Amazing Kids! Magazine

Pitch Fever

By Maddie Hartman, age 14, Ohio

 

Soccer. The beautiful game that brings the world together. I have a passion for this game; a passion that goes on forever. Thinking about the scent of the freshly cut grass, the soft dirt on the field, the net dancing in the wind, and the endless bright blue sky overhead makes me shiver with excitement. Looking back, I remember where it started: when I found the game, and myself.

Sixth grade year. We’ve spent the entire season preparing for this: the Ohio Say Soccer State Tournament.  This experience wasn’t new, for we had made it to the tournament in fourth grade, although then it didn’t go very well for us. But it’s a new year, new season, and most importantly, new goalkeeper gloves. My nerves were popping through the roof with anticipation the morning of our first game. My dad, coach of the year, reassured me. He gave our team a pep talk before the game. He always gave the best pep talks, inspiring us all.

We played well that game. Our team dominated, making beautiful, crisp passes. We played beautifully and truly looked like a team that belonged at that tournament, rather than the small city recreational team that we really were. I knew that the whole tournament wouldn’t be this easy. I wished and hoped it would – but I knew better and tried to think realistically about it.

Then it was the third game. If we win, we go on to the championship. If we lose, we play for third place in a consolation game. I don’t play in consolation games; I don’t play in loser’s brackets. I play to win. That was exactly what I planned on doing.

It was an extremely close game. Too close. Uncomfortably close. But we pulled through to the end and came out of it with a win. We were tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, and the score stood even after extra time. When the high shriek of the referee’s whistle sounded in the biting cold November air, I knew what would happen. We all knew. Penalty kicks. A two-word horror story to any goalkeeper, and honestly any soccer player you could meet. All of us endured the fear of the situation. In the end, we won 4-3 in penalty shots.

We all knew what would happen next: the championship game. Everyone was nervous, but oddly enough, I wasn’t. I knew that my love for the game and my trust in the game would get me through this. The early winter cold squeezed my icy body. My dad gave another profound speech, and the match began. We scored two goals right away. I had no idea if this lead would last, because it seemed almost too good to be true. Then, sure enough, our opponents scored. I forgot this completely, but the rest of the team didn’t. At halftime, we talked about it. I told everyone not to let it get in their heads. I talked with my trainer about what I did in the first half, and we went back out to continue our game.

Jack Frost definitely was at our game that day. The cold seeped through my clothing layer by layer. I slowly became colder and colder, the air freezing my lungs each time I inhaled.  After a tough fight in the icy, frigid air, we went down with a loss: 3-2.

This loss hit me hard – harder than I was expecting, harder than anyone was expecting. The loss, to me, was a catastrophe. The game I love, the game that has made me who I am, betrayed me. Now what? I thought. I was perplexed. If I’m not good enough to win that game, how will I make it through high school soccer? I won’t even have a shot at college soccer. Reflecting on this made me feel a lot of emotions I didn’t even know existed, and some emotions that I knew all too well. I could quit soccer. I don’t have to play. I don’t have to lose a game like that ever again. All I have to do is stop. Just sever my relationship with the game I’ve been playing as long as I can remember. That would end any kind of pain that came with soccer. But then all the happiness that came with soccer would also end. And Dad, what would he possibly think? He’s been my coach since day one, even if he wasn’t always on the sideline as head coach. He showed me how to play the game, how to excel at the game, how to improve in the game, and, most importantly, how to love the game. What should I do? Dad wouldn’t know what to think if I quit. I loved soccer for as long as I can remember. I can’t give this up. Soccer is part of who I am. It’s in my blood, flowing through every vein, muscle, and bone in my body. My passion is soccer. It always will be. These thoughts raced through my mind, but I made my decision. There was no way that anybody could tear me away from soccer. I told myself that I’ll become a better player, that I will work diligently and push myself to improve every day, and that I’d never stop.

I kept working hard and pushing myself beyond my limits. I was going to become a more dependable player. I trained harder, longer, and more often.

Looking back as an eighth grader now, I’m glad I had that conversation with myself. If I had quit then, I wouldn’t have been starting every game in both seventh and eighth grade, and that means a lot to me. But most importantly, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Through my loss, I gained things. I gained knowledge. I gained control. I became more appreciative of the little wins, as well as the big losses. I wouldn’t have gained this knowledge any other way (at least I don’t think I would have). Soccer is my passion. It always will be. It is a part of me, it’s who I am, and – to think! – I almost gave up the one thing that really makes me who I am.

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