**Not gonna lie... I was going to post this last week but MAJORLY chickened out.**
It's been almost four years since I've played an official soccer game. Wow. I've never actually wrote that out before. WOW. This post is therapy for me, more than anything. So forgive me if I ramble.
For those of you who don't know, soccer was a MASSIVE part of my life growing up. And when I say massive, I mean massive. Like, waking up at 4:30am to get to practice, go to school for 8am, another practice after school, then a game in the evening- Repeat that, only add fitness sessions on weekends.
My parents signed me up for soccer tryouts when I was at the ripe age of eleven. I showed up with no shin guards, a rusty pair of velcro sneakers, and a familiar pony tail that I sported everyday at school. This audition- I mean- try out (actors, ugh) was to divide the girls into the "Premier" league (aka the good players) and the "First-Division" league (the not so good players). We started the practice with a "suicide run" (sort of like a beep test), and I was hooked. That week, I got the call that I made the "First-Division" team. I was so excited! I couldn't believe I was going to be on an actual soccer team!
The next year, I was determined to make the Premier league. I literally became obsessed. My wardrobe consisted of only soccer shorts and baggy t-shirts, I made weekly trips to "The Soccer Stop" on Queen Street, and would practice in my yard every single day (or when it was winter, in the basement). The time came for the Under 12 auditio- GAH!- TRY OUTS, and I was as focused as a beaver building a damn... (Which I would think takes a lot of focus, right??)... I remember my coach specifically pointing out how great my 'first touch' was along with my 'passing precision'... I had no idea what she was talking about.
This was the beginning of a crazy adventure. I made the Premier team, and moved into what would be my future home: centre midfield. Our team, The Sherwood Parkdale Rangers, went on to win the gold medal that year. The last moment of a soccer match- when the ref blows the whistle not once, but twice- is so epic. Especially when it's for the championship. You're in the midst of running your tail off, and out of nowhere the whistle sounds. Did the ball go out of bounds? Was there a hand ball? Then- SIKE!- the ref blows it again and your heart literally drops to your crusty, dead skinned toes. You know the game is over. I'll never forget winning that game, my first ever gold medal.
Under 14 came and went, playing First Division the first year and Premier the second. I was living in my soccer jackets and 'splash pants' at this point. The scariest thing was trying out for the Provincial Team. I was so mad at my mom for making me go. Every amazing soccer player my age from across THE WHOLE ISLAND was going to be there. I was scared of embarrassing myself. So, you can imagine my absolute shock when I got a call saying I made the team. ME? On the infamous Provincial team? You don't understand, having one of the 'PEI Provincial Soccer Team' jackets was a HUGE deal for a thirteen year old. Plus, we'd play tournaments across the Maritimes, go to Nationals (Saskatoon that year), stay in hotels, practice on the best fields, it felt like I won the lottery! How the heck did I make the team?? Well, the coach who would end up teaching me mostly everything I know about soccer, Mike, saw some potential in that little 90 pound Jessica.
I need to mention how QUIET and PAINFULLY SHY I was at soccer rehearsals- I mean - practices. My close friends and family will gladly tell you that I never shut up, and am usually hyper, loud and obnoxious. But when I got to soccer practice in Charlottetown, I swear I was more quiet than a door mat. I really can't pinpoint why I was so shy. The girls I played with were all so incredible, and so nice to me! I was very focused at practice. Intimidation was probably another factor. I was loud on the field when we were playing a game, calling for the ball, yelling at the ref, etc. But off the field I didn't make a peep. School soccer was a different story, I was confident and completely myself with the people I grew up with. There was just something about playing in TOWN that made me so self-concious and timid!
After making the Provincial team, I never looked back. My skill set was rapidly expanding, and the coaching staff (Mike, Meredith, John) taught us the most important details of the game. Passing, shooting, 'take downs', pressure, cover, drop, first touch, endurance, fitness, proper meal plans, these were all things that took over my life, and I loved it. So when it came time for me to move up to the Under 16 age division, I was ready to hit the pitch. I made the Premier team, we travelled to Nationals (Edmonton), and I was then ready for the ULTIMATE try out...
The Canada Games Team.
OKAY. This was huge. Canada Games are the mini Olympics, in my opinion. "But Jessica, why were these games ESPECIALLY important?" Well, they were taking place on our home turf. PEI was hosting the 2009 Canada Games! I had my foot in the door, it was the same coaching staff as the Provincial team, so I felt way more confident going into it. I'm going to fast forward things here a little bit.
I made the team.
I don't even know where to begin describing the incredible opportunities that aroused playing with the Canada Games team. This was three years before the Games were taking place, so we had a LONNNG time to prepare. UPEI was literally my home. Playing University teams and men's teams became the norm. We played a zillion games per year and all against people older and more experienced than us: Senior Women's Indoor league, Senior Women's Spring league (FREEZING, literally snow on the turf), Senior Summer league, the list goes on. U-Fit and gym sessions were mandatory (I loved that part). I SWEAR to you, I was at the point where I could do 60 full push ups in a row, easy. Like- SIXTY. PUSH UPS. UGH. I CAN BARLEY DO 10 NOW WITHOUT BASICALLY PASSING OUT! ANYWAY..
