Going into my junior year of high school, I had a lot of expectations. I was excited for the upcoming soccer season and colleges were starting to seriously recruit me. It was an exciting yet stressful time in my life that I had been looking forward to the entire summer of 2013.
As preseason came to an end that august, our first game of the regular season was approaching and I had never felt more confident in myself. I was kicking ass and I was ready for anything; except for the voicemail my dad played for me when I was eating breakfast during the morning before our game.
My uncle had called our house late in the night to tell us that my grandfather had passed away in his sleep. My world was shattered. My grandfather had played a major role in my soccer career growing up. He taught me how to defend, inspired me with his stories of when he played back in Scotland, and always told me to never be average.
Hearing that he was gone felt like someone had just taken a soccer ball away from me forever; all I wanted to do was stay home and keep my cleats out of sight so I wouldn’t have to look at them. After the voicemail had finished my dad sad to me, “You’re going out there and playing for him today, ok?”
Fast forward through tearing up in the hallways at school and unsuccessfully keeping it together during the warmups before the game, my coach told me that I was going to be starting. When the referee blew the whistle for kick off, I was in another world. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. Needless to say, it was the worst half of soccer I had ever played.
When I came off the field at halftime I was hoping that my coach wouldn’t put me in for the rest of the game. He came up to me and said, “Something’s up, I can see it. You don’t have to tell me, but I need you to use it as motivation to be the best you can be.”
As I walked out onto the field for the beginning of the second half, I looked around to see my family standing alone. My dad had just lost his father, yet he still made the 45 minute drive to our game. That was all I needed to get my head right; and after an uneventful and uninspired first half, my grandpa helped our team out a little bit. Our striker took and shot and hit the hand of one of the defenders inside the 18 yard box, the ref blew his whistle signaling a penalty kick, and my entire team looked at me to take it.
I have a usual routine when I take PK’s. I place the ball on the PK spot, take seven steps back and one step to the right, and I look in the opposite corner of where I want to shoot in order to trick the goalie. This time was different. I put the ball down, turned completely around to look at my dad, took one step, and placed the ball perfectly in the back of the net, and we walked away victorious.
Now not every game that I’ve played since that day has turned out like that. But now, I write my grandpa’s name on my wrist before I step onto the field on game day, because I know that if it weren’t for him and my dad, I wouldn’t be where I am today as a player, and as a person.