On Soccer and Family

In the fall of 2010, I was a senior in high school. Seven years ago feels like a long time -- but I still remember a few things about that year vividly. I remember my last competitive soccer game of my life, against Jesuit High School, in the OSAA playoffs. I remember preparing hard for the game; our coaches had us watching film, we implemented a new formation, we studied their players. They were, by almost every measure, a superior team than us -- but maybe we had a shot. There are upsets every year -- maybe this was our chance. Maybe this was our year. Maybe.

Tualatin Alumni Soccer Game.JPG

It wasn't our year. We lost. We gave up a couple of goals relatively early and played like we were a worse, scared team for the remainder of the game. When the coach started subbing out the starters to get some of the younger guys minutes in what would be our last playoff game of the senior, I remember playing even harder. I was going to finish this game. I was going to go out doing my best. There was pride involved; the gravity of moments like this feel heavy when you're in them. I gave everything I could -- but as a not-super-talented right defender, it wasn't much, and it definitely wasn't enough. At the end of the day, we were overmatched. 

As soon as the game ended, tears streamed down my eyes. I was heartbroken.

I started playing soccer in kindergarten, with the reversible red jerseys with black stripes that always seemed to be three sizes too big. I played throughout elementary school, when snacks and juice boxes greeted us at the end of the game, and the end of the season culminated with a trophy party at Izzy's for pizza. By middle school, I was really learning the game and playing club soccer. It started to become part of my identity as a person. In high school, soccer was really important. It didn't matter that the students all went to the football games on Friday instead of the soccer games on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It didn't matter that the only people who really paid attention were our parents and Dan Brood, sports reporter of the Tigard-Tualatin Times. It mattered that we had been working at this sport, this skill, this game, this thing for almost two decades, and, for most us, high school was it.

So that last loss hurt. I remember sitting on the bus, staring out the window, not thinking about much of anything. Tears were still coming down. I remember Coach gathering us in the commons of the school once the bus got back; I was barely listening. Nothing he could say could change the fact that it was over.

And while that game was my last competitive game as a soccer player, it wasn't my last game as part of the Tualatin soccer family. Tonight was the fourth annual boys soccer alumni game -- under the bright lights on the turf field, just like the old times, but with even fewer people in the stands. Twenty two of us came out and did our best not to embarrass ourselves. I hadn't seen a few of the guys since high school; I hadn't seen any of them more recently than last year's alumni game. When we were in high school, I think we all kind of knew that life would take us in different directions, but I definitely didn't realize how far from each other we would all eventually be -- and we're not even ten years out from graduation yet.

But, despite all that, we showed up tonight. We warmed up, had some fun, scored some goals, and celebrated afterwards at the only place in town that was open: Applebee's. We shared stories from back in the day, laughed hard, and got caught up. We talked about the time I broke the goalkeeper's shin in the first round of the playoffs. And the time two coaches got red cards against Forest Grove. And the the times when the JV2 coach showed with McDonald's during daily doubles. And the time there was a  near fist fight after that one game. Some of the stories I remembered, some I didn't. Some were before my time, some were after. But I was still part of them in some small way, because I'm part of the Tualatin boys soccer family tree that started in 1992 and expands every year.

At the end of every year I played soccer, the head coach of the program would tell us that even though this wasn't our year, one day the Tualatin boys soccer team was going to win a state championship. One day. And when we do, he would tell us, there's going to be a big party and everyone's going to come, because everyone played a role in it. The coach left the program a few years ago -- but he showed up to Applebee's tonight to say hello to his old players. And his JV coach eventually took over the program. And the dream of a state championship still lives on, the hope of the alumni resting on the shoulders of high school kids we've never met. There's something special about that, about being part of something bigger than ourselves, having some ownership in a program that we left seven years ago.

I guess that's why the back of the t-shirt for the fourth annual Tualatin boys soccer alumni game reads "Brotherhood."