At first blush my soccer career appeared to start with an article on recreational sports leagues in the Sunday fitness column of our local paper.
But when I examined my true motivations for joining co-rec soccer, I settled on two potential experiences about sports and belonging:
1) the day I sat on the edge of a cement kick-ball field in elementary school watching some boys eat ants and realized that I had officially become the Kid Who Gets Picked Last;
2) an impromptu inter-generational softball game played in a warm country field, the first and only time that I felt the joy of being part of a sports team.
Either way, in the name of personal growth, I recently signed up for a six-week soccer class through the experimental college, which was meant to lead to the creation of a team that would play year-round in the co-rec soccer league.
Upon arrival to the class, I found myself on a turf field with a bunch of college kids playing my first ever soccer game. My vision of an unskilled middle-aged-lady team was dashed but I was still thrilled to be out there, on my way to becoming someone sporty who knew and was admired by other sporty people and possibly drank beers with them.
My teammates put me on defense to start, a position that worked well for me, as my only athletic skill is running. I ran up and down the turf trying to take in all of the friendly pointers that were coming my way from the other students who had clearly been playing for years. Having decided to leave my childhood insecurities on the bench in search of that country field, I played with abandon. I was going to be a real grown up, unselfconscious, giving it my all and laughing off the mistakes. Then someone yelled rotate and I was playing forward.
My new position was seriously out of my comfort zone but I was still trying to run just a few steps ahead of my athletic demons. Only it turns out that, rather than being at my heels, they were right there in front of me in the form of a six and a half foot, three hundred pound guy named Andrew (or was it Andre . . .) who also happened to be running at full force toward the ball. I know about as much about physics as I do about soccer but I can say for certain that Andrew's full force was a whole lot forcier than mine. We collided and, while he stopped, I went flying into the air and came down hard on my back like something out of a Road Runner cartoon.
A week later, when the full-body aches wore off, I realized that I had actually sustained a serious muscle injury to my back. It's been over a month now and I'm starting to think this will be one of those afflictions that ages with me. Me and my soccer injuring, reminding me of that time I was on a team and I ran head on into a gigantic guy and, just as the lights went out, I heard one of my teammates yell, "Yeah! That's how we play!"