A Red Soccer Bag | Teen Ink

A Red Soccer Bag

October 9, 2019
By isabelleea24 BRONZE, Temperance, Michigan
isabelleea24 BRONZE, Temperance, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

As I walk out the door I quickly grab my bag. I check for the essentials: cleats, shin guards, ball, extra jersey, and water. My soccer bag to anyone else just looks like a torn-up bag that I carry to practices and games constantly. A bag that has been beaten up by thunderstorms, muddy fields, and the occasional road trip to a tournament. But to me, this bag carries the pressures of my unclear future and the incessant need to have a great game. People will say its just a sport. But what they don’t understand is the constant work put into this “sport”. The many mornings, afternoons, and nights spent around this “sport”.  The frustration and uneasiness this “sport” can cause. So why do it? Simple. For the feeling of success and the love of the game. 

As I carry my soccer bag to my game field, I can feel the weight of the strings pull on my shoulders. Each tug brings a feeling of subconscious pressure and the dark clouded sky above resembles the looming storm in my brain. The thought of college coaches being here makes my stomach curl. A week before I had sat at home writing the perfect email to each coach. Babbling to them about my good grades and interest in their school. But now it's time for me to play in front of them and my heart feels as though it could beat out of my chest. Each step toward the field is like a step closer to my possible future. 

After reaching the field, I sit down next to my teammates. A slight drizzle of rain starts to escape from the sky as I methodically slip on my cleats and shin guards. I try to focus on the game ahead, but as I reach into my bag to grab a misplaced shin guard I am reminded of so many different memories that this bag has been with me through. Some are filled with such joy and pure exuberance that it brings goosebumps to my skin and makes a smile spring to my lips. While others are composed of such embarrassment and disappointment that it gives me a hollow stomach and a burning throat. The contents of my bag are all associated with their own memory. I pull out my Notre Dame soccer ball from its slot in the front of the bag and it reminds me of the camp I went to over the summer. I think back to the nerves that shook me as I played in front of the coaches and the self-defeat I felt as all the girls bragged about their national league teams. The memories spiral through my mind like a unending film. I then come across an old plastic water bottle tucked beneath a sweatshirt in the bottom of my bag. It crinkles under the weight of my fingers and reminds me of the hard work I have put into this sport. It’s like every empty water bottle is a trophy for my hard work; a physical tally of every game and practice that I have put into soccer. My coach pulls up next to our bench in the backseat of the club’s golf cart; her hair, flipped up in a messy bun, waves in the chilly wind. My teammates and I all simultaneously get up from our damp spot on the ground to begin our warm-up. 

The rain drains down from the sky onto the sleek field as we finish the last drill in our warm-up. My teammates and I form a disorganized semi-circle around our coach as she announces the starting lineup. I try to reassure myself that my name will be called, but as my coach drolls on and on about fast play, my mind begins to wander. I imagine her not calling my name, and me taking that dreaded walk of shame over to the bench. I cheer on my teammates as they walk onto the field, but at the same time feel that stabbing pain of jealousy in my chest. Pools of muddy water form at my feet as I desperately wait for my coach to tell me to warm-up. What seems like an eternity later, my coach finally releases me from the doom of the bench. I explode into the warm-up with thoughts of success, but fears of bad plays and missed opportunities begin to pick at my brain. The thoughts make me shiver, knowing that if they do come true, I will have to return to the tight and mortifying grips of the bench. I try to shake these fears as I step onto the field and make that long trek to the centerline. The ball is thrown in and the whole fields’ atmosphere changes. The ball becomes gold as girls slide across the mud-caked land to ram the ball from out beneath each others’ feet. I make a deep cut in to become an option for a teammate. She quickly plays the ball into my feet and I watch as the ball skids across the slick, uneven earth. The ball hurdles towards my foot and I secure it with a small tap. I push the ball forward with explosive movements only to have it taken away. The same fears from before begin to trickle back in and I start to cave in from the weight of failure. But all I can do is try to win the ball back and make up for the lost opportunity. My team quickly wins the ball back and my teammate runs the ball down the line. I make a curved run to the back of the goal as she whips it in from the corner. As I turn towards the goal I feel the wind and icy rain nip at my skin. The ball soars towards me and I settle it right in front of me. I spring my right leg behind me and launch the ball into what I wish was the back of the net, but instead I power the ball over the goal. My head drops down in defeat, and I cower to frustration. I avoid looking to the sidelines, where I know I’ll be faced with seeing my dad’s astonishment at the missed shot and my coach rewarding another player with my spot on the field. At this thought, I am brought back to the present. My coach calls out my name in the starting lineup and I am relieved that I am free from the psychological and physical degrading grip of the bench.  

As I walk out onto the field, I can’t help but notice the beauty of it all. White-rimmed fields are scattered all around me and the loud cheers from a great play or hard-fought goal endlessly fill the air. Even on the rainiest day, Pacesetter Park has a way of capturing the world’s charm. The endless expanse of soccer fields saturates my vision and the smell of the muddy ground and watered grass invade each one of my inhales. The perfectly lined rows of trees outline the park and sway with each gust of the biting wind. An organized crowd begins to form along the sideline. Each parent, meticulously setting up their folding chair and umbrella, prepares for the battering rain. I take my place as attacking mid and watch as the referees take their slow notorious walk to center field. It still amazes me how the whole dynamic of a 100-yard long field can be changed with the blow of a whistle. The field changes from a scene of peaceful tension to a game of slide tackles, elbows, and hair pulls. 

I look around the field and towards the bench to see all of the people soccer has brought into my life. But as I direct my gaze towards coach Ella, I realize that she’s probably the most memorable. She’s the type of coach that’s always there to support you; but when it’s half time and your down by two goals, she’s the one yelling at everyone to pull it together. No matter what mood Ella is in, my team and I can always count on her to brighten our practices with her quick-witted jokes and her good humor. Ella has always been there for me. If I was ever having a rough practice or game, she would pull me aside and ask me about what was going on. She genuinely cares for her players and wants to know that we were not only physically okay but mentally too. Coach Ella would do anything for us. From emailing college coaches to setting up amazing opportunities, Ella always has it covered. I can honestly agree that I would not be the type of player I am today if it weren’t for coach Ella. 

The referees run to their spots on the field and the center referee blows the whistle. I drop every thought of failure and focus on the task ahead. I switch off my brain and allow the game to direct me; because I finally realize that everything happens for a reason and I can not stress over things I can not control. All of the emotional baggage of memories and stressors are forgotten and I just play soccer the way it was meant to be played- stress free. 

The author's comments:

I wrote this to express how soccer has affected my life. 

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