I grew up watching my brother Keith play soccer. Yes, he’s the younger one (by two and a half years), but he started around age three. So basically my whole child and adolescent life involved soccer. As a loyal sister and fan, I sat on the sidelines at almost every game. When I was in high school, the school’s girls’ soccer coach coached my brother’s middle school Parks & Rec team. Between my brother playing on the team and my mom running a lot of the behind the scenes logistics, Coach Thompson knew who I was.
One evening, I was sitting at Keith’s soccer practice. Coach Thompson approached me and asked me about the music I was listening to. Then he proceeded to insist that I play for him that spring. Semi-horrified, I gave a small laugh and told him, “You don’t want me playing for you.” Besides the mandatory scrimmage games in PE freshman year, I had never even tried soccer; I knew I did not possess the skills my brother had. Coach wouldn’t give up though; he told me that I had to either play or manage for him.
By the time second semester started, I had decided I would manage the girls team, and I maintained that role throughout the rest of my high school career. I even decided to manage the boys team after I my first season with the girls. During the boys’ season of my senior year, I asked Coach Bax, the boys’ head coach and the girls’ assistant/JV coach, if I could possibly play one game during my last season. When it started, I decided I’d go ahead and practice with the JV team after taking care of my managerial duties.
I ended up fulfilling my managerial duties and also became a playing member of the JV team; I played in most games. Coach Thompson let me play in a varsity game during one home game. I still played the full JV game, but I still legally could play one more half. So I got to begin the second half of the varsity game against this team, a team we would beat with the whole 10-0 defeat but that we would still respect. At the half, we had already gained most of the points on our way to the ten point mark to end the game early. As the game continued when I went in, the team’s goal transitioned to me scoring a point.
Coach put me in the midfield, and he eventually told me to stay as far up the field as I could while still being on sides. That way I could wait for the team to get the ball and pass it to me to score. They got the ball to me a couple times, but as I hinted at before, I wasn’t very smooth with ball handling. I possessed zero ability to shoot a decent shot, but I had become the star player. Each time the ball came to me, our crowd cheered for me. One of our opponents expressed her frustration at this as she got sick of hearing, “Kayla!!!” being shouted from the sidelines because the goalie’s name was also Kayla. The other girls figured out our strategy and knew to stay on me so that we wouldn’t score.
We scored the remaining points to put us at 9-0. I maintained my post at staying as far up as I could while being on-sides. Finally, the ball came to me again. The crowd and the rest of my team cheered. I was getting my shot. I was up close to the goal in order to score, and girls on the other team surrounded me, the goalie standing erect in anticipation of my shot. The ball came to me, and I tried to overcome my nerves to get the ball, turn it around, and score a goal. By this time, I was right in front of the goal.
The ball came towards me, and another girl from the other team jumped right in front of me to intercept it. She knocked the ball into the goal, thus scoring MY goal. The game ended at that tenth goal. The other team was humiliated. While they still would have lost if I had scored, I think they would have maintained a little more dignity. They wouldn’t have scored on themselves, and I would have had my one goal on my record.