For What It’s Worth
October 19, 2009
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In a split-second, I sealed my fate, signed away my soccer career and regained those precious hours each week that I had religiously devoted to soccer for the past decade.
For nearly four days beforehand, I had been training at the University Of California San Diego’s recruiting camp alongside a team of fourteen college-competitive footballers. We trained tirelessly twice a day and celebrated our efforts with a grueling match in the evening against the other squads. One-by-one, we spanked each team and worked our way to the top of the food chain, finishing the nights off with fresh pizza in the dorms. Now, with four days of work under my belt, I woke up bright and early the final Wednesday morning to step out onto the field and finish what I had begun.
There is a blurry line between what I know and what I’m told about my last day of training at UCSD. I know that I woke up at 8:30, chugged a double-shot, downed a banana, snacked on some M&M’s, threw on my bag, bumped my iPod and strutted out from the dorms to the field where I started in my last game. That is the extent of my memory.
As told from the sports medicine doctor’s shaky recollection of that morning, I did start in the game, but it would all be a blur ten minutes after the starting whistle. The course of events were as follows; the ball was over my head and up in the air, our keeper left his line to collect it and I was preoccupied with a grabby-feely forward, who couldn’t manage to get around me and to the ball. In a sprint, I raced toward my keeper while he charged the ball and in swift leap with an extended knee, he connected and I was out. I was out cold, out of sense, and out of luck.
Newton never fails; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Through my parents eyes’, I only needed one concussion for them to make the decision to permanently erase soccer from my life. There were no if’s, and’s or but’s; that was my parents’ plan for their post-concussion son, and it had been decided long before the situation arose. My instinct would be to logically break apart the argument and emphasize the lack of reason and understanding my parents had, but that wasn’t the case. I felt a deep-seated emptiness inside of me. At this point, logic could prove nothing and only emotions influenced my thoughts.
After ordering a CT scan, the doctor reassured me that the concussion I endured would only hold me back from playing for a matter of two weeks. His words meant nothing. The inconclusive research and nature of concussions fueled my dad to keep me from playing while arguing that the consequences of second-concussion-syndrome out weighed the benefits of allowing me to continue soccer. Time wasn’t the issue; my parents were, and their opinion was set in stone.
“It’s not to punish you Sam, it’s because we love you,” my dad said. “We care for you and we don’t want you to become a vegetable. To everyone else you’re just a piece of meat on the field, ready to go head to head and smash each other in the spirit of competition.”
We don’t have to search far and wide to find exercise-oriented gurus who turn the cold shoulder to us sport-pursuing folk. Day in and day out, they consider the concept of sports through their narrow-minded lenses and conclude that sport, for what it’s worth, is merely organized exercise – nothing more, nothing less. Many of these supporters, such as my dear father, refuse to accept the notion that sport can be seen in a different light; a light beyond the idea that sport is solely organized exercise.
“It’s a sport Sam, it’s a game,” my dad said. “You were out there to get exercise and nothing’s stopping you from exercising in other ways.”
I’d try to speak only to find myself lost for logic and arguing with emotions. There was absolutely no way to express a greater meaning of sport to a man, who ardently believed that the mere difference between soccer and running was a ball and a field. At the time, although I could not reason my way to satisfaction, I inherently understood that there would be no escape route to the satisfaction I once possessed.
Consequently, I gathered that soccer, for everything that it’s worth, is a key component to the foundation of my well-being. On and off the field, it pushes me to balance mental stamina with physical will-power, seemingly, a test of character. Each movement, from the slightest shift in weight to striking the ball, tests my determination to achieve perfection. Soccer, by its nature, demands a higher standard of greatness; a higher standard of potential. In part, it enriches me in the present moment, from play to play and tackle to tackle, but it also instills patience and hope for the future. The sport compels me to see beyond tangible and temporary happiness and to strive for a deeper satisfaction; a satisfaction uniquely true to sport that cannot be taken for granted.