It was my senior year in high school, my last year playing soccer with my friends and my first playing with my brother who was a freshman. When winter rolled around, a fellow senior teammate and I had been declared captains. We decided that this year would be different. We were being moved up to a much more competitive division, and so we knew we need to work that much harder. We started conditioning workouts a month before pre-season workouts were scheduled to begin. It was the largest class of senior starters the school had ever had. We had one ambition, winning the state title. If we were going to win, leadership was going to be a major factor. The team had a meeting and we decided that this year was going to be different.
Personally, it was an important year for me. Not only was it my final season, but I had committed to play at the University of Notre Dame. My future coaches expected results. They expected me to have a very impressive senior season, to walk out on top. I had every intention of performing beyond any level I had previously. I was training and conditioning all winter for the spring season. I knew this was not only an important season for the team but for me as well. Because I played a primary role on the team, I knew that the quality of my season would fluctuate with the team’s success. I had to polish every aspect of my game before making the trip to South Bend later that year.
The season started, and the team was hot. We were winning at ease, dominating teams we should have and beating teams we weren’t expected to. It felt like “one of those years.”
I’ll fast forward 3 games into the season. We were playing our rival high school, Maryville. Twenty minutes into the game, we found ourselves sitting in a 0-2 hole. We came out flat, and lacked the intensity that we needed to make this a great game. In the 25th minute one of my shots found its way to the back of the net, 2-1. We went into halftime with momentum. We were pumped because we knew the game would end with us being the victors. Both teams came out of the locker rooms ready to play. It was one of the most intense, dirty, and fought for games I had ever played in. In the 78th minute I ran onto a beautiful through ball played by the other co-captain. I go to strike the ball to tie the game up. The next thing I hear is a pop. I had been slide tackled by the goalie. The first thing I though was, “that’s a penalty kick.” I was screaming at the referee. I tried to get up and then I felt an enormous amount of pain as I tried to put pressure on my left leg. It was agonizing. I screamed for the trainer. I remembered the pop that I heard and I saw flashes of my career at Notre Dame coming to an end before they had gotten started.
The trainer runs over and asks what hurt. I yelled, “obviously the leg I’m clutching!!” She examines it on the field and made the diagnosis that it is most likely a bone bruise. Hearing the great news I try to get up to continue on with the game. Again I feel the pain and sit back down. My coach demands that I sit out for the rest of the game.
As my dad and school minister walk me to the sideline, I look to see that my brother was cursing at the referee for not giving the goalie a red card. My brother therefore receives a yellow card for dissent. He is emotionally distressed to see that I am in serious pain and to not know the proper diagnosis of the injury. Once at the sideline a parent doctor from the other team runs to the sideline to examine my leg. He too feels it is only a bone bruise but recommends that I go get an x-ray to be sure. The game ends with us losing 3-2. The team was devastated, but they were much more concerned with my leg. Our rival school knew of my future at Notre Dame. After the game they were screaming at their own goalie for injuring me. They all came over to shake my hand and wish me the best. The pop was still resonating in my mind.
We go to the hospital to find that I indeed fractured my tibia all the way through the bone. I was to be put in a cast up to my hip for 3 months, which went past the time I was to report at Notre Dame. I received countless texts and emails containing prayers and sympathy. It didn’t matter to me. My whole season was shot and maybe even my future career. Fortunately I recovered. It took a lot of hard work, but I made it back.
The point of this story is that speed bumps are put in the way of our ultimate goal, but they can be overcome. They may slow us down a bit, but we can still reach our destination.
Social Foundations of Coaching