Being a part of this team was the opportunity of a life time. The coolest thing was going to England as a group. We had a couple matches there, toured London, and saw some amazing soccer stadiums! One awesome memory I have is playing in the "Pre-Canada Games Tournament" against New Brunswick. I went up for a header, got sandwiched between two girls, and broke a bone in my FACE. Just a little itty-bitty hair-line fracture, but my upper lip was as swollen as a grape fruit. Very cool battle wound.
I just loved playing. I loved the suspense the second before a corner kick was taken, the geometry of making the perfect pass between two defenders, hollering at the referee, getting under a drop kick that went 19807134 feet in the air and hitting the ball with your HEAD. I put my heart and soul into every practice, every moment I was on the field, and gave up a lot of my social life because I would want to be ready for a 6am Saturday practice. For three years, I was committed to this team like I was married to it. I was quiet, but by gosh I was determined. Girls were being cut and added left right and centre. I had to make a decision at one point: Soccer, or Drama. I chose Soccer. There were times I wanted to quit, but stuck with it all the way through. So there is no way for me to explain the absolute heartache when, months before the games took place, I was taken into the meeting that numbed me for a while.
Two girls were to be made "Alternates". This meant you were on the team, but you weren't REALLY "on the team". You weren't allowed sitting on the bench during the Games, you didn't stay with your team overnight, and worst of all, you didn't play. If five people got hurt, THEN you MIGHT play. But the alternates are just that, alternates.
Like I said, the excitement was through the roof on the Island because the games were about two or three months away. My whole team met in a big room. We were told that we'd be called one at a time for individual meetings on our progress throughout the three years, and told if we made the team or not. I'm not going to lie- I was feeling pretty darn confident at this point. I was with the team since the get-go. I worked my little tooshie off, so I felt like I deserved a spot. One girl was called, and she didn't come back. Ten minutes later, my name was called.
I walk into a suffocatingly small room. My coach talks for a moment about how much I've improved and how far I've come. Then... He tells me I'm the Alternate... My ears started to buzz, and I automatically started nodding. I have no idea what they were saying, but I replied to everything with "okay". I left, drove home in a silent car, and my mom greeted me drying dishes with, "how did it go :)". I muttered, "I'm an alternate" almost as a question. Three years of hard work then flooded out of me in tear form.
What hurt me a lot was that after I left, they went into the room where the rest of my team was waiting and announced that they all made the team. There were no individual meetings. Only a meeting for me and the other 'alternate'. That cut me to the core.
I did something that I don't do very often, I quit. My parents have always pushed me to do my best, stick it out, but this was just too hard. And they supported me 100%. It punctured my soul for a long, long, LONG time. I couldn't help but think dedication, commitment, perseverance, all lead to a big ol' let down. But time heals everything, and I've learned quite a few things from my horribly enlightening experience. A) An astounding work ethic, B) Everything happens for a reason, and C) What the word "teamwork" truly means.
Lets be honest, I didn't know what to do with myself after I was off the team. I would literally walk around in circles at home trying to come up with things to do. But I went on to have the greatest senior year a girl could ask for, and most importantly, find my true passion in life. Many, many things would be different now if that experience hadn't happened. So at this point, I'm truly grateful for it. I didn't quit soccer forever. I started coaching, refereed some games/tournaments, and felt like I was rewarded for all my hard work when I played for the Holland College Hurricanes Varsity Team. We won the AUS Championship, went to Nationals in Edmonton, and I walked away with the "1st All Star" Award. I didn't know it at the time, but it was a wonderful way to end off my 'soccer career'.
So, there you have it. That's DEFINITELY not all of it, but if I keep writing I'll end up with a novel. All the little in-between moments have been left out. Like when you score a goal with your LEFT FOOT for the first time, laugh attacks at practice, getting hurt and not knowing when you'll be able to play again, crying after a game because you thought it was your fault that you lost, your teams cheer before you run to the field, getting greasy Wendy's after you won, SO many amazing little memories that I'll never forget. If you get absolutely nothing out of reading this, I hope you can take away this: sometimes we can't explain why lousy things happen in life, but there's a reason they do. Learn from your experiences, feel the emotions you need to feel, and allow yourself to grow. Remember when one door closes, another will fly right open.
Lots of love,
Hi! I'm Jessica. I love beaches, ice cream, onesies, and cuddles. I try to follow my instincts in all aspects of life. I love hearing peoples stories; How they got to the exact moment they're in. The glass is half full. I love the big dipper. The Secret changed my life. Love is w o n d e r f u l. August 24th is my favourite day (No, it's not my birthday). YOU. ARE. ENOUGH. Yolo-ing through life, but mostly singing.