It was tough leaving my home behind when I went to college, but luckily I was able to bring a huge part of my life with me: soccer.
Now a senior, I am about to say goodbye to that, too.
I have played the sport since I was 5 years old, but it was never a hobby for me.
Beginning in fifth grade I traveled most weekends for tournaments and practiced after school. It was all consuming.
My involvement only grew as I got older, and I found myself at tournaments in Florida for every New Year’s and in Las Vegas for every spring break.
Although I made sacrifices and missed too many school functions to count, I wouldn’t have done it any differently.
The thing that kept me coming back was not necessarily the sport itself, but it was the people who played with me.
Sure, I love soccer and will continue to join as many adult leagues as possible until my knees finally give out, but the people I played with made the experience special and worthwhile.
I know everyone boasts about how close they are with their teammates and what it means to be a part of a team, but I think physically playing soccer connects people unlike any other sport.
The creativity needed to play the game is unmatched.
You don’t have a set of plays in a playbook. You don’t have time to adjust and correct. You are constantly inventing.
Every time the ball is at your feet is a chance to be creative and literally and physically connect with your teammates.
Also, the lack of pads — other than shin guards — paired with a heavy amount of contact, presents an opportunity to go to battle for your teammates.
Every time you go up for a header or slide into a tackle you are doing it for those next to you because they would do it for you.
I don’t want to think about how many brain cells I have probably lost throughout the years heading the ball or the amount of times I crack and pop when I move.
So, I won’t miss the soreness, the running or the brain cells.
But I will miss the hard work, the feeling that I can push myself harder than I thought and the excitement of winning a ball against someone taller than me.
I won’t miss the injuries or the tough losses.
I will miss playing competitively and everyone who has made the last 16 years of my life better than I ever could have imagined.
Although it will all be over in a matter of weeks, I will take the things I’ve learned and the friends I’ve made along with me for the rest of my life.
When it is finally time to say goodbye, I know I’ll be upset because it is an end to a big part of my life, but I won’t be sad because it has been and will continue to be one of the best parts of my life.
I will miss the ease of new friendships, the competitiveness of the sport and all of the love and support that comes with playing soccer.
But I won’t miss the fitness.