindset helped in all aspect of my anxious life.
Whether your sport is an individual sport or a team sport, the pressures of competition can weigh heavy on anyone. No one likes to lose, and everyone likes to be the best at what they do. If there is one thing I have learned through my life as an anxious athlete, this is true. But another thing I've learned in my life as an anxious athlete is that anything in life that you love never presents itself to be easy.
My life has been compromised of self-doubt. Of insecurities and anxieties telling me I can't do something, or I am not good enough. Everyone has experienced the same thoughts at one point in their lifetime. And these thoughts and obstacles make it difficult to do the things we love. From childhood to adulthood, soccer has been both a source and an outlet for my anxieties and insecurities. My life as a soccer player has been my title for the last 13 years of my life, and although I only have 2 years left to step on a filed, I will never cease to be a soccer player. It has taught me to work through obstacles that arise in any part of my life, and has showed me the value of hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance. It is who I am, and has helped me learn who I want to be.
So, who are you?