In honor of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and all that soccer does to help keep kids around the world active and healthy. I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the impact youth soccer has had on my life.
I first played soccer recreationally when I was 6, but eventually moved on to try other sports. When I was in 7th grade, my interest was reignited and I attended my first competitive tryout. At that point, I was an just an eager kid with immeasurable confidence in my ability to kick a ball, even though I hadn’t touched one in years. I thought I’d be an instant superstar, and was ready to take on the world! I revised that stance after a few minutes, but that isn’t important.
At the time, I was really just interested in soccer because my friends were, I had no idea how important it would become to me. Luckily, I ended up making the team and falling head-over-heels in love with the sport.
I bought all of the soccer video games I could, picked a team to start following and did everything else I could to totally immerse myself in the game. There was something about the thrill of making a great play, the energy of the crowd on game days and the rush of scoring a goal that had hooked me for life.
Over the coming years, I would come to realize that even beyond being the most fun I had ever had, soccer was an incredibly important influence on my life.
It kept me in better shape than I would have been in otherwise, and while that benefit is somewhat obvious, soccer has also influenced me in more subtle ways.
Early in my childhood, I was a victim of bullying and teasing. Although playing soccer didn’t stop everything bad from happening to me, it gave me the confidence to handle situations with more maturity and poise.
If I could run sprints for two hours in the pouring rain until my legs stop working, I could think of a witty comeback on the spot. If I could guide my team’s defense against an onslaught of ruthless attacks by the opposition for 20 minutes straight at the end of a game, I could have a conversation with anyone I encounter, no problem.
Additionally, as I progressed into high school and new distractions like drugs and alcohol became a factor in the lives of my peers, I managed to keep my eye on the prize. How? Between school and soccer, I was so busy I didn’t have time to go partying every weekend, even if I wanted to. I was forced to spend nearly all of my free time doing homework or attending to various other responsibilities, and I’m glad that was the case. I know I’ll be better off for it.
So, how about all of you? Do you have a story to share about yourself, a friend or a loved one whose participation in sports played a significant role in keeping him or her drug-free, out of trouble or simply engaged in a healthy lifestyle? If so, please share it in the comments below. (Either that, or if anyone wants to talk about the World Cup, I’m sure you could guess I’m up for that!)