Monday, March 3, 2014

I wonder what it would be like...

To have never owned a pair of soccer cleats.

When I was little, I played soccer at Sumpter, the school near our house.  Even at such a young age, I remember loving the cool, foggy Fall mornings when the sun hadn't burned through the clouds and the fresh cut grass was still covered in dew from the early morning mist.  The color of my uniform was much more important to me than winning the game, and it's quite possible the orange slices and Capri-suns afterwards were what enticed me to play on.

In middle school, where there wasn't a league for girls our age, we pushed to organize one.  We were terrible.  It's quite possible we never won a single game.  But every weekend our parents woke up at 7am to gear us up and get us out there for another' shot' at a goal scoring victory...  We even played on an indoor team in the off season.  Up until I moved, I was still playing indoor, I love it.

Along came High School, where the game changed my life forever.  It all began with tryouts, often referred to as 'Daily Doubles'.  The older girls that had played the year before paid no mind to us little ones, and were intimidating as well, whether they meant to be or not, who knows.  (I'm guessing they were, based on what I know now about teenage girls)  We ran laps, we ran lines, we ran the bleachers, we ran sideways, forwards, backwards and into each other.  And after that... we ran some more.  I'd never been so sore in my life.  Grass burns, wet soccer balls in the face, sore feet, ankle bruises and weak burning legs; we trudged on.

Every day, for 2 weeks, we worked our asses off at daily doubles, a 2 hour session in the morning and a 2 hour session in the afternoon sun.  Each day, another girl or two would disappear from the afternoon session or never return the following morning.  I wanted to quit; we ALL wanted to quit.  We never talked about quitting.  No one likes to TALK about quitting, they just think it to themselves quietly.  Myself and my 2 amigas had grown up together and spent the prior 3 years competitivley swimming together, and we were in it together.  Although we had spent the last 4 years of our lives bonding and bickering, we each knew the others would disapprove if we gave up.  None of us wanted to disappoint each other, so we stuck it out.

Traveling with the High School team was a lot of fun.  We got to dress up for away games and in our uniforms for home games.  We even wore our cool royal blue soccer socks, except during class they were 'slouched' just so, and accompanied by indoor soccer shoes instead of cleats.  We were SO cool...  We never really were that good after all those years.  We didn't hold any titles or records in the district.  None of us went on to play pro or even sorta pro.

The lack of ability wasn't what changed my life forever.  It was the lessons I learned when those cleats were on my feet.  I learned about determination, as I sprinted after distance running forwards to defend my team's goal; dedication to stick with it, even when I felt I couldn't take another step, sportsmanship when the ref made an unfair call and there was nothing any of us could do about it and teamwork, learning to communicate with each other to meld into a team working together on and off the field.  I saw girls quit, give up, cuss at opposing teams, elbow and trip each other.  I remember the first time I got an <excruciating> cramp in my calf, that I somehow managed to play on, for fear of letting down my team mates before the half.  I remember falling asleep doing homework after a long day at school & 2 hour practice.  I'd wake up extra early to finish before class, since keeping our grades up was required in order to play.  I remember running so hard that my face felt like it was detached from the rest of my body.  And for all of these things, I am forever grateful to have learned to persevere.  Before high school, I never knew I had it in me.  By Junior year, I had learned just how capable I really was, and still am.

I'm so lucky I had the opportunity to own a pair of soccer cleats.

If I haven't told you yet; I'm conducting a shoe drive inspired by a group of local girls here on the island, who I've watched play in socks or barefeet.  I want them to have the same experience I had growing up, probably one that 85% of children and teenagers in the US get to have.  These girls have probably been through more in their 20 years than I have in my 32.  But the one thing I want for them is to own a pair of soccer shoes.

If you, or anyone you know, have  gently used or new soccer cleats or tennis shoes (mens, womens or children) PLEASE send them my way!  Above is an image of the 79 pair that have been delivered to the island thus far!!!!  Keep em coming guys, there's never too much of a good deed.

Shipping address: 9650 Crestwater circle,  Magnolia, TX 77354

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