The Influence of Sports
Ever since I could remember, sports has been a major part of my life. My father as a kid and teenager was an amazing soccer player. In fact if it wasn’t for my mother showing up in his life, he was on his way to playing professional soccer in Honduras. I wouldn’t be here typing behind my laptop screen and who knows how my parents lives would have gone. Things don’t always go the way they are supposed too but in this case, I’m glad they didn’t. I remember Saturdays and Sundays would always be a day that my dad was glued to the t.v. watching soccer, much to my mothers dismay. I remember sitting next to my dad those weekends and falling in love with the sport. Ironically enough though, soccer was not the first sport I played. Basketball and baseball stole my heart. While my dad watched soccer on the weekends, during the weekdays I was mesmerized by the two sports. I couldn’t give you an exact reason why but it just felt right at the time.
It was difficult to play organized sports since my parents were working 2 jobs most of their early life in the U.S. Luckily, when they could, some of my friend’s parents would take me to the games. It was so much fun just being involved with other kids my age, playing a sport I liked and learning about teamwork through our awesome coaches. We wanted to win sure but I just wanted to play. I don’t ever remember baseball or basketball being a physical game. There were times when there was an accidental collision but nothing that would be considered serious.
When I reached middle school, something inside me just yearned to play organized soccer. I dropped all other sports and focused on playing one. From there to my senior year of high school, it was the only sport I played competitively. During my sophomore year of high school is when I first truly learned the true physicality of sports. Up until then, it was a rarity but now you were dealing with teenagers,testosterone, and a true sense of competitiveness. I remember my first practice with the Varsity team. I was 1 of 3 sophomores who had made the team. I always thought I was good enough but physically I was TINY. I was 135 lbs soaking wet and maybe around 5'4 or 5'5. We were practicing 6v6 corner kick drills and I was put into this one set of drills. I was trying to score with my head, foot, whatever I could to try and impress the coaches. I remember the ball being swerved in, I thought I had a good angle and went for a header. Next thing I know I see a bright flash on my left eye and the play is over. I stood there with a pain on the left side of my head and my vision was a little blurry. The defender who was guarding me pretty much took his shoulder through my head as he was trying to clear the ball. It wasn’t dirty or intentional. He was just trying to be physical in order to win the ball. That’s how it’s played in tight spaces.
It took me a bit to fully compose myself but I didn’t change the way I practiced. I didn’t want the coaches to regret their decision of bringing me up. Over the course of 3 years there were a couple more times where I was involved in hard collisions that shook me up and witnessed countless times teammates be involved in similar incidents. There was no way to know back then but looking back I definitely suffered a couple mild concussions. I never blacked out through a hit but I do remember having a couple of headaches during and after games sometimes. The information wasn’t there and it’s frightening to know that I was ignoring symptoms of it. I had always assumed they were just regular headaches and never would have made the connection. If I had known, I don’t think it would have changed my stance on playing. Into my late 20’s and now 30’s, I play competitive soccer on the weekends. Whenever my wife and I decide to have kids, we’ll let them play. Of course with the new research and information that comes from concussion studies, we’ll have a closer eye.