“Today’s pain is worth tomorrow’s glory.”
I thought to myself, walking back onto the pitch. Anticipation, adrenaline, nerves, and tingling sensations crowding my thoughts. I began jumping up and down clearing my mind, my cleats coasting against the smooth touch of the freshly tended to turf field.
The dulcet whistle sang like the howl of a wolf calling his pack. Freedom. The second half was on. Quickly I turned to my wingback,
“Cover the long ball,”
He nodded; falling back into a defensive position.
I ran up the field taking a moment to observe the crowds on the sidelines pulsating like they were semi-sentient animals. Banners and signs brimming the sides of the field on every side, reading “OCSC vs OSU, the battle of the feet!”
I covered their right wingback, making sure he wouldn’t get the ball and play out through my side. He was belligerent and aggressive, but I held my ground, putting my arm high to push back. Suddenly I heard a shout from my teammate covering the middle area,
“Watch the switch” he blared.
Stubbornly thinking he was talking to another teammate, I stayed focused on their winger. However to my shock, a long heavy ball came from their center back across the field, slashing authoritatively through the air to their striker.
“Drop back,” shouted our coach,
Worn out from the first half’s hardships, feeling like I was using tottering pasta strings for legs, I sprinted back as fast as possible, in order to help my team.
Eyes sharp, my head high, arms heavy, I sprinted into a defensive position in front of my net, facing the play. The breath of my goalie brushing on the back of my neck, two strikers came darting towards me with a ball, I knew I couldn’t slide tackle or it would cause a penalty. My heart began to beat quicker, thundering in my thoughts, my hands began to tingle.
Thinking quickly at the sight, I cut off the threatening shooting angle. My eyes fixated on the second striker, cutting to the middle for an anticipated pass.
Coach exclaimed, “Cover the middle lan—”
But I was already there—I couldn’t feel my legs—but rather as if I were running on air with nobody whatsoever. I stole the ball mid-pass. Feeling confident, but quickly humbled by the intended enemy striker coming to cut off my anticipation. Time slowed, almost to a complete stop. In that moment, I could feel every sensation. The warm caress of the wind feeling against my exposed mid legs between my shorts and shin-pads, the scent of smoke bombs and clean but dirty cleats and jerseys, and the ear splitting sounds of parents roaring like active tigers, all extremely present.
Dribbling down the field with the ball, I quickly observed a tall, muscular defender rushing towards me as if we were two starved cheetahs meeting for the first time. Thinking quickly I acted going one direction, and went the other. Off balance and startled, the defender planted his cleat in the green perfect turf and tripped, a path of dark brown turf pellets following him.
I continued dashing down the field as fast as my legs could take me, dashing through waves of defenders like I was Barry Allen himself.
“Keep going!” teammates screamed.
“Head for goal!” others blurted.
I stayed humble—noticing the patches of birds flying over the field—the feeling of adrenaline growing stronger inside of me.
Left, right, cutting quickly and sharply through the pitch I headed straight for goal.
“Shoot! Shoot! Take a shot!” barked the crowds from every direction.
My heart thundered, my brain cleared, my muscles focused and composed. Nil scent, muted sound, precise sight, amplified by thousands.
My light foot lifted, sweeping turf pellets from the tampered ground, everyone was silent, my eyes on the ball, I took a deep breath in, held it, and sliced the ball with my left foot using a knuckleball technique. The gratifying chop of the ball allowed it to flow into the air.
My eyes followed the ball towards the goal—my ears eagerly anticipating the satisfying swish and swoosh of the soccer net—my body numb, relaxed.
The ball curved and twisted, taunting everyone on the pitch impatiently waiting for either a goal or a miss.
It finally made a decision.