The Middle School Soccer Story

IMG_3616Do you ever get a good chuckle about thinking about how you acted as a kid? About how certain things were way more important than they needed to be?

I don’t know how this memory came to me recently or really why it makes me laugh, because slapstick humor rarely appeals to me. But I thought I’d try to tell it here just in case it jogs some mirthful memories of your own.

In middle school I tried out for the school soccer team and barely made it. I wasn’t very good at that point–most of the guys had much better ball skills than me and played on more elite club teams. So I practiced with the team and proudly wore the uniform to games, but I never got to play (which is a little odd in hindsight–who doesn’t play an equal rotation in a game with 12-year-olds?)

5 games into the season, we were deadlocked in a 0-0 game with a rival division team. One of our players had to leave the field for a minute, and much to my surprise, the coach told me to cover left mid for a few minutes.

I put my head down and dutifully ran across the field to get into position. I knew I wouldn’t be on the field long. I wasn’t there to be a hero. All I wanted to do was make a good impression, mark my man, and maybe connect a solid pass or two.

When I reached my position, an opposing player took a pass and immediately smashed the ball into my crotch.

I keeled over in pain. But the best part for me–Future Jamey–looking back on 12-year-old Jamey is that as much as my body was telling me to curl into a ball and give up, all I could think about was doing my best for the coach and the team. I was like some broken action hero, knowing that he’s crippled and useless, but still trying to do what he can to save the world.

So I didn’t fall down. I stumbled around for a few minutes, dazed and disoriented, but dammit, I was there to play.

I soon got subbed out. The coach gave me a hearty slap on the shoulder as I jogged to the bench. “You took one for the team,” he said.

Whether it was in jest or in seriousness, I took it as a compliment